Monday, 28 June 2010

Rant Time

Having acknowledged that it's not the critic who counts may I nonetheless put the boot in?
I have been appalled at how England played at this World Cup. While the charming Robert Green did not deserve to be pillioried for one mistake his colleagues do deserve approbrium. This was their chance to shine - no-one is guaranteed two chances to play in a World Cup Finals - and they failed. Many of them should not get another shot.
Two things stand out.
Firstly, the players have shown that they were simply overrated, and by quite a distance. Playing out of position is difficult but the very best manage it, just as they cope with being marked by two opponents. Maradona used to dance through whole teams.
We would have been cut to shreds by Argentina. Our boys aren't all that talented - no-one other than Wayne Rooney is on the same plane as the greatest in terms of sheer ability. Rooney alas has been exposed beyond doubt as the possessor of a seriously flawed temperament. Other stars raise the standards of lesser players. He sulks and gets angry. No leader of men is he.
David James gets credit for handling well and staying focussed. But a truly expert assessment, such as that provided by Peter Shilton in the Sun today, would find that he could have done better with some of Germany's goals. He didn't position himself properly and was too quick to go to ground. Who's to say that Robert Green or Joe Hart wouldn't have done better?
The back four were almost comically inept. It isn't just about pace. Bobby Moore had none and he was rarely caught out; they say the same of Sami Hyypia. That said, being hopelessly slow is not an asset. Nor is being fundamentally inadequate.
I haven't believed in one of our centre halves since Tony Adams retired, but at least Rio Ferdinand is quick and athletic. John Terry deserves precisely no credit for being physicaly brave. I used to dive at players' feet all the time. Which of us would not be prepared to do that if given the privilege of wearing the shirt?
What can Steve Bruce - who was never capped by England - be thinking today?
Only Ashley Cole delivered. That's hard to bear a) because we needed everyone to do so and b) because he is a loathsome individual who readily confesses that he doesn't see why he should adjust his behaviour in order to set an example. Ashley, you are a hero to huge numbers of young boys whether you like it or not. It is not very onerous to be civilised.
A final thought on the subject of technique is that Messi and Ronaldo seem to have no trouble at all with the controversial ball.
Second of all, the strategy was maddeningly wrong, and all the more maddening for being so obviously wrong. Gerrard clearly dislikes playing on the left and isn't very good at it. Contrastingly, he is superb down the middle - scoring goals and spraying gorgeous passes with abandon. Shouldn't the shape of a team be built around the best players and take into account what is available to us? Since Beckham retired we have never got much from the wings, so we should have gone down the middle. We could have had a strong spine. Instead we were mercilessly exposed.
Could I have done better? Of course not. And my opinion counts for nothing. But I am owed something as a fan and paymaster: total commitment from the players and tactical nous from a manager who is paid a fortune. Normally I sneer at fans who think they know best. Not this time.
Is there any comfort to be had? Yes. This is still going to be a glorious World Cup. Our fans seems to have conducted themselves well.
And I hate almost all of our players, so I can't weep for them. I've always hated ignorant buffoons who lack class. Why would I make an exception for this team, which offered nothing in return?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Head Up, Greeno

Should England have a successful World Cup, do please remember how ready some of the tabloids were to put the boot in at the first sign of trouble and judge their protestations of patriotic delight in that context.

Another thought: no-one understands goalkeepers. The pundits are breathtakingly bad, describing bread and butter saves (such as Green's last night) as brilliant and suggesting that one error (such as Green's last night) reveal a more fundamental flaw.

Robert Green is an excellent goalkeeper. There is no reason to suppose that his mistake last night was down to temperament or nerves. EVERY goalkeeper makes several howlers during their career. Ray Clemence - one of the best ever - once let a shot slip through his hands, down his chest, through his legs and into the goal against a grateful Scotland. It was a shame for us that one of Greeno's had to happen in a World Cup game, but there we have it.

Green's response showed the measure of the man. Contrite but determined, he will take this on the chin. And as Steven Gerrard had the wit to say, Greeno may well end up making a game-winning save in a future match.

As for the tabloids, I'd advise giving them a wide berth. The sadness is that so many of the so called "quality papers" feel the need to embrace populism and pap these days too.

When Scott Carson made his mistake against Croatia, I offered these words of wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Greeno to save two penalties in a shoot-out that England win.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Paul Maynard Makes His Maiden Speech

When I read my good friend Paul Maynard's maiden speech in the House of Commons I was moved and impressed. When I watched it I actually found it quite funny in its precocious brilliance.

Do watch it yourself.
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