Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Smiling Through the Pain

I am shocked! I've seen pictures of England footballers (if that's not now officially a contradiction in terms) - England footballers LAUGHING just HOURS after the game.

Not miserable enough Cashley

Just what the hell have they got to laugh at? I don't expect to see one of 'em crack so much as a smile for the next four years. I'm surprised they've got the gall to fly home on an aeroplane. They should WALK. (I'm sure Rooney and co can manage the tricky bit around the Med - it wasn't that long ago that they could walk on water).

And some of them have got back only to go away on holiday. Holidays? No, no, no. Fuck the Maldives. We have some Three Lions sackcloth and Maldon Sea Salt for them to rub into their gaping wounds of shame.

Seriously though Ledley and Ashley are as entitled to a laugh as anyone. You do kind of wonder what they might have been saying to each other - something to the effect of:
'So at which exclusive late-night dive will you be hurling abuse at the staff and/or police, Cashley?'
'Where do you go to do it, Ledley, old chum?'

It's pretty clear what these blokes have got to laugh at, any road. They remain unthinkably well-paid for being unthinkably average and unthinkably blinking unthinking about the way they play the game.

They'll still be able to cash in. I can see the ads now. Rob Green consults his Nat West bank manager cos money just seems to slip through his fingers. Jamie Carragher embodies a particularly slow broadband connection. Parcelforce show Messrs Lennon and Wright-Phillips whacking cross after cross over Crouchy's haed while the strapline says 'For really good delivery use Parcelforce.'

You might include Capello in this loop of the overpaid and underdone although I don't think a lack of forethought is his problem. Just take a look at how clairvoyantly the squad suits matched perfectly the vibrancy of England's attacking play.

The FA have already embarked on their obligatory post-tournament challenge to distinguish a large posterior from the pointy bit in the middle of the arm. And even they manage that the chances of the elbow knowing what the arse is doing are nil.

There are of course various replacements being lined up, mostly by the papers, but frankly, unless someone potters in and tells the preening constricted ninnies who couldn't put together a 4-year-old's jigsaw puzzle let alone a thrilling passing movement to go back to their clubs and prepare for retirement, then we'll just have a different farmer to blame for being in charge of the muck-spreader.

Harry Redknapp leads the England squad out to train

Of course the fact that the thrusting young Germans turned us over has made everyone wonder why the creaking thirty-somethings were there in the first place. And there's a tale. Someone pointed me in the direction of Matt Dickinson in The Times.

He says the Germans were in bits after Croatia tonked them 3-0 in 1998. Self-loathing reached fever pitch when Keegan's England beat them 1-0 in 2000. (And that England team made this one look like Barce-frigging-lona).

They have to host the World Cup in 6 years! What are they going to do?

Option 1: Bring in a bloke who's seen the world and pay him shedloads to really nail down this 4-4-2 system so we can't do owt else, ever. And make sure he picks the same half-baked fatigued lamebrains to underline their mastery of the anticlimax.

Option 2: Force your nation's top division to have a fully functioning academy at every club or you'll take away their right to play in the Bundesliga. Oversee an increasing representation of young ethically diverse and talented young lads who actually get to start the odd game at their clubs and get a national coach in who like sthe idea of young fellas playing for Germany, even if it means the odd freakish 5-1 drubbing being given a team that's a bit tender and naive. (As opposed to England 2010 who represent the only recorded instance of being long-in-the-tooth and naive).

Naturally they took the long-term option. Not the quick-fix that turns out to be a BP style sticking plaster of a plan. We should do that, then.

So I hereby give my permission for:
1. Sepp Blatter to ride roughshod over European employment law and force English clubs to play at least 5 Englishmen.
2. The FA to put a wage cap on clubs in this country so that chuckling chavs look a little less self-satisfied when they open their wage packets of a Friday morning.
3. A ban on doom-mongers everywhere cos the average age of the new England team is 23 and they get a fearful hammering from Belgium.
4. Let's buy some playing fields back.

In the meantime you've got to start putting together your team of the tournament. Is bloody well mandatory.

Here's mine:
Eduardo (Portugal): Maicon (Brazil), Juan (Brazil), Lucio (Brazil), Heinze (Argentina); Felipe Melo (Brazil), Xavi (Spain), Ozil (Germany), Sanchez (Chile), Honda (Japan), Villa (Spain).

Honorable mentions to Klose and Higuain who are charmless but effective, Xabi Alonso, Endo, Donovan, and of course the lad Messi, who hasn't made it on the grounds that he hasn't surprised me at all.

Traditionally, you should have an Utter Stefan Kuntz XI but I'm afraid they know who they are and any road they're all on holiday at the moment.

Monday, 28 June 2010

They're Coming Home, They're Coming Home!

Dunno about you lot but I’ve not seen too much of the following: anger, despair, dismay. Mostly it’s been a mixture of bewilderment and resignation. Most of us knew we weren’t good enough after the first game. The rest of us knew it after the second, bar the silly numpties who though 1-0 v Slovenia was somehow a turning point.

