Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

In Pictures: Cheerleaders light up Wembley as NFL's Buccaneers and New England Patriots come to London

Cheerleaders perform during the NFL International Series match between New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium
Cheerleaders perform during the NFL International Series match between New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium

Not a day the Glazers will want to remember in two of Britain's more hallowed stadiums. First Anfield and then Wembley. Perhaps this pair of red-faced experiences will dissuade any other American who might just be feeling tempted to go in big on British sport?

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Don't bet on it. This was essentially a personal sob story for the club/franchise-owning family. If Manchester United's defeat was a surprise, then that of the winless Buccaneers here a few hours later was as inevitable as they come. But still, the bloodless manner of their 35-7 capitulation was not welcome. Not for Malcolm and the boys, anyway.

The majority of north-west London seemed to have a right razzmatazz at the third staging of the NFL's “international series”. In truth, this was never going to be anything but one-sided and was never going to match last year's Saints-Chargers 37-32 humdinger for drama.

But with Tom Brady throwing three of his team's five touchdowns on 308 yards, the British fan-club of the New England Patriots were not going to retreat home anything but happy.

The mood of optimism was palpable all night. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is understandably in the habit of saying whatever his audience wishes to hear and when he and his staff —who have never knowingly under-hyped anything — talked in the build-up of another regular season game soon to be held on these shores — and then, deep breaths, of two more taking it up to four in the future — the foothold of big-time gridiron in this country seemed assured.

While Glazer might not be universally loved in Lancashire, in Florida the love hardly blazes down either. The Bucs faithful accuse him of not investing in the playing staff, of not even spending up to the salary cap of £85m. Indeed, he is a whole quarter shy.

Furthermore, those tamping Tampa fans see this sacrifice of a “home” game as being indicative of an owner's desperation for finance. Glazer disagrees, saying he has put his faith in youth. But as another of his managers may well advise, it is not always possible to win anything with kids. Particularly when they're up against a player of the magnificence and experience of Brady.

The Tampa quarter-back is a second-second pro called Josh Johnson.

He is 23 and on his CV has a fine college reputation. Brady is a 10th-season pro. He is 32 and on his CV has three Superbowl rings.

The distinction soon became apparent. Johnson threw a lame interception in the third minute, leaving Brandon to high kick his way over a 39-yarder. A few minutes later the poor chap chucked it to the same Pat again. It was to sum up his night, their night, the Glazers' day.

Fortunately for Johnson, Brady was not at his best. If he had been, the comparison would have been yet more painful.

The great man, himself, faltered to a few interceptions in the first-half— plainly not the heroics of last week's record 59-0 waltz. But there was enough vintage stuff for Brady's legions to wash down. One drive from 73 yards, another from 90 yards. It took the Pats to 5-2 for the campaign, whilst the battered Bucs are looking ugly on 0-7.

For Glazer it could be a case of better the Red Devils he does not know.

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