I apologise in advance if this piece is likely to read like the ramblings of a Newcastle United fan with not much to write about….

NUFC is somewhat of a more peaceful place these days. I feel relaxed safe in the knowledge Rafa is quietly and surely steering the club in the right direction at last.

I’m not concerned by the impending sales of ‘star players’ such as Moussa Sissoko, Gini Wijnaldum or Jonjo Shelvey, in my mind they were as good as done deals once relegation was confirmed. The Rafa song will need amending though.

Past summers have been fraught with uncertainties, low confidence and turmoil. It was around this time only as far back as 2013 that the staggering news started to break, Joe Kinnear had returned as Director of Football, crazy times!

This summer, having been allowed to relax in regard to NUFC, I’ve been able to get on with filling a Euro 2016 Panini sticker book ‘for the bairn’ (he’s not even 1 yet) and ensuring my Euro Championship wall chart is bang up to date.

It’s meant to be on a wall but as I’m 33 year old, the wall chart is folded up in my drawer at work like a sordid little secret and I take occasional, bordering on regular, glances. Think Gollum and his ring from Lord of the Rings.

In summers gone I’d make every effort to ensure I was watching every England game, England shirt and flag, pint in hand, half days to watch and then recovery days off afterwards etc. This year I’ve settled for an extended lunch break.

The Euro 2016 Kick off times are generally quite kind to those that work 9-5 so I’ve been able to follow the action and catch up on the goals I miss whilst at work quite easily. These days I’m able to watch England objectively, though there’s a will to want them to win, if they don’t, it wouldn’t stay with me for days like it does with NUFC.

Having said that I’d love to go and watch England in a tournament one day. To go abroad with a bunch of mates, watch a game or two, have a drink, play a game of heads & volleys in a City square somewhere, sing a few songs, meet new like-minded people and generally have a nice time, sounds great. Surely that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Recent events have put any thoughts of doing that on hold. Having not been there I don’t want to comment too much on the events in France. My knowledge of what’s happened is limited to what’s in the news, but it’s really brought to life by the mobile phone footage on social media and first hand accounts I’ve read from fans that are/were there, frightening stuff. Take one wrong corner, suddenly you find yourself in the mix no matter who you are.

England Badge Red Shirt

Football hooliganism is its own culture, if people want to get involved in meeting up with like-minded people to kick seven bells out of each other of their own free will, then crack on.

I admire the fashions of the casual scene but hooliganism is a pastime I can never see myself pursuing. But I feel the events in France are a different level, it appears that Russian fans are organised to a military level with weapons and gum shields, it’s just not sport.

When you hear of regular football fans, women and kids getting caught up in clashes, something is seriously wrong.

I’ll stick to keeping it simply football, music and beer.

For all the events off the pitch, It’s not like the violence has taken the focus away from a gloriously entertaining and well organised tournament. Some of the trouble could’ve been avoided with careful planning and consideration as to where the fans would be based and what might be going on with other fans at the same time.

Case and point was the build up to the England v Wales game, Lens too small of a place to host the number expected so England fans were advised to book hotels in Lille, which coincided with Russia’s fixture there. Another example was the Northern Ireland v Ukraine game played in Lyon to a half empty stadium, yet 25k England fans wo couldn’t get tickets are spread out in bars in Lille, making it much more difficult to police, farcical.

Ten venues in cities close enough to get from one to another in a couple of hours on the train, France should be a football festival for the fans, tickets or not. The whole of France should have a great atmosphere, a real positive vibe, where fans of all nations can spend their time between games in the fan parks, taking in some of the culture and mixing with the locals.

Hopefully future tournaments no longer organised by the Blatter regime will have football and its fans at heart and proper logistical considerations are made, World Cups in Russia and Qatar pose their own challenges in doing that. Russia has its security concerns and distances between venues. Qatar a winter tournament in air conditioned football stadiums in the middle of nowhere.

So far, this summer’s tournament itself has been OK, but the moments of brilliance have been few. It seems most teams are well organised and hard to beat, it’ll be interesting to see how often goals are scored in the last 10 mins after all the ‘chess playing’ has gone out the window due to fatigue. It’s the kind of playing style that gets criticised in England, but the smaller nations are praised for. Just playing to their strengths I suppose. Hopefully it’ll improve.

On a side note, I watched England v Wales without my phone, having left it at work. I found the experience rather refreshing, watching the game without the bombardment of tweets, Facebook posts and Whatsapp messages, meant that I was fully focused on the game where parts of matches have passed me by due to writing replies/posts about nowt really.

Mind, looking round the bar I was in, there were plenty people pint in hand, neck arched swan like whilst the game unfolded on a 10 foot screen above them. Anyways…

An Excel spreadsheet I was sent, told me after I’d predicted every result, that England are going out in quarters on pens and Spain will beat Germany in the final, sensational stuff I know. It sounds about right unless Iceland or Northern Ireland can upset the apple cart. Mind Croatia looked canny the other day, damn it I’ve just got mesel all interested again, I blame ‘the bairn’s’ sticker book.

This international football is all well and good but give me the nitty gritty of domestic league football any day, I definitely need my regular fix of NUFC soon.

Roll on the fixture list release on the Wednesday…

Howay me bonny lads!!!

You can follow the author on Twitter @lyon1892

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