I also had the solace of an evening chain-smoking and catching up on my lost beer. And any road, relax. We’ll have some proper footy to watch for a couple of weeks.
The post mortem has started in earnest. Fact is, this corpse has been long dead. Let’s line up the guilty parties who have been firing arrows into the English cadaver.

1. Fabio Capello. 6 million quid a year and he’s made Jonathan Ross look like good value. There’s no doubt he’s been stubborn and regimented in a way that the average English superstar doesn’t need. Heskey for Defoe at the end will be as resonant a death knell as Graham Taylor’s Alan Smith for Lineker in ’92. He never took the Gerrard/Lampard decision but stuck ‘em both in in the wrong positions. He was a relief after the boot-licking brolly-holder but it’s clear that the utter tools at his disposal weren’t up to it.

2. The FA. Enough with the kowtowing and cringing as they roll out their begging blankets to the good and great of European football. Time for some economy and humility. Sack Fabio and get someone weird in (but not Hoddle). Becks? We’d still be shit but it’d be one for the ladies.

3. John Terry – caught out of position all game long and all season long when he;s been off the pitch. I’ve heard it said he was playing out of position in the back four but given he and Upson played together for a lot of the qualifiers that’s so much twenty-twenty vision slurry.

4. The referee/linesman. This is what the pig-ignorant people who are pulling the wool over heir eyes are saying this morning. If Lamps’s goal had been given we’d have gone in 2-2 and the whole picture would’ve changed. We wouldn’t have been pushing for the equaliser and the breakaway goals wouldn’t have happened. Bollocks. Anyone who thinks that the Germans wouldn’t have continue to flit gaily through the English defence like Hansel and Gretel on a toddle through the Black Forest is in the land where Reason eats canteloupes and rides on the back a four-winged goose singing ‘Shaddap Ya Face’ (that’s the brandy kicking in). Which is NOT to say that it’s not a fucking scandal.

5. The press. They build us up so they can knock us down. Maybe. And just maybe we all delude ourselves that our footballers are really good when they are quite good to downright cack. Certainly someone has been lying about Wayne R, cos if he’s 100% fit then I’m Fatima Whitbread’s waxer (I’m not, by the way).
Am I the only one who thought Wayne carried all the lightness and grace of Chrissy ‘Christ you’ve gone to seed’ Waddle? Our reporters have talked up this golden generation but that there’s Fools Gold! I had no expectation after Slovenia and yet the red-tops talked it up like the Germans were quaking in their boots and our team of Godfrey, Wilson and Jones were going to shake off the Dad’s Army tag. Twats.

6. Landon Donovan. That last minute frigging goal deprived us of a cushy game against Ghana, then Uruguay. Shit, we’d be in the semis by now. Anyone think Ghana wouldn’t have beaten us? Seriously? It’d be harder to beat a carpet.

7. Germany. Well they’re a good thing to blame cos they were 400 times better than us. As they were in 2006 with another ‘average’ team. Hansen, Shearer and Dixon were right bullish before the match about England’s superiority but I thought, well in what sphere are you operating when you can say that Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Klose, even the lad Muller, wouldn’t waltz into the England XI. And we accuse the Germans of arrogance.

8. And this is the real answer. English footballers are dense. This is the crux, right? So what if Gerrard plays wide left. SO what if Lampard tries playing deeper. So what if it’s 4-4-2 when 4-4-1-1 looks better. Intelligent players could adapt.
The players England have available are quite simply a product of the system in which they grew up. And that system hasn’t changed since 1966. Forget the blip of 1990. (England played well in one game of that tournament and that was the one they lost). There are 900 pro footy coaches in this country. There are 17,000 in Germany.
By and large English schoolkids get the same dumb-ass, brain-dead instruction from the age of 9. Emphasis is still placed on hoofing it long. They play on full size pitches where the big hoof reaps dividends (Miroslav Klose will explain how it works).
You learn from the womb whether you’re a midfielder or a centre-half and chances are that’ll never change. And woe betide you if you’re titchy like that midget Messi, or you bring the ball out from the back like you’re a fucking Brazilian, or you try a Ronaldo lollipop when your mates are expecting you to kick it in to the car-park and get rid.
For too many years we’ve been gasping like my missus during a Clooney movie at the technical genius of them foreign types. It’s not genius. It’s just that they learn how to use the ball properly. Every other nation left in this competition treat the ball as a friend. Our boys treat it like piss-soaked bus shelter in need of a good kicking.

In other words, WE ARE A BIT CRAP.

Now let’s enjoy some proper football and not tarnish our minds with giving the overpaid chumps a second thought. I love you, beer. Let’s never fall out again!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Germany here we.. erm, dawdle

I keep thinking of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction: 'Okay boys lets not start sucking each others dicks just yet.'

Yes, we were much better.

