Tag: England

A Healthy Sense Of Perspective For England

Forty years ago this week, at the same stadium and against the same opposition, English football suffered one of its least dignified nights yet, to that point. Laying siege to the Polish goal in the manner of [insert clumsy and highly insensitive war analogy here], they could only force the ball over the visiting goal line once, and that, it turned out, was not enough to edge through to the finals in West Germant. In truth, though,it wasn’t the result at Wembley that night that eliminated the team from the 1974 World Cup. An anaemic two-nil defeat in Chorzow some months earlier had been plenty enough to make qualification at a time during which only group winners survived the cut, but the psychological damage was done as the players trudged from the sodden Wembley turf that night. Less than eight years earlier, Alf Ramsey’s team had been the champions of the world. In West Germany in 1974 they would have their faces pressed against the window of the party, looking in. A lot was written about that night in the build up to last night’s match between England and Poland. Something, opined a lot of very clever people with very clever things to say, was in the air. The decks had been cleared and the fall guys had been set up, Roy Hodgson for being Roy Hodgson and not...

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An Impossible Job: Twenty Years On

Incredibly (face it, they’re a dreadful shower) it’s 20 years this week since England last failed to qualify for a World Cup Finals. Consequently there will be quite a number of you reading this who don’t remember, or perhaps weren’t even born to witness, the terrible scenes that ensued. Five days national mourning. Stock markets in Tokyo teetered on the brink. Traditionally, one might write “people who were born on that day would be shaving now”, but I feel that it is both reductive and sexist. As well as being fundamentally inaccurate – all 20 year old boys these...

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Jack Wilshere In ‘Is Twenty-One Years Old’ Shock

It often seems as if, whenever a professional footballer opens his mouth in public, there is one phrase, varyingly attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and others, that springs immediately to mind: it is better to remain silent and be considered a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove any doubt. This week’s outrage du jour concerns the Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has had a busy few days, first being caught smoking a cigarette outside a nightclub in London and then offering his opinions on who should and who shouldn’t be allowed to play for the England national team. Since there’s an England match at the end of this week, a predictable mass hysteria has descended upon a player who has previously been reasonably well protected from the worst excesses of the media, but this week Wilshere has likely learnt a couple of harsh lessons about the nature of the glare of the media spotlight. Getting caught en fumant might be looked upon as a youthful mistake, as might the compoundment of this mortal sin by apparently fibbing about what was going on at the time. In our current climate with regard to smoking, Wilshere might scarcely have been more greatly castigated had he been photographed with underage prostitute sitting on his knee whilst holding a crack pipe in his hand, but this is neither here nor...

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England Shoot Blanks In Kiev

Repeat the mantra after me. It’s a results-based business. It’s a results-based business. Roy Hodgson must be thanking his lucky stars that this is the case this evening after England misplaced, mistimed and misadventured their way to a goalless draw in Kiev this evening, a result that does leave their qualification for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil – although how much reassurance this may offer England supporters who watch this match through the gaps between their fingers may come to depend upon whether a factory reset can be applied to this rag tag assortment of journeymen and ne’er-do-wells in order to get them to learn the basics of the game all over again within the next couple of months. It’s not about a sense of inflated expectation, this, by the way. You have to be pushing fifty years old in order to remember an England team that came some way towards being world class – and, before any angries of Tunbridge Wells start licking ther lips and sharpening their pencils, England were the fourth best team at the worst World Cup finals of all in 1990 and went through distinct phases of riding their luck on home ground in the European Championships six years later – so there aren’t many of us under a certain age who have had any just cause to get ideas above our...

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