Johnny Cantor: Which obscure individuals will shine in France?

Karel Poborský. Remember the name? Well, some younger readers may not but he was one of several footballers over the years who have made their mark for their country at a European Championships.

Jiri Skalak in action for Albion. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst
Jiri Skalak in action for Albion. Picture by Angela Brinkhurst

The Czech international’s lob at Euro 1996 is a vivid memory from that competition for me. The man who could have featured in the hair bear bunch for his distinctive ‘barnet’ secured contracts at Manchester United, Benfica and Lazio. Not a bad career. As this year’s tournament approaches, only those who have diligently collected their Panini stickers may have an inkling of the more obscure individuals who may well shine in France, and possibly beyond into leagues this side of the channel.

In this year’s Czech squad is Albion’s Jiri Skalak. Another outstanding hair cut but will he have an impact? His game time may be limited but he will take heart from those in years gone by who have taken advantage of the spotlight thrown onto them.

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If you examine the Championship for next season we can already see the quality of the managers (well, who start the season, anyway). What about the standard of players? With budgets at an all-time high, it would not surprise me to see a few relatively unknown names head to England’s second division this year, as well as the Premier League.

The path to English football may become more difficult as the political backdrop may alter in the coming months and years and I think it would be fair to say many ex Albion players would not have featured in the blue and white stripes if the Brexit points system had been adopted over recent years.

I still think the quality of players in the Championship will continue to improve and it still would not surprise me if a few current unknowns are given a chance, having impressed at the Euros and with the appropriate points from international appearances under current regulations to move here.

There may be no Ballotelli, no Costa, no Reus, no Kompany but that may not matter, we may be able to celebrate Shkelzen Gashi or Igor Smolnikov. The youngsters padding their pictures into their sticker books right now may be gutted at the moment as the Austrian or Hungarian players aren’t famous but they all go some way to ‘completing the set’.

For every Van Basten or Hazard, you need a Poborský or Skalak. Those youngsters and even Championship managers may be glad they’ve got them by the time 2017 comes around. If they don’t, well it makes me feel better about getting Albania in the sweepstake at the office!

Johnny Cantor covers Brighton & Hove Albion as a commentator and reporter for BBC Sussex Sport.

Follow all the action, home or away, on BBC Sussex Sport or Twitter: @BBCSussexSport or @johnnycburger

To read more by Johnny Cantor, visit

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