Defoe for Heskey was like butter for lard. A centre forward who scores. Novel.

Here's Jermain looking at a dodgy front two and hoping he can get in there and score.

Milner for Lennon was like Phil The Power Taylor for Cupid. Positively Beckhamesque delivery.

Upson for Carragher was like racehorse for donkey. The last ditch tackle was immaculate and I can't see the worthy doddering Scouse getting another bash at it.

Other than that they remembered some of the basics. Keep the ball, pass to each other and perhaps now they'll remember the other principle of the modern footballer, keep your press conferences bland.

Capello was hearty and tactile afterwards, and it looked a bit uncomfortable, like a boisterous uncle after a couple of pints.

And me? I made a stupid vow before the game. No booze and no fags until England lose. Bugger me if it didn't work. And now I've been ordered to keep it up.

So in order to support a great run for our boys I am prepared to put my wellbeing on the line. Not a B&H or a bass will pass me lips till we lose. And when I say no booze that includes wine, cider and even beer that you swig out of a bottle with a slice of lime in it like it were a campari or summat.

I'm not being a pessimist. I just don't reckon that next pint is far away.

Rooney isn't fit. You can see it. He was better than against Algeria but then a lump of igneous rock would have been an improvement. He lacks that instant movement and quickness of foot and mind (in a purely footballing sense) that a fully firing Wazza would have in spades.

Joe Cole's appearance was welcome but he's still got that kiddy mentality where he comes on and tries to do way too much too soon. He's like one of them numpties who joins a motorway and is weaving between cars before he's got off the slip road.

Barry gave Slovenia every chance to counter attack and mishit so many more passes than his midfield mates that I thought there was a divot stuck to his boot throughout the second half.

And we should've tonked six past them.

At least we won't have to listen to our boys whispering how difficult it is to be cooped up in one place with nothing to do when they're not training. There's a world outside Grand Theft Auto and beer and shagging the missus.

There are things called books. Terribly clever people have spent a long time writing them and they're like stories. Like The Hungry Caterpillar but even longer.

There are things like pens and paper. You could do pictures with them. Post them to the children. They might even send something back that looks like what it's supposed to look like.

You can create shapes with the paper if you can't remember which end of the pen to point at the paper. It's called origami. No Ashley you're getting confused - the Dutch fans are nicknamed the 'Orange Army'.

Which reminds me. Other people talk different to us. You can learn how to do it and it might help you get a job where they live.

Plus you know the crap you bung on your headphones. That doesn't just happen you know. People who make those noises learn how to play things called musical instruments. It's tricky at first but once you get the hang of it, you'll never get be boring again. Unless your name is Chris Martin. Or Dido.

There's also internet porn. But they know that. How can they be bored?

So there's a job lot of beer sitting under canvass in the back garden, just waiting for the sprightly Germans to send our back four scattering. They've got Terry Hall as skipper and a real star in Ozil. Plus they move it about the park in well nifty fashion like a slightly wooden Argentina.

It'd be nice to stick one up sneery Franz Beckenbauer's schnozz but I can't see one of them brews being called Schadenfraude come Sunday night.

I'm not being unpatriotic, and I'm not whingeing about a beer embargo (unlike our boys in Rustenberg) I'm just basing it on what we've seen so far.

'I can't vait for ze latest hilarious piss-take of vat is one of ze greatest pervormances IN ZINEMA HISTORY!!!'

Of course no one wants an English victory more than the Youtube subtitling fraternity of Downfall. It's going ot be endless, I tell you.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Infights and Outcasts

My mate Andy Smart was reading one of them Girl With The Dragon Tattoo books the other day. Unputdownable Swedish crime thriller, he says. Maybe there's a section investigating the criminal line-up of forwards in Sven's squad for 2006, I jested. But his eyes were gone, his head back in his book.

Apparently the twists and turns are endless, but it can't be any more winding than the tales worming their way out of the England camp. First of all you had David James's post-match interview, which barely suppressed a right old strop.

James is renowned for straight-talking, although given that there was a little clip of him saying he'll be watching James Corden's World Cup every night on the self-same programme I doubt his word, now. I've watched it once. He really is the fat kid in the sweetshop at the mo. Lock him in, pull down the blinds and leave him to it, I reckon.

Call Crimestoppers now on....

The keeper retracted any implied criticism but it was enough for that acme of moral decency John Terry to enter the press conference fray. John, unaware that the only armband he was likely to be wearing this summer is inflatable, assertively stated that words would be spoken in a team meeting coming up. He praised Joe Cole and promised that if, a la Cantona at Crystal Palace a while back, the shit hit the fan, then so be it.

Cue Fabio, betraying no sign of tension, to announce that Terry had made a big mistake. Very big. Which made you wonder which one he was talking about: knobbing the mate's ex, the Stamford Bridge tours, the touting of his England skipper brand round all and sundry by his agents, the haircut, the star-jump handballs, etc., etc.

