Lionesses - you’ve changed everything.

Published: Tuesday, 02 August 2022

‘Dream makers. Record breakers. Game changers’.  Not my words, but those of Robyn Cowen, who provided the commentary on a blockbuster Women’s Euros final Sunday evening. Brilliant. And perfect for the occasion.  

Commentators spend careers hoping for moments like that. Saturday night Robyn must’ve dreamt of delivering those words on the final whistle - and she must’ve loved it.  

It’s what I call the ‘Wolstenholme’ moment. No-one will ever better ‘there are some people on the pitch - they think it’s all over’ As Geoff Hurst thrashed his third - England’s fourth - into Germany’s net in the 1966 WC final, with perfect timing commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme added ‘it is now’. Genius. The best ever. 

A lot of things had to go his way. Those people needed to be on the pitch. Bobby Moore had to deliver an immaculate ball downfield to Hurst. And he had to score. Tick. Tick. And tick. 

Clive Tyldesley gave us ‘Manchester United will score. They always score’ in CL stoppage time 1999. Sheringham did. He went on to complete a majestical final few minutes. He was brilliant that night. 

Martin Tyler will simply have ‘Ageroooooooo’ on his grave stone. We’ll know who lies beneath it. 

Some commentators will have three different paragraphs written to cover three different results in a football match. You can tell who they are - but it’s the special moments - that you can’t rehearse - that are always remembered. 

I’ve got the feeling Robyn was ready - but she delivered the line with class, style and - like I’ve said - it was perfect. Trust me Robyn - it won’t ever get any better than that! 

There’s only ever one ‘first’. 

I was thrilled to bits for the Lionesses. Ian Wright best summed it up on Twitter when he made the point about how significant the win will prove to be - in all sorts of different ways. 

i was quiet on this subject during the tournament because of all the usual nonsense that surrounds anything I have to say. Tell me guys - how many of you both received and sent on the memes? Fun was it? There isn’t a guy who hasn’t or didn’t - yet they still come after me. Some were genuinely funny and may we always have the ability to laugh - and my goodness I’ve unintentionally provided a few down the years - but here’s the thing….we need to be careful how and when we do this. We never want to cause offence. If it’s offensive it’s wrong. 

Although my best intentions were genuine when I said - on air - ‘let’s wish Sian Massey all the best today. She’s from my manor. In fact - I may even have gone to school with her dad’ - no-one remembers that. What they do remember is the carefully edited phone recording that was lifted from our studio ahead of the Wolves v Liverpool game as the guys went through our pre-match routine. We always laughed. It eased the tension - especially for guests. 

It was Sian that introduced me to the word ‘banter’. She used it in the conversation I had with her on the Sunday when I called to apologise for what was said in the hack. But she shouldn’t have done. What she should have told me was ‘not funny Richard. It doesn’t help’. It was some time before I realised that. 

Ironically, I think the incident did help in many ways - but that was a lucky by-product. I think a lot of people look back on it now as a turning point in how seriously men were prepared to take women’s football. Most of us have realised things had to change. 

There was a time you could be sexist/racist - and a whole lot of other ‘ists’ without realising. And those who were would start a conversation with the words ‘I’m not a racist, but….’ You still hear it now. ‘I’m not sexist, but….’ 

There were so many other things happening around what sparked the now infamous incident on that weekend in Wolverhampton that I lost sight of the fact that it was all too easy to dismiss what had happened. No. That was wrong. 

Some time later I felt that I needed to put something other than just ‘me’ into the women’s game. I’d attended PoY dinners for years. I’d presented games - but I needed to do more. 

I took a call from a club called Coventry Sphinx - in my manor! The manager of the girls teams asked me if I’d sponsor the club - both the match day and training kits. He said ‘we’ll put your name on the front of the jerseys. That will shut a few people up’. Good intention, but wrong. I bought the kits for a few years - until they stopped asking - but I didn’t want my name on the shirts. We agreed that the local children’s hospice - Zoe’s Place - would have their name on the kit instead. I had one other stipulation - nobody needed to know. That way I felt like I was genuinely doing some good and I couldn’t be accused of buying good faith. It wasn’t much - but it was a little that made me feel a whole lot better. 

So despite all the repetitive nonsense - and the mindless inaccurate allegations about my stance on the women’s game - that’s why I was so pleased about the result Sunday. 

Off the field the event was fun. The men’s game isn’t much fun anymore. Families loved it. The men’s game doesn’t attract too many families. That‘s  why I think the Lionesses should keep a distance between themselves and the boys. It’s that point of difference that’s so marketable. 

Before the game - early Sunday afternoon I found myself playing football with a 5-year-old girl on the beach. She was good btw - too good for this old man. 😂. That’s another of the by-products that the past month has achieved. Let’s hope she grows up to make her mark in the game. 

The women’s game has changed dramatically down the years. A decade has made a massive difference. Imagine what 10 more years will do. 

And so our attention turns to the men’s game. 😂. I’ve no idea why I do it, but every year I make my predictions. I’m not going to do that here - but rest assured before a PL ball is kicked Friday I will have done. And the blog is back. Join me every Monday for my weekend thoughts.