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Sweet FA

I’ve been away at a stag do this weekend. Up in the Lake District (Prague is just so last decade darhling!)

Anyway as you can imagine if you get a load of lads, beer and a World Cup together one topic of discussion is inevitable… The beautiful game (or in England’s case the hideous one). Not one of the 15 of us thought we had a cat in Hell’s chance against Germany. I detect that a lot of people despite (or because) of the mass hysteria drummed-up by the media had developed a sort of ennui before the first ball was even kicked. I have quite passionately cheered England on every time until this one. I was just sick to the back teeth of everything in the shops and all the adverts on TV having my nation’s flag upon it. The most egregious by far was the “If Carlsberg did team talks…” Yeah, I thought, “… they’d be in Danish”.

Anyway, yesterday, we sat in vague disinterest in the pub watching the inevitable calamity. It was quite weird. Lads on a stag do, beer flowing freely and England vs. Germany in the World Cup: you’d expect some level of rambuctiousness. Admittedly we’d chosen a quiet pub rather than the first one we came to which had some twat in a tommy hat “playing” the vuvuzela (just one of those makes an unconscionable racket – I can’t imagine 60,000 going – I hope those stadia are sturdy so we don’t have a “Walls of Jericho incident”) and another that was blaring out the “Dambusters March” with the amp turned to 11 (it’s one louder). When Germany scored their first one of the lads turned to me and said, “Right off home now!” with a wry grin. I guess what I’m saying is that for a lot of us the staggering mediocrity of England for so long coupled with the ludicrous hype of the, “This time for sure” variety has propelled the whole dismal spectacle past tragedy and into the realm of farce. I think it’s significant that I haven’t heard the song, “Three Lions” anywhere. Perhaps, “44 years of hurt doesn’t scan” or perhaps too many of us are just sick of it all.

Of course there is another reason as well that I’m losing the will to support England at football. I can sum it up with the headline of today’s Daily Fail. It quoted their resident gobshite, Richard Littlecock along the lines of, “If the Few had fought so badly in 1940 we’d all be speaking German now”. Please put a cork in it Dickie me old china for that has by now grown a long grey beard. I find the inevitability of the comparison of England v Germany games to WWII ridiculous, embarrassing, childish and offensive. The idea that we can gain some sort of revenge for the bombing of Coventry by winning a football match against a team many of who’s grandparents weren’t born at the time is farcical and self-defeating. Sport is not war and it is wrong to treat it as such. There is a George Orwell essay that argues that case so I’m good company. Pinning our entire national self-image upon “sad far-off things and battles long ago” is stupid, dangerous and I’m sure in some sense is part of the reason for England’s chronically “woeful”, to quote Alan Hansen, football.

I guess I might as well say something about the game… I’ll leave that to two people who were there commentating except to chip in that this is the worst England team I have seen since the dark days of Graham “Do I not like that” Taylor. Remember when he took Lineker of in his last match for England to replace him with that oaf Carlton Palmer. Recall the epic midfield triumvirate of Batty, Platty and Fatty?

England need a miracle now

-Mark Lawrenson

That is not in itself amusing but that was uttered just before Emile Heskey was thrown into the rout… Now Emile Heskey may be many things but he is certainly not “a miracle”. Emile Heskey is not so much a footballer as a pratfaller – he’s good at that – should have been a vaudevillian. Anyway, by that point we could have fielded ten cloned Peles and a Gordon Banks between the sticks and half the German team could have had an impromptu BBQ in the centre circle and we would still have lost.

Normally I find Alan Hansen’s dour Scottish Private Fraserishness, “Woeful defending, no one was tracking back… And look how they were leaving the striker literally* acres of space…” grating** but his tone suited this one and his final comment is a peach

“England were abysmal against Algeria but today they were four levels worse”.

“Four levels below abysmal” – I’m having that Mr Hansen! That is almost Shakespearean in a kind of “full fathom five” way. Hansen’s final comment really sums up this England team. They just look slow (especially Rooney who appeared to have developed too much a taste for biltong whilst in South Africa), lack any attacking flair and the least said about the fair impression of Fred Karno’s circus that constitutes the defence the soonest mended. David James looked like he wanted to lamp those two end of the pier comedians Upson & Terry and he had a fair point. When James wasn’t picking the ball out of the onion bag he was shrieking at that pair of clowns. Has John Terry also shagged Matthew Upson’s missus? That might explain why they had a complete lack of co-ordination. The whole team was a shambles and they played with a devastating lack of spirit or commitment all through the tournament.