The meeting took place and as far as we can tell, not so much as a sparrow's chirrup in complaint came forth. Not even from JT.

Then JT rows back on yesterday's wind-up with a downright neutered statement, as if all that happened in the 'clear-the-air' talks was that Capello stuffed Terry's head into a welly-boot and held some pliers over his knackers.

Vice-captain Lamps has said that there's no mutiny on the cards, the actual skipper has become invertebrate during the past couple of days, everyone else has distanced themselves from King Chav, and nothing's changed.

It's not good, though, is it? There's a clip of England training on the Beeb website and it's about as jolly as an Eastenders Christmas special. The most worrying aspect of the camp at the mo is the patent lack of enjoyment. Even James Corden on a spit couldn't cheer them up right now.

If only we did things the French way, eh? Then we'd really know what was going on.
I have sympathy with the footballers to an extent. Dommenech is the least well-equipped manager at the tournament. Ever since he proposed to his missus in the aftermath of World Cup final defeat I've seen the imaginary tattoo 'TOOL' stamped a cross his forehead.

Oh, well, back to see shadow puppetry pour moi

Here's a bloke who fails to take Benzema and Nasri to the finals and then watched the FFF send his best surviving striker home. On the other hand, Anelka is as tedious a prima donna as football has ever seen. You can't look at the bloke without thinking how he's always tried to blame his crucial 2008 Champs League penalty miss on someone else.

Trouble is, while most players would delight in the absence of such an unlovable and unreliable team-mate, there's more than one rotten pomme in the French barrel. Gallas is rumoured to be stropping that Evra is skipper; Gourcuff is supposed to eat alone at dinner; and all of them seem to think they can just piss away the aspirations of their countrymen in a petty little infight.

Dommenech missed a chance to show some bottle and instead read out the statement from the players looking all too spookily like Neville Bloody Chamberlain.

The French government have already approved the building of 23 naughty steps in public places across the country. Not sure how they'll cope although Henry will probably handle it - after all that's how they got to the finals in the first place.

I trust the French will do the decent thing before they leave and get themselves a good thumping from the host nation. As yet we don't know which players will be available to play. If none of them turn up then at least they can say they finished the tournament with their best performance.

As for Terry, well despite everything England Expects each man to do his duty, with or without a smile on his face. Still it's all grist to the mill of that really blllody tedious post-WC ritual - the auto-bore-ography. Somehow, JT's is looking like the best read at the mo. Oh, hush my cynical mouth.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Utter Bloody Rubbish

All right let's look at the positives.

Right, that's that done. It's unthinkable that these players tonked Croatia home and away. I can't remember an England team playing that badly. Seriously I can't. How long before Capello gets a brolly?

Let's look at the excuses:

1. Altitude. It's high up there. We know. That's why you got some practice in up there. It's not as high as some of the crawlers get up the backsides of these creaking millionaires. Not an excuse.

2. The ball. Yeah, well, everyone else seems to be getting a grip on it. It is a bloody ridiculous floaty bubble of a thing but you'd have thought a bit of nous might have conjured up a way of playing with it by now.

3. Algeria played well. They didn't. They were shit. Even the terminally slow centre-backs were never tested. If they'd had a bit more ambition, they could've nicked it.

4. It's been a long season. Truish, but nothing could surpass the length of that 90 minutes.

Here's the actual reason for England's failure to create nothing more than a Lamps in England shirt special of a passback to the keeper. We're not very good. It's simple.

We've got all the creativity of a dried-up felt-tip. Never have I seen such ineptitude from players in possession of the ball. It took each and every player on that park three or four touches to get the ball under control by which time every promising outlet had been blocked by a green shirt.

It was so stodgy. All crumble and no fruit. I reckon we could fire all 23 of them down that burst pipe in the Gulf and it'd be job done and that pasty CEO of BP wouldn't need to go in front of snarling Washington attack dogs looking like a shifty Piers Morgan minus the ugly aura.

At least that pitch won't need any fertiliser for three years after the heap of dung our boys ladelled on to it.

David James played well, but he'd have had more to do if he'd have stayed at home. The back four were never tested but pushed forward like nervous schoolboys peering in to an open tuck shop. Get in there Glen!!!!

The midfield were all sponge-boots and sheer pants. What we need to realise - and I'm surprised Capello hasn't - is that Lampard and Gerrard are not skilful pullers of midfield strings. They - oh God it's too transparent for words - are good a breaking forward into the box, not creating the opportunities themselves.

Barry did his usual nondescript thing. You only notice when he does something cack so he was quite prominent in this game. And Lennon, well he was sitting there watching the wheels go round and round.

'No honestly it is better if you sit with me and take your boots off'

Heskey was okay, but he is Heskey. He is as limited a footballer as I am a teetotaller. Even for the fleeting moments that Defoe received the ball he looked about 300% a better bet. We've done with Emile.

