Monday, 26 March 2007

The long Sabbath of English football

Crinkled at cricket

One is now sometimes at a loss at describing England as a sporting nation that excels at any team sport.

As we compete in the West Indies in the Cricket World Cup Kevin Petersen is now top of the world rankings of one-day batsmen, but how does that reflect on the performance of the team as a whole?

We started off with results of being beaten by New Zealand then got the better of Canada and then Kenya - hardly world class competition but we scraped through.

The first game became serious when the vice-Captain (the vice of drunkenness) was rescued off a pedallo at sea, having been out drinking like fish with other mates of disrepute, even some coaches were fined for indiscipline, this is no winning team, this is an apology to cricket.

Now, Duncan Fletcher, the England coach believes we can win the Cricket World Cup, well, that would mean that a few teams would have to rollover and play their legs in the air like happily tickled dogs. Sometimes aspiration over reality makes certain commentary just too laughable to hear a second time.

Uninspired to perform

Then football where the last time we won something big, I was just a few months old, that was 1966, people born then would probably have kids just finishing secondary school.

We were away in Israel to redeem the flagging England performance that has left us with no wins for at least 4 matches and third in a table that would only let the first two into the next round.

One could just say that every footballing prowess England had evident in the individuals when they play for their clubs went on Sabbath that we had a goalless draw with Israel.

A boy in a man's job

Steve McLaren who for years was assistant to Sven Goran Erikson before he got promoted to head coach after the German World Cup of 2006 has been unable to fox me with his ever-present smile either with his enthusiasm before matches or his excuses after failure to perform.

The Telegraph has probably been too kind in suggesting that a natural No. 2 has be assigned a No. 1 position or a complimentary drill sergeant now has a general's duties.

The clamour that he should now go is not loud enough in my view, despite the fact that he negotiated a fine deal that would cost the Football Association (FA) GBP 2.5million if the contract is severed before it reaches full term.

This would mean that Steve McLaren would also be leaving with the scalp of the chief executive of the FA - Brian Barwick, both of whom would have done our great footballing country a great service in being voluntarily pensioned off, the money is not too high to pay for our football integrity.

Managing to fail as expected

The rumours that the team manager has fallen out with the star striker Wayne Rooney does not bode well just as despite the jealousy the team had for the currently locked-out David Beckham, he was still able to inspire them to great things - though not great enough to satisfy the dearth of silverware.

To end it all, after the poor showing in Israel, McLaren says of our qualification - "At the end of the day, however you get there, you get there." Methinks Fletcher and McLaren have been drinking from the trough of stupid optimism, if he expects Croatia and Russia to rollover and be walked over, he is in for a rude shock.

England has to go out there to win those games by playing inspired football that yields results and brings back worthy praise, if not, we might as well be supporting another country - guess what - Scotland is top of Group B and Northern Ireland is second in Group F, we could not suffer a fate worse than football death if we end up cheering other good and performing UK teams.

I am beginning to look forward to the European Championships of 2012, and that should not be hard, I had enough practice with the Netherlands out of World Cup 2002 and then Nigeria out of World Cup 2006, England out of Euro 2008 should not hurt too much - get me a pain pill.

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