Sunday, 30 May 2010

Cole Comfort

Well I’m feeling very confident. England have been downright cobblers in their two friendlies and that all points to a promising tournament ahead if you ask me.

Mexico made us look like we’ve had one two many San Miguels with our chimichangas and Japan left us looking, appropriately enough, fishy and undercooked.

But who wants us to be playing well now, eh?

If I was prone to pre-match nausea and doom-mongering I might be worried that there’s talk of Fabio trying to unravel the Gordian knot of English football. It’s like a riddle of quantum physics: the Gerpard Conundrum.

Is it possible that two identical particles can appear in exactly the same space and co-exist or will they inevitably cancel each other out?

All previous experiments suggest the latter and yet Townsend and Southgate (a more unfeasible pair of pundits it’d be hard to imagine but then again that is the Townsgate Conundrum or the Southend Enigma) are suggesting the Gerpard midfield for the first game of the WC. No!

I might also note that Lamps as penalty-taker is a bit of a lottery at the mo. I think most keepers will have worked out by now that he always scuffs it to the right. I’d prefer Wazza to be lining it up.

Capello called for ‘English spirit’ – which I think is Italian for ‘For fook’s sake get stuck in!’ - but we had the usual stand-off-and-admire stuff by a team that was less anxious to please and more anxious to avoid getting crocked.

There was a petty little clog from Rooney, just to remind you that he still has the capacity to do the predictable. Yep he scares the opposition all right... he’s a genius with the ball and a bloody hooligan without it.

And the defence still has its bovine moments, typified by Rio’s occasional dithering and Johnson’s failure to stay tight at a corner.

I might also add that I’ve never heard the phrase ‘impact substitute’ used quite so often in the pubs of Teesside. Leading candidates for the David Fairclough award are: Peter ‘something different’ Crouch; Jermain ‘can always nick you a goal’ Defoe; Theo ‘pace to burn’ Walcott; Adam ‘Unknown Quantity’ Johnson and increasingly Joe ‘Probably the Best Keeper in the Squad but after Scott Carson Only a Fucking Idiot Would Risk It’ Hart.

Of course it’d be nice to think that the first eleven players Cap puts out would make an impact off the bench unnecessary. It’s like someone coming round to fix your bog, taking his tool-kit out and saying ‘Don’t worry – if none of these work I’ve a right special gadget in the van.’ Well I tell you what, mate, leave that box of crap in the van and bring out your super-gizmo now and we can be all done in 10 minutes can’t we?

What gives you confidence is Capello telling you straight after the game that he knows who his 23 are. Given that the regulars of the Blue Bell have had more changes of mind than a series of Worzel Gummidge, I’m glad he’s in charge.

Plus, two raggedy first halves have been transformed into far better second halves. Clearly the Gaffer has a well accurate rocket launcher for the laziest backsides in the interval dressing-room. What a change from Stevie Mac, who you felt would’ve been covering them self-same arses with tender kisses.

The Artful Dodger hisself - Consider yourself our mate!

Of the possibles on show only one has made himself indispensable. Joe Cole. He’s got bags of nous, quick feet and when confronted with a bit of open space he doesn’t develop instant agoraphobia. Fully fit he’s as good a midfielder as we’ve got.

I think it’s pretty clear-cut otherwise now. Wallowing in abject misery but consoled by a dishy wag and a purpose-built swimming pool or two will be: Parker, Warnock, Wright-Phillips and Bent.

The three outstanding decisions for Fabio are: Dawson or Upson; Walcott or A.Johnson; Carrick or Huddlestone. Me, I’d go for Dawson, Johnson and Huddlestone. I think Cap’ll opt for Theo and Upson and take Hud too.

English sport isn’t looking too shabby at the mo either. Hamilton and Button had a one-two after a Red Bull bust up. Too much bleeding Red Bull if you ask me. Vettel walked off the track indicating that Webber was a nutjob. Ahem. Psycho, heal thyself. Still a bit of in-house needle can’t do a dull sport any harm.

Our cricketers are toiling away at Lord’s – and that Tamim sure puts the bang in Bangladesh. Terrific twatting of a cricket ball that was. But they’ll win.

But the main source of joy and optimism is the Euro triumph of England’s Under 17 side with THREE Boro lads involved. Count ‘em. More than any other club. That Bruno Pilatos is cracking I tell yer. Give that lot eight years and we’ll be getting over-excited again – and hopefully they’ll be looking at playing the tournament on their home turf if the Mail on Sunday can stop stomping over the bid with their twotty right-wing size nines.

But arrgghhhh!
There are still TWELVE days to go till the first flaming game!

So it’s holiday time for Robbo. The wife’s brother is tying the knot in Italy – I think it’s either Umbria or Tuscany which probably means I’ll spend me whole time out there trying to avoid middle-class liberal drips banging on about Fay Weldon and hybrid cars and balsamic vinegar.

I’ll be singing this (some mates have put together the vid and I think it’s a right grand tune):

I’ve packed ketchup, teabags and a large dollop of cynicism. I’m on strict orders to keep me foot out of me mouth and bite me tongue when Simeon and Georgina start banging on about coalitions and inheritance tax. I mean there’s only so much mental muesli a man of my mindset can take.