But the biggest disappointment was Rooney. He's still our best hope but my God was he crap last night. The first touch of an elephant seal. I almost wished he'd just clog someone and take a walk. Clearly the knock didn't help him but before then he'd illuminated the game with all the brilliant splendour of a firefly in the Albert Hall.

Can we beat Slovenia? Well, no. They're not world-beaters but they can do some of those things we can't like, I dunno, pass the ball to each other. There's a stupid deluded witless child of a Robbo inside me that tells me that we always start tournaments like this. We struggle, we strive, we are as coherent as a John Presott monologue and yet suddenly when we're up against we click and in adversity, we are reborn.

But I shall not listen. Cos at the moment, I am not angry. No. I am resigned. Let us not care too much for the chavs and scallies that wear our shirts and treat a football like it's an unwanted dog. Let us not grieve for the pucity of their imaginations or the unwarranted enormity of their bank accounts.

Can we ignore these wayward sons? Yes we can.

Can we turn instead to the grit and grind of the Swiss as they've shoves a giant toblerone into the orifices of the swaggering Spaniards? Yes we can.

Can we bliss out on the industry and talent of great swathes of more deserving footballers who can seemingly conjure magic from the malteser they've been asked to play with? I speak of Messi, of Sanchez (Chile), and hell-fucking-fire of Landon Donovan.

Coop is the one on the right

Can we devote our time to jeering as the German manager Dale Cooper throw his bottles of water around and Lukas Podolski fluffs chance after chance, including having a penalty saved by a man who cuts his own hair?

Or rejoicing with out Irish brothers that a French team of utter no-marks are finally hitting the buffers without Henry to play pat-a-cake with theoir opponents hopes?


Because this tournament has started to click. The South Americans are looking tasty, and pretty damn cynical when they need to be. The good ship Argentina are a joy to behold (although I'm not convinced Diego is anything more than an ornate carving on the prow - someone else is doing the donkey work there).

I bloody loved the last Euro Championships and now I realise why. We weren't there. The originators of football were just watching over the heighbours' fence and hoping that one day someone would give them their ball back.

Next time they should just keep it, cos frankly we haven't got a clue what to do with it.

It's a far cry from the glorious qualification, Capello oversaw. He looks clueless and bemused. But when your players simply don't bother to show up, what else can you do?

I don't think he can blame the poor saps who have paid 6 or 7 thousand quid for the privilege of watching an incredibly expensive turd go down the pan. Booing that performance was actually a generous response.

There is a corner of some foreign field that is forever England, and some numpty is taking it and always fucking well hitting the first man.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

On A Whinge And a Prayer

What shall we do with Fabio Capello when he gets back, eh?

Put him in the stocks and throw carbonara sauce at him? Steal his glasses and make him wear crappity NHS jobs from the 1980s? Remove his pointy fingers and mount them on spikes whilst shouting 'How about that for a Capello Index?'

I've heard people saying crap like 'He's just putting out a McClaren team!' Well, yes, maybe, only the lads Cap picked seemed to get us to the finals of a major tournament with barely a hiccup. And not a brolly in sight.

I've heard people saying he shouldn't be stalling on a new contract. Christ knows, every working person in football, especially those that have a proven track record, know how to apply a bit of a leverage to a contract. And any road, if the man does a good job, he can walk away with my blessing, if no one else's.

I've heard bleating about picking Ledley King from people who were right chuffed the young crock was on the plane. I've heard the decision to play Green roundly poo-pooed even though Green was excellent against Mexico and James wasn't fit.

I mean I'm not one to back off from sticking the boot in, but I'm not exactly why I'd be lacing up my Doc Martens with the steel toecaps in at the moment.

There are reasons for criticism. Playing Milner was clearly an error but after half an hour the lad was back on the bench. Wright-Phillips is a liability a lot of the time. Joe Cole will have to come into things. But really, do we need this half-cocked character assassination from a bunch of beer-swilling numpties as they reel from stadium to hotel bar? (That's the journos, not the fans)

England have played one game of football. They looked ordinary. That's partly because they are ordinary. It's like ordering a burger and complaining cos all you got was a meat patty in a bap. If you think we're exceptional then you'll be amongst those people who stood up and roared when our saviour, a nice pipecleaner of a man with a reasonable first touch, got up off the bench for the last ten minutes.

I've talked up our chances cos I don't see the bloody point of being pessimistic when our team's got themselves to the World Cup without a single nail bitten or sphincter tightened. Besides which, I support Middlesbrough FC, so I spend the rest of the sodding year doing me best Eeyore impression.

But I'm not daft enough to think that we'll win it without a big dose of luck, and some truly inspirational stuff from Rooney and/or Gerrard. Only shameless jackass hacks and bullet-headed bootboys believe we have some sort of divine right to bag a trophy.

Before long, we'll have the usual guff about how the Premier League is the best league in the world and yet the national team still disappoints, quickly followed by fingers of blame gesturing towards the selfish foreigners who pollute our game.

