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?