But the blog will be dry for a week while I invest heavily in Peroni. Cheers! And come on England!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

England Half-Expects

It’s World Cup time and I’m getting the usual heady mixture of hope, fear and nausea.

The nausea comes from the fact that chumps up and down the country are draping flags from the windows of homes and pubs and sticking twatty flags on their motors like they’re leading some cavalcade for the visit of some no-mark dignitary or other.

I’d drape a couple of St. Georges outside my terraced des res were it not for the fact that some wall-eyed Neanderthal might tap on me door to tell me where the next UKIP or BNP meeting is going to be held.

At least Gordon Brown doesn’t have to feign some sort of allegiance to the England football team now. I’m not saying he was faking it but I do reckon that any Scot worth his salt would be lining his home with Stars n Stripes memorabilia, buying obscure Algerian couscous and a drop of Slovenian chardonnay in the fridge. We don’t mind, either.

If I might paraphrase the Zombies, if you’re after finding a Scot in Jo’burg this summer ‘Don’t bother trying to find him. He’s not there!’

Not that this flag indifference has stopped me yelling at the box already. This is where the fear came in. While the dinky Mexicans were playing piggy-in-the-middle with England on Monday, and our midfield pitched and reeled like they’d got Mescal in their mineral water, I was barking like a skinhead’s pitbull.

‘Get tight!’ ‘Close the bastard down!’ and, more often than not, ‘Oh for f***’s sake, Carrick!’

Tony Thompson had to remind me it was a meaningless friendly. He was right. If I’m like this during an utterly inconsequential 90 minutes what the hell am I going to be like when Clint Dempsey is floating around in the gaping hole left by Michael Carrick’s presence?

I wouldn’t take Carrick. Not now. If there’s a knock on your door and there’s nobody there, it’ll be Michael Bleeding Carrick. No wonder Barry’s been given all the time in the world to prove he’s up to it. Hargreaves’ minute on the pitch at the end of the season looks better by the nanosecond.

Fear comes from the various as yet unresolved questions in Capello’s squad. I’d say there’s still four issues remaining:

1. Who replaces Barry? Looks like we’re down to Parker. Yes m’laydee.

2. Wide left. Gerrard has all the discipline of a sink school when it comes to defensive duties out there. Them that argue for Gerrard to play behind Rooney in a 4-4-1-1 are in doolally land. Wazza drops off and bumps into his Scouse buddy and neither of them have anyone to pass to. Chaos.

Given his form, I’d be tempted to tell Stevie to sit it out if he can’t help his left-back. Baines looked like a hamster trying to stop a buffalo stampede. He couldn’t have been more exposed had the Mexican right winger been working the Mail on Sunday.

So who? Milner can seal it up there. But Ashley Cole’s return might make Gerrard’s job a little easier. So leave him there and bring Milner on if you need it tighter and Johnson on if you need some trickery.

3. Wide right. Walcott. They call him an enigma but there’s nowt enigmatic about him. He can burn people off for fun, but once he gets into that space he’s about as accurate as a paper bloody aeroplane.

I know Hansen talks about pace like it’s as life-threatening as an earth-bound meteorite, but pace without direction is effing pointless and Walcott is a Ferrari with the steering-lock on. Lennon provides just as much shit-off-a-shovel speed and has a bit more nous when he gets there. Book your place on the sofa Theo.

4. Who plays with Rooney? Apparently Kai’s not available as the little darling is already having his first back-wax on June 12th.

So here’s where we toss the coin and hope. Heskey gives Rooney the freedom he needs but sooner or later international defenders are going to realise if they just let Emile have the freedom of Africa they’re safe as houses.

Crouchy is, well Crouchy. He keeps scoring against not very good teams – and let’s face it out first three opponents are not that good.

Defoe is a greedy little git but at times that’s what you need.

So it may well be the case that Capello selects according to the opposition. Mexico were after all a team of chihuachuas compared to the leggy lurcher that is Crouch. But if Slovenia field a team of Zigics then maybe Defoe will be more of a distraction. Hmmmm....

So here’s Cap’s first XI v USA (not mine necessarily, although they’d all make me squad).

Green (given a great performance on Monday) Johnson, A. Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Parker, Lampard, Lennon, Rooney, Heskey, Gerrard.

And here’s the rest of the squad. (Yeah I know it keeps changing but I and every other pub bore in the bloody country have been as changeable of mind as a lass picking her wedding bouquet and that’s not going to change so back off, slaggers).
James, Hart; Carragher (reluctantly), King, Warnock (Baines has blown it after his pat-a-cake goal-line clearance), Dawson; Barry, Milner, Adam Johnson, Joe Cole; Defoe, Crouch.

Carrick and Huddlestone drift out of matches like plastic bags on a spring tide. Upson has looked as comfortable as a stork wading through a BP oil-slick this year and Bent has had a great season I just don’t reckon on him.

Ardent Theophiles and Bentists I await your crude and puddle-deep arguments with interest.

Oh and if Rooney is struggling to cope with injuries – as has been suggested in some quarters I want Ferguson on the Beeb to explain why he’s run the pug-faced genius into the ground like a bloody dog. Shame on him. Mind, he is Scottish so I doubt he'd give a toss?

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Last Post

Friday, 21 May 2010

Hemlock and Mandible

Monday, 17 May 2010

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Carry On Carra

Monday, 10 May 2010

End of Season's Greetings