The one game we won (against the mighty footballing powerhouse that is Slovenia) was a grim one-nil. On paper that’s a good result… for Slovenia. I just found out that one of the Slovenians was only in South Africa because he took unpaid leave from his day job as a bank clerk… If our multi-millionaire “stars” can only get one-nil against a team that includes amateurs then bugger them quite Lampard(ly), Frank(ly)! Anyway, good on the Slovenian lad! That’s the sort of spirit we need! I hope he had a really good time and I bet he did. You can’t imagine the likes of Rooney, Defoe or the Coles doing that can you?

Anyway, just after the game I was on the train back to Manchester and there was a group of Scottish lads and none of them cared that England had been humiliated. Now that speaks volumes. I guess they too regarded it as inevitable. Even back in Manchester (where I changed trains for a local service to get my weary bones home) where there were loads of guys in England shirts milling around Piccadilly station who looked sort of, “Yeah, right, whatever…” It’s as though so many people can no longer summon any passion over a team that clearly lacks any passion whatsoever. Would it be cynical of me to suggest that going out now is a feature and not a bug for many of the players who shall now have longer to lounge on the beach some where astronically expensive with their concubines?

The fact I’m evven thinking that is reflective of the enormous national Gallic shrug our exit has provoked in (I suspect) a majority of the populace. Gallic shrug – yeah, the French didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either. Quite the mot juste n’cest-ce pas?

*Football pundits have a completely different understanding of that word from the one the OED presents. Example from the ’98 World Cup (spoken of a USA midfielder – “He has literally no left foot, well obviously not literally but he has no left foot…”. That’s my runner up to the truly surreal image conjured by this utter gem from the same tournament, “Jaap Stam looks like Steve Bould… On skates!”.

**Can you imagine the pillow talk after Mr and Mrs Hansen have had sex? He’d be drawing diagrams on a video replay and pointing out where Mrs Hansen had gone wrong, “Woeful foreplay, you just weren’t tracking back…”. Or him directing MacBeth, “Woeful swordplay, where was your defence”?

PS, “Award for best Newspaper Headline” goes to the Mirror for the magnificent “Rout of Africa”. The Sun only managed the dismal “Fritz All Over”

PPS. Because I was away I didn’t see the Dr Who season finale. Any discussion here of it in any form whatsoever (it’s repeated on Friday) will get you cast into The Howling. I mean it. This is very important to me. More important than the “Eleven Disinterested Jerks – South Africa 2010 tour (later dates cancelled)”. This is the TV highlight of my year. Not that it’s up against much competition mind…


  1. CountingCats says:

    Disinterested? Or uninterested?

  2. NickM says:


  3. Jeff Wood says:

    Sympathies. The Scots lads may have told you what this Scots no-longer-quite-a-lad can tell you: you get used to it.

  4. Yep, the colective shrug just about sums it up. It was reminiscent of Euro 2000 when I snaffled tickets for Charleroi to see Phil Neville give away a last minute penalty which ended Keegan’s reign.

    There was no anger or desperation, just a feeling that everyone knew it was coming and it would have been pointless going further anyway.

  5. Chuckles says:

    Shamelessly stolen –

    I’m sick of all these crap foreign managers for England. If we had an ENGLISH manager, who played ENGLISH football we would have saved the humiliation of yesterday by not qualifying in the first place.

  6. Bod says:

    /me opens his gob to ask what Nick’s opinion was of the sticking its’ into the TARDIS and taking Amy’s out and giving it to despite the Doctor saying ” “.

    . I’ll try and keep my pie-hole shut.

  7. Bod says:

    OOh – I had tags labelled ‘[Redacted]‘ that CatsServer excised.

    Makes my posting even less memorable.

    Welcome back Nick.

  8. Bod says:

    Third time lucky in an attempt to not be Howled – doesn’t BBC stream all its stuff to you if you’re on a UK IP address?

    I mean, c’mon – your loyal lickspittles are out here contenting ourselves with Wayne Rooney’s Incompetence waiting for you to catch up.

  9. El Draque says:

    My eariest memory of the World Cup was in 1962.
    Newsreader: “England are out of the World Cup.”

    Repeated every four years except once, plus the times we didn’t qualify.

    And this was the worst, with no honour or fight, no narrow margin . . . just complete shambles.

    Come August I will loathe the lot of them as they ponce about on the pitch rejoicing over putting a goal in against Blackpool.

    England – devoted fans, under achieving players, always hopeful, never delivering – the Newcastle of world football.

  10. Simon Jester says:

    “This is the TV highlight of my year. Not that it’s up against much competition mind…”

    Didn’t you think much to “Ashes to Ashes”, then?

  11. RAB says:

    Bod, very little is sacrosanct round here, but you mess with Nick and his Dr Who experience at your peril. Jus Sayin Like. ;-)

    Now then, I have had a much better day today than yesterday. Been walking with the wife and the bonkers dog in the Slad Valley. That’s Laurie Lee country. Dropped in at the Woolpack, the great writers local for a couple on the way home. There isn’t even a telly in the place and the incredibly friendly locals didn’t metion the World Cup once.

