I can’t fix the Euro 2012 draw (and it wouldn’t help England much anyway)

So, flushed by the success of a not-too-far-from perfect guess at the World Cup draw (and let’s … erm … draw a veil over how it actually turned out). Here’s a look at what tomorrow night’s Euro 2012 draw might throw up.

I said about 10 minutes after Poland/Ukraine got the event that England would end up in the deepest coal mine in the eastern Ukraine. Looking at the event map, that would seem to mean Donetsk and Group D alongside Ukraine, probably in slot D3.

Let’s assume also that Uefa don’t like the idea of the Germans going to Poland or Russia going to Ukraine or playing Poland, so Germany take the second seeded place in Group B and Russia go to Group C. That leaves Italy in Group A. They’re not going to fancy a Germany/Holland clash, at least so early in the competition, so Spain go into Group B as top seeds and Holland in Group C.

The bottom half of the draw is less obviously tempting for the fix-minded. But let’s assume that the Uefa wallahs don’t fancy both of the host nations going out early, so fast-emerging France go into one of the other pools – for the sake of argument, Group B. They’ll want to avoid an England-Ireland game so let’s have Ireland in Group A. If the rest of the draw is random, the final pools might look something like this:

  • Group A: Poland, Italy, Croatia, IRELAND
  • Group B: Spain, Germany, Greece, France
  • Group C: Netherlands, Russia, Portugal, Czech Republic
  • Group D: Ukraine, ENGLAND, Sweden Denmark

So, assuming it goes according to Fifa rankings (as it surely won’t), that would give us these quarter finals:

Croatia vs Germany

Netherland vs Denmark

Spain vs Italy

England vs Portugal

So another defeat to Ronaldo’s lot, realistically, or a stuffing by Spain in the semi-finals. Either way, we’ll have fun hopefully in Gdansk, where I’m planning to be for the early part of the finals!

Five moments that cost Blackpool FC their place in the Premier League

11 June 2009 – Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Manchester United for Real Madrid
How could Blackpool be relegated a year before they were promoted? In the way only Blackpool could. You see, Ronaldo was the man who often got United through a tough test, especially away from home. His departure paved the way for Chelsea to win the title at a gallop, prompting them to dump some of the veterans who’d helped them to the title – in short, the best two teams in the country got downright worse over a couple of years. And that showed in the league table. Manchester United took 90 points and Liverpool and Chelsea were in the mid-80s. By implication, that meant the bottom clubs did worse. The 39 points Blackpool won would’ve been good for 16th place. By contrast, this season the champions managed only 80 points. The top four dropped points to everyone in the division … bar Blackpool. The departure of Ronaldo was the trigger.

Saturday 14 August 2010 – Blackpool beat Wigan Athletic 4-0
Wondering how a 4-0 away victory over your relegation rivals could possibly be a downer? Well, of course, it couldn’t. It set off a giddy chain of unbelievable form that really only ended in February, with a 3-1 home defeat to the division’s worse side, West Ham. But did the victory, or rather the manner of it, mask a litany of deficiencies? Wigan were poor, but still had decent chances before Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored Blackpool’s first Premiership goal. Would more have been spent – or money spent differently – had the picture been a bit less rosey? Was enough doine to integrate a flurry of new signings? Did the fans get complacent?

31 January 2011 – transfer deadline day
The one most fans – at least those who frequent message boards and mailing lists – seem to pick out! A few wobbly moments had given cause for doubt, despite an exhilerating start to the campaign. But despite a slew of signings in the transfer window, only loanee Jason Puncheon made a major impact in the closing months of the season. And there seemed to be a shadow over star man Charlie Adam – although he more than showed his worth in the last three games of the campaign. There are the usual moans – not without justification – that chairman Karl Oyston was sat on a fat wallet of Premiership cash that, if opened, could have delivered a more positive impact. Quantity wasn’t the problem, but the truth is that James Beattie, Segei Kornilenko, Andy Reid and Salaheddine Sbai delivered little. Perhaps one or two more expensive, or more imaginative buys would have delivered more – and still would be next season, unlike the above, all of whom have left.

Approx 4.50pm, Saturday 19 March 2011
Leading 2-1 at Ewood Park, deep into injury time, it seemed Blackpool were about to drag Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers deep into the relegation mix. Brilliance by Charlie Adam (we’ll ignore the highly dubious penalty) had put Blackpool in control, and the seconds were ticking away. Enter Richard Kingson. The keeper had enthralled for Ghana in the World Cup and beguiled since replacing the injured Matt Gilks. But he never looked at all confident under the high ball. Victory would have given Blackpool momentum. The draw felt like a defeat, not to mention a kick in the teeth. Typically, Kingson plays like a star for his country against England at Wembley a few days later. He took his leave of Blackpool this week.

Approx 4.11pm, Sunday 22 May
Yep, that’s right. The moment Gary Taylor-Fletcher put the Seasiders ahead at Old Trafford. Sure, it took ‘Pool two places outside the relegation zone – but was it worth it? Was going ahead exactly the wrong thing to do at that moment in time? It seemed to galvanise – well – everyone. United looked annoyed to be behind. Birmingham hit back at Tottenham (albeit fruitlessly) and Wolves realised they needed to get back into their home game with Blackburn. Would it have been better to hold on to the point, wait a little while, maybe nicked one at the end. But the moment passed. It’s all memories now, the result’s in the record books and ‘Pool are in the Championship. Still, we’ll always have Wigan

This is the first in a semi-regular series, BTW (meaning it’ll probably be the last)