But the English squad is made up of players from that very top-flight and if there are any sparkling English diamonds pissing about in second elevens up and down the country then I haven't seen them.

And football is relentlessly subjective. Villa fans can't believe Ashley Young's at home. Brum finds despair that Roger Johnson didn't even get mentioned. And if I hear one more person express shock that Gareth Bale didn't get the nod, I'm going to do something drastic and, I dunno, drink cider. He's Welsh, for God's sake!

But then there are swathes of ugly lifeless tree plantations being grown up and down the hillsides of Europe in order that eighty gazillion square inches of newspaper can be pumped out onto our streets every morning - and there's only so much real stuff can go in them before we get onto reams and reams of tedious speculation.

And largely, that boils down to either idle malice in the direction of people we used to laud to the pigging skies, be that an errant footballer or some secret cellulite, or some plastic-faced publicity-junkie with a life with about as much depth as Norfolk.

But really, people, what the hell cause have we got to start pinging arrows in the direction of the manager? Or even making Rob Green effigies in the same way that many unbelievably dense people did in the direction of St. David of Beckingham in 1998?

It's not even that it's incomprehensible that folk get wound up. We all bloody do. But it happens every time, and often before there's any need to stick photos of your favourite letdowns on the pub dartboard.

I expect Marcello Lippi is getting similar short shrift from the baying hounds of the Italian press who can idly forget that his team are the World Champions.

But me, I'm winding my neck in till we finally 'crash out' - which is the official way in which we exit tournaments - and I'm going to try and enjoy the tournament, which ain't that easy when there's more moaners around you than your average swingers' party.

Otherwise all this whingeing and whining is going to sound like so many vuvuzelas.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Ah the USA. Time and again we are told of the special relationship. Time and again it feels like the kind of relationship where you tag along and do what you’re told and every so often you get told you’re special and get thrown a biscuit.

But we’ll always be there for you our transatlantic cousins. Just ask Mr. Pastry-Hands No-Mark Twot rob Green. There’ll not be a gardener in the land who will take kindly to being called Green-fingered anymore.

Someone labelled Rob a great shot-stopper. He just has trouble with the odd woofty dribbler from twenty-five yarders. A one-legged kitten could have kept that out. It’s no good hanging your head and raising your head like a sad giant green elf. You’ve joined a select band, mate. Robinson, Carson, Bonetti...

Time was that English goalies were the envy of the world. They were showing clips of Banksy after the game in my particular Dubai bar and I have to say it made you want to weep.

And let’s not hear the whinging about the new wobbly balls. That ball went in a straight line from Dempsey’s boot to, about ten minutes later, Rob’s cotton-bud digits before it tottered apologetically over the line like some trespassing bauble.
Oh you plank, Green.

Not that there was much to cheer you up in front of you, save for Gerrard’s neat opener.

Ledley confirmed his fitness is about as reliable as the rhythm method. Carra proved what we all know – that there are gastropods with more leg speed than the rumbling old Scouse donkey. Milner had a mare. Had one kick and that earned him a booking.

Lampard had one of them games where every crossfield ball had the recipient going into instant reverse to try and collect the damn thing. Heskey did everything expected of him. Linked up play okay, fell over a lot and when the big moment came, hit the keeper with unerring accuracy.

Lennon didn’t have the best of days and was positively Walcottian in his delivery at times (but at least he posed a threat). SWP continues to look like a blind man playing Give Us A Clue.

And Rooney had to come and get the ball off Terry just to make sure he got a kick. I won’t have a go at old Shark-eyed Shrek, mind. What good stuff they did produce was a result of his nous. The Yanks dealt with him pretty well – and if they didn’t they simply clattered him to the floor.

Having said all that, 1-1’s okay. Glen Johnson had a good game I reckon. And but for a howler that would quieten all the monkeys in the Amazon basin, we’d have a nicked a win.

But America were so average it feels like points lost, doesn’t it? I mean their centre-forward plays for Hull, ffs. Ours plays for ermm... Villa. Occasionally. Hmmm.

The most unnerving aspect of the game was hearing the chant of USA coming across the bar. Nothing makes you more uncomfortable than that. I expect they’ll put down the Green clanger to the result of friendly fire.

Still, it’s a very Italian start – a scruffy draw. And our best results in World Cups began in similar fashions (’66, ’90). Christ it’s hard to type when you’re clutching at straws.

And I still have faith in Fabio. If only I had similar trust in the blokes he can put out on the pitch, eh?

Onwards to Algeria, lads...

In the meantime we can marvel at the besuited guru that is Diego Maradona. Does he know what’s going on? Nah. But do we care? Nah. He’s box-office, Diego and there’s a little part of me that wants the little bearded box of an Argentinian to go all the way.

His team did the usual. Kept it well, tumbled theatrically, and the defenders looks like they’re concealing hatchets in their pants. Messi glimmered but missed and a couple and Veron strode round the pitch like a languid pirate all flicks and taps and no end product.