    Why? Cos most of us sane folk knew we didn’t have a fuckin chance before it even started.

    Commentators and pundits have come up with every excuse in the book except that we have a crap team that cant play as a team. My old school side could have beaten them, and we didn’t play Soccer til Terry Yorath conned the Headmaster into providing it for the “Weedy kids” to get some exercise come games afternoon.

    Mayor Boris thinks it is because Labour have destroyed competitive sports in schools, some merit there, but not a lot. Flogging all the playing fields for developement cant have helped either.
    The wackiest reason for Rooney being a complete and utter fat sweaty unfit waste of space however comes from the Fail.
    It’s the Samson syndrome apparently! Yes folks the hairy little git had a chest wax and it sapped his strength! Give me fuckin ….

    But for me folks, and this comes from a rugby fan, the main reason we lost is because we dont know how to use both feet anymore. Our ball control skills are non existent.
    That used to drive my dad nuts. All the players of his generation and even up to the 60s, could kick with either foot and pass the ball acurately with either too. Ok they had a stronger shot with one, that’s why they played on the left or right, but at least they could dribble a ball and keep possession using both feet, not the Long John Silver method of using the one fuckin foot only.

    We cant control the ball either. The number of times I clocked our players taking 3 touches to get it under control and then shimmying about cos they didn’t know what to do with it next.

    Look at any south american side, any of them. Kids who grew up playing football barefoot on a beach. They trap a ball in one and pass either on the volley or two.
    Their crosses go exactly where they are meant to, not out of the stadium like everything fat git Rooney touched yesterday, and they love the game first and the money second, unlike our entitlement rich wankers who wont even get out of somebody elses wife’s bed for less than £60,000 a week.

    Just like with our politicians so with our football players, we need to get rid of the fuckin lot of them and start again from scratch.

    We need people who are hungry, competent and proud to represent us both in Parliament and on the sports field, not the overpaid overprivileged wankers we have now!

  12. NickM says:

    I am also a NUFC fan.

  13. CountingCats says:

    Ya know, foe people who don’t care about football you lot sure put a lot of effort into that not caring.

    Now me on the other hand, find it dead easy to waste not a single millierg in not caring. I do that by, simply, not caring, and by not taking a blind bit of notice.

  14. Kevin B says:

    I blame capitalism. Oh, not the fact the the players, (and let’s not forget the manager), can screw vast sums of money out of their clubs for what limited talent they have. Good luck to them. Wish I had the chance.

    No, the capitalism I blame is the fact that every firm, from the local funeral parlour, (get Dad buried in a St. George’s shroud!), to the largest state supported bank, has gone really heavy on England World Cup advertising, and an early exit for our brave lads is going to cost them a fortune.

    How can the poor players handle that kind of pressure?

  15. NickM says:

    After the crash-out they are still showing the adverts.

    I dunno though. A local estate agent was offering a discount on it’s fees if England won. That’s an offer as safe as houses!

    I was wondering when someone would make that point. My point was not so much about my feelings but about a general mood within the country.

    I have a theory – Shows like “Asges to Ashes”, “Lost”, “24″ etc are really designed for folks with HD recorders. I don’t because I’m so bamboozled by the options. I want something I can yank stuff off, not just time shift. Could that be done with a little PC under the telly that would replace the stereo and everything and enable a bit of light emailing etc. I haven’t really looked into it. My other requirement is to port my wife’s huge collection of VHS to DVD. I’d like to do that automatically so when a video is watched it’s captured to HD.

    I know very little about “media” machines and the current SotA in them. Oh and there’s upgrading the Sky box to Sky High Def. Do they all come with recorders because I don’t want one. I just want a receiver from Sky.

  16. RAB says:

    You should start a thread on all the variations of recording tv Nick, I dont have a clue either these days and would like to know.

    Now regarding my thesis on being able to play football with both feet…

    Spain just reached the last 8 when Villa hit a belter with his left foot, which the keeper saved but could not hold, it came back to him, he hit it with his right…Goal!!!
    I rest my case.

  17. El Draque says:

    Yeah Nick, I know.
    Bit of a cheap shot, sorry.

    Seriously, the ridiculously inflated hopes stem from one thing.
    The top teams don’t play each other often enough.
    We qualify by beating teams that are by definition not good enough.
    Then we are seeded, but have to play teams which have proved capable of playing at the top level.
    And we don’t get to play Argentina or Brazil.

    Best thing would be a “World SuperLeague of Nations”.
    Take the eight quarter-finalists and let them play each other twice, home and away. We’d get to see the top teams and really know who’s best.
    Give them a free pass into their regional championships two years later.

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