England beat Spain and all I can think is that Creaseless Cameron will have been nodding his head gravely and calling it ‘a victory for common sense’. It was a win cast in the Age of Austerity: no risks, bank what you’ve got, sit tight and pray to God that no one breaks your door down and makes off with the flatscreen.
Not that your Spaniards are the most belligerent of bailiffs. Fact is they’re more likely to ease open a tiny gap in the front window frame and slip one of their tiny magicians in while you’re minding the back door.
It was a weird one. Spain seem to be treating the word ‘friendly’ all too literally recently, what with getting thumped by Argentina and Portugal. (Apart from Sergio Ramos of course – a Red Hot Chilli Pepper looky-likey who plays footy with the same clunky swagger. They haven’t forgotten how to be dirty, have they?)
Just in case you don't hate Ramos as much as me, here's a picture of his girlfriend
Even at half-cock they mustered 21 chances versus England’s 3. There was nowt wrong with how Capello set up his team. Despite the fact that our plucky boys couldn’t keep the ball - I’ve not seen so many misplaced passes since our third-year lads tried to chat up some sixth-form lasses – defensively they were rock-solid.
Jagielka underlined the fact that John Terry’s tediously troubled times are coming to a close. Lescott was a bit of a revelation even if every time he cleared the ball it went unerringly to a Spanish foot, as if Joleon was saying ‘Again! Is that all you’ve got, you pussies!? Again!!!’
Of course the star of such a dogged show is always going to be your tireless holding midfielder and I think we can say the Owen Hargreaves Award for Relentless Effort goes to Scott Parker. There’s summat very reassuring about Parker. He’s old-fashioned somehow: the work-rate, the upright gait, the 1950’s Brylcreemed side-parting... it’s like he’s been drafted in from a simpler time when a rattle, a cup of Bovril and a stripy scarf was all a man needed to take to a football ground.
Parker would have been the footballer of choice for every character in an Ealing Comedy. Even the affectionate moniker ‘Scotty’ suggests a big man-sized tissue mopping up the messy dribbles and cruddy scuffs left by his less capable comrades.
Wind him up and watch him go!
It’s impossible to imagine a return to Gareth Two-Paced Barry (slow and stationary). Or Michael Carrick, a man who makes neatness a crime.
Capello was eager to praise the new boys who have stepped up, not least Jack Rodwell. Fabio claimed he ‘never thought a player so young could be so ready on his first exhibition’ thereby making the lad sound less like an attacking midfielder and more like an aspiring water-colourist. Ah, the English language, eh?
Rodwell does look the business, mind. Phil Jones did a decent job, too, though you can already see his playing career being dogged by his versatility. You just wait til the poor sod gets slotted in at left-book for a crocked Cashley and wait for the doom-mongers to rain down on him. The lad’s a centre-back. Let him play there.
As for Welbeck, well he was a direct substitution for Darren Bent, who played as the football equivalent of a look-out. Capello must’ve said ‘Darren, sneak up near the front and tell us if you can see any trouble coming.’ To Bent’s credit it was his header that led to the goal. At the moment the alternatives to Rooney up top are pretty interchangeable. But I’d rather have a lad with a decent touch up there, like Sturridge or Zamora, rather than the earnest galloper that Capello favours.
As for Spain, well they’re kilometres better than us. Or indeed anyone else. Fabregas’s post-match bleat stank of a Wengered past. What team, in their right mind, is going to keep it nice and open against the best passers the game has seen? It’d be like saying to Usain Bolt ‘race you to the next lamp-post’ without having made sure your mates had lined the pavement with boxes of distracting KFC. Madness.
And sometimes Spain have only themselves to blame. Fabregas will know that there’s a new tavern opened up by the Emirates stadium called The Extra Pass (there isn’t really, but there should be), and aside from the lady-pleasered chin of David Villa, the team lack a bit of ruthlessness at times. Even if you have 70% of possession, you’ve still got to do summat with it.
Even so, anyone thinking that this was anything more than a freakish one-off is living in the land where Audley Harrison can dance, there is a point to Michele Bachmann, and Louis Walsh has penetrating insight.
What it proved, new boys or not, is that English footballers can still be worthy and diligent if given a limited gameplan to follow but when it comes to what your Alan Hansens would call ‘touch and technique’ – well they’re the footballing equivalent of the artwork them painting elephants come up with, and they are similarly overpriced.
Of course the strange thing is that an England victory always makes you a tad perkier than you should be, and I find meself looking forward to the next Euros in a spirit of having zero expectation. There’ll be no Rooney to worry about losing in a fit of twatty temper. Chances are the creaking partnership of Terry and Ferdinand (Rio, not Anton) will be unavailable.
As long as we long-sufferers aren’t reintroduced to the Gerpard Conundrum where Fat Frank and Sulkin’ Stevie fight over the same square of turf, there might be a little bit of light, unpressured enjoyment for the even the most steadfast pessimist. Which is, paradoxically, optimistic.
Fear not, fellow miseries, there’s another friendly tomorrow night. The victory has given the lads ‘something to build on’ so we look forward to the Swedes digging up the foundations like a bunch of Scotsmen with armfuls of turf-cutting equipment.
"'As 'e finished his bleedin' blog yet?"
In the meantime we've got 'Arry's trial to look forward to in January. I think all this talk of secret Bung Bung parties in Portsmouth is just newspaper waffle. Don't you?