Indulging in his own X factor discussion this week, not to mention dipping into the history channel, season ticket holder Giles Smith is back with his latest column…

There’s a certain kind of player who has the capacity to quicken your attention and kindle your excitement every time he gets the ball. They don’t come along very often. Gianfranco Zola had it, obviously. Gareth Hall (pictured above), less so. Ruud Gullit had it when he first arrived. Charlie Cooke definitely had it, many years ago. Glenn Hoddle kind of had it, but perhaps not as much as he thought he did. Didier Drogba certainly had it, in those areas of the pitch where he could be most devastating. Whenever these players (and a number of others like them through the ages) were in possession, you would rise slightly in your seat because you would sense that something special was always possible, and possibly imminent.

As this season unfolds, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we currently have three of this rare breed of player in the one team: Eden Hazard, Oscar and the now creatively regnerated and seemingly inexhaustible Juan Mata. Mata’s run and impeccable through ball for the Hazard goal last Saturday against Norwich was so consummate and attention-grabbing it almost obliged you to overlook the brilliance of the team-wide interplay in the build-up to the Fernando Torres header.

But, given the almost absurd talent glut in the present set-up, that kind of thing is almost unavoidable. Brilliant stuff is going to get overlooked because of other brilliant stuff. It’s just something that all of us will have to learn to cope with. In the meantime, it’s probably worth serving a warning now that, even if we don’t end up winning any trophies, at current rates of highlight-generation, the end-of-season DVD package next summer may have to be a double.

Do you remember the old days, before Twitter, when texting was all we had? Hard times. But we did our best and we were happy, in our way.

At the risk of alienating younger readers with a toffee-sucking tale from the rocking chair, here’s how it used to work: something would come to mind that you wanted to say – a joke, maybe, or possibly a remark about something that had just happened, football-related or otherwise, maybe even an instant reaction to something in the news which had provoked you- and you would put it in a text and send it to someone you knew who you reckoned would understand your thought or appreciate it, or relate to it in some way.

Yes – texting just one person at a time! Incredible to think of that now. Like it was – I don’t know – a kind of conversation, or something.

And that person might reply with a text containing a joke or a thought of their own, or they might ignore you altogether, depending. Either way, the moment would eventually pass, and you would move on to think about something else.

But then, of course, along came Twitter and the social networking revolution and all of that changed. Well, maybe not all of it. The process remains the same: you come up with the joke or the thought or the reaction, or whatever it may be, and you have the instinctive desire to share it. But instead of texting it to the one chosen person, you Tweet it, which essentially means that you send it to the entire world. And then you get into trouble with the FA and the press go nuts and start saying you ought to be dropped by England.

But is the message any different – and the thought behind the message, and the importance of the message? No, not really. Just the medium. And that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about that.

Of course, going even further back into the mists of time, there was something called email. Don’t get me started on email!

The new national football centre near Burton looked pretty impressive in the photographs that were released after its official opening this week. Clearly a massive amount of thought and planning has gone into it and the fittings and facilities seem to represent a quantum leap forward for the Football Association.


I’m sure none of us would begrudge the organisation their new surroundings. Something as important as the England national set-up deserves somewhere that’s almost as nice and almost as well equipped as Cobham.

I won’t be the only person to have noticed that there’s no Premier League programme again this weekend, thanks to the internationals. Surely someone important will eventually stand up and lodge a formal complaint about the curse of fixture under-crowding. It’s an impossible situation that’s to the detriment of the game and not fair on anyone.

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