Is he the most over-rated player in the tournament – after Daylight Ribery of course? Nigeria almost stumbled to a draw I suppose, but they do look good the Argies till they sat back a bit in the last 15 minutes. The keeper looks like a swarthy Russell Brand, I reckon.

Still the tournament has yet to catch fire save for the near-exhilaration of SA’s opening goal. The main problem is that awful bloody buzzing noise that you get through the game but i’ll get used to ITV commentary team in the end. Ahem.

I jest. I refer to the Vulvulas or whatever they’re bloody called. The missus tells me I wouldn’t know a vulvula if I sat on one. Chance’d be a fine thing.

Fingers crossed that the Aussies can spring a surprise on the Gerrrrrrrrrrrrrrmans tomorrow night.

And tomorrow, I tell you, 1-1 won’t look so bad.

I just hope Cap finds a place for little Joey Cole somewhere and can somehow slip a couple of Duracells up the rear ends of our plodding central defenders or anyone with half a yard of pace is going to mullah us.

COME ON ENGLAND... please...

Friday, 11 June 2010

Greetings from Dubai!!!

Well you know what?

It's finally here. And guess where I am?

Tony Thompson's got hold of some late deal plus a free apartment next to one of the seventeen thousand building sites out here - and me and the lads have taken the Championship football route for a few days away and we're in.... Dubai!

Seems strange not to be standing outside the Blue Bell spilling lager down me shirt as I try to get me flaming lighter to work, but I'm sure I'll manage somehow.

Now I'm sure you'll all be reckoning that I've joined the jet-set now - and I can't think of owt more likely to undermine my working-class credentials - but the wife's really grateful. She can bang on about Nadal's physique for a week and a bit and I can have a right laugh at Tony as his glasses steam up every time he steps out the house.

So I won't have to have the usual World Cup conversation:

Wife: Not more football!
Me: Yes, love. It's the World Cup.
Wife: Who's playing?
Me: North Korea v Ivory Coast
Wife: Why d'you want to watch that?
Me: It's the World Cup.
Wife: Is that your answer to everything


Me: IT'S THE WORLD CUP!(Oooooo! Get in there Mun In Guk!)

Tony managed to get red raw sunburn during his first hour out here - he's paler than Andres Iniesta so he'd need a 200 tog duvet to prevent skin damage, the dozy tool.

Any road, we're all set for Mex v Bafana Bafana in some poncey bar or other. There are enough pink and boozy ex-pats here to convince you that you could be in a boiling hot Benidorm.

Our host tells us that there are 8000 cabin crew living in Dubai. Last night was like watching that God-awful cheesy Virgin ad where togged-up totty catwalk through an airport terminal.

Plus, he tells us, a third of the world's cranes are in Dubai. The streets are paved with sweating Indian subcontinental workers slaving away in 45C heat. And not a Nissan hut in sight. Apparently they're allowed to down tools if the temp hits 50. That's big of them.

It's not all fun and games. It's so bloody hot when you step out of the apartment it's like walking into a very warm sponge-cake. And the price of a beer is steeper than Scott Carson's learning curve, but I hear it's pissing it down in England so I'm not complaining.

Gerrard's making all the right noises about becoming skipper - 'a great honour... them army lads put our job into perspective... Wazza's going to be great, etc.' - but to be honest it shouldn't matter who the captain is.

Shrek 4 - Ogre and Out

I do wonder whether Rooney might take the armband as it might give him that extra edge of self-discipline. Fact is that this permanent apolgia for his temperament - 'Wayne wouldn't be the same player without his aggression' - is a load of bollocks.

If Rooney loses it, it means he's stopped being a good player. He can't channel his aggression usefully at all. Perhaps Stevie will remind him of all the privates in Afghanistan who are supporting him before he treads on those of an opposition centre-back.

If Rooney stays calm, Gerrard finds his game and Ledley stays fit, there's a chance this team could make a good fist of this tournament. I just worry about the USA. No one's taking them seriously but there are in the top 15 in the world, they beat Spain, and Obama's wished them well.

And cos they're playing us I think they might all be looking at this as a chance to raise the profile of a game that the Yanks dismiss as the sporting equivalent of girls playing with their dollies.

Plus I don't care how often their coach says we won't be winding up Wazza. Course they bloody will. Wayne will get more whacks, winks and wallops than a FAI president in a Chelsea basement.

But here's Capello's team for the morra:

Green; Johnson, Terry, King, A.Cole; Lennon, Lampard, Gerrard, J.Cole; Heskey, Rooney.

My best guess.

Now, off to find a telly and some factor 375 sun cream for poor sore Tony.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Who Needs Lighter Balls?

Back from my break, punctuated by the wife’s brother’s marriage to a fine filly of Home Counties stock. Dad thinks talking about his golf handicap is hilarious, Mum’s a teacher with a brooding smile. The bride looked glowing. Umbria raged and cracked with thunder then reserved a baking hot twenty-four hours for the day itself.

May their wedded bliss trot happily into the Umbrian sunshine in a halo of diamonds, designer labels and dodgy all-over spray tans.

It seems that the Italians compact all their cynicism into their national football team and leave the rest of ‘em to smile and get on with their lives. The only thing that narked me was their 660ml bottles of Peroni were decorated with scorelines from the Azzurri’s previous World Cup successes. Four of them. Count them.

They don’t even know the meaning of the phrase forty-four years of hurt, the cocky bleeders. (Apart perhaps from Marco Materazzi whose ribs might still jangle for all eternity after the last final.

So what have I missed? Well not as much as Rio Ferdinand is going to that’s for sure. And not pizza. Christ I’ve had so much mozzarella my craps are coming out all stringy. Too much info. Apologies.

I’ve missed the fact that Shaun Wright-Phillips has made the plane. Fabio’s a fool - he could’ve taken young Adam Johnson and put SWP in Becks’s Gucci hold-alls. No one would’ve known.

Warnock’s presence proves that sometimes you look best if you just sit tight and let the other bloke make play with all the direction of a cub scout on a luggage carousel.

And Carrick’s there somehow – but the lad’s as brittle as a Cadbury’s Flake if you ask me and if he gets a start against the US that’ll be the one and only I suspect.

Of course the big news is Rio’s World Cup is over following a challenge by Emile Heskey. Who said Heskey was a terrible finisher, eh? One of vem fings, according to the erstwhile skipper but fortunately we have a ready-made fit-as-flea-replacement on hand in Ledley K... oh booger.

I’m assuming Steven Gerrard is now our captain. Stevie G. Not exactly the first name on my teamsheet at the mo. But Fabio’s admitted the wearer of the armband is cursed so maybe he’s got his fingers crossed that the Liverpool skipper might tweak a hamstring (or a nipple in his case, such has been his physical frailty) and eventually they’ll forget about giving anyone the job in the hope that they all fulfil the cliché of being 11 captains.

In the meantime I am given to understand that Rooney’s launching four-letter invectives at officials. This Jeff Selogilwe bloke is building up his part, isn’t he? Just how rare does he think it is to get sworn at by Wazza. Hellfire it’s almost a compliment. I hear the sewer-tonsilled Scouser made it up to the ref by giving him a sweaty shirt as compensation.

Nice touch, Wayne. It’s not like them polyester mix cling-film tops don’t flaming reek after walking to the shops in the damn things let alone after ninety minutes run-around with a right hairy apoth within it.

'Hooray - now to grow a crap beard and run the cloob slowly downhill'

And today, oh joy of joys, Rafa Benitez is departing these shores to take over the hotseat from the special one, probably crossing into Italy as I left. He’ll be up at the manager’s office right soon, opening the windows to let out the stench of utter self-satisfaction, repairing the doorframe after that massive bonce crashed out of it for the last time.

I expect Inter fans to get a not dissimilar team off old Faffa, but without the irritating iron will that Mourinho instils into his teams. A kind of Inter lite, I suppose.

It’s come at a good time for Liverpool. They surely didn’t want the bloke hanging round and continuing to furnish the Anfield turf with more useless sods than Wembley’s terrible surface.

So the trawl begins for Liverpool with Hodgson up the top of the list, I guess. Mind, he’s just signed Senderos so maybe the old boy’s marbles are getting a little difficult to locate. Ian Wright says Hodgson getting the job would be a victory for all English managers.

Mind you he also says stuff like ‘They need to get at ‘em, get in their faces, I mean they’re not doin’ nothin’! I mean come on England, come on!’ That’s the sort of intellectual input any national broadcaster really craves. Come to think of it with young Shaun out there he’s going to be worse than ever.

Frankly it wouldn’t be a victory for English managers any more than Inter’s Champs League triuph was a victory for Italy. It would be a great achievement for a fine old fella if Woy was to get the post, but then again they better hire him soon cos there’s a frigging shedload of dossiers blocking the door to the manager’s office.

The other thing of note is these new bloody footballs they’re playing with. Every major tournament some new ball gets invented that’s supposedly superior to the last. I remember one being described as the roundest ever, as if footballers up and down the land were stopping mid-run-up and asking themselves if the object which they were about to clog upfield could possible be called a true sphere.

This new jobby – called a jambalaya or summat – has already drawn criticism from Buffon and Casillas. It’s very light apparently. Which is the way things are going isn’t it. Soon toddlers will be able to twat a Ronaldo special in from forty-five yards with enough dip and spin to boggle the minf of Stephen Hawking (not that the Prof will be between the sticks, naturally).

How long before Darren Bent nabs a fluky winner for Sunderland cops some errant away fan chucked a proper flaming football on to the pitch? Bring back caseys with laces that took out your eyeballs. They were balls with balls if you get my meaning.