Every Friday the Cutter invites a guest columnist to look back over the past seven days in football. This week Kevin Henning laments England’s bulldog-in-a-parked-bus spirit. If you would like to be our fifth columnist contact the Cutter at firstname.lastname@example.org
England have silenced the doubters over the past week with an historic pair of wins. On Saturday, they put World Champions Spain to the sword in a show of pure British Bulldog spirit that sent shockwaves around the Continent ahead of next summer’s festival of Football.
The Three Lions followed it up by banishing bogey-team Sweden to the memory with a youthful team that showed the future of English Football is bright and promises a brave new age.
I’d love to believe what I’ve written above but sadly, I am all too aware that it simply isn’t true. If the week of International Football has shown us anything, it is that England have finally accepted our demotion to the also-rans of the International game. The draw for the European Championships take s place on December 2nd and England have been placed in Pot 2 alongside Russia, Italy and Germany. Could any of us have justifiably complained had UEFA lobbed us in Pot 4 with Denmark, the Czechs and Ireland? We have been reduced to the role of dark horses at best.
At the weekend, I saw the match I never imagined I’d witness. England parking the luxury bus in front of their own goal in a friendly match at Wembley. It was a sad admission that had we tried to play the Spaniards at their own probing, possession based game, we’d have been mullered in front of the World’s eyes. It was a pitiful display not dissimilar to a non-league outfit trying to force a money spinning replay against one of the Premier League’s big boys only for a young plumber turned semi-pro striker to upset his chairman by grabbing a giant-killing winner. The final quarter of the match was like watching a boxer hang on to the ropes in a brave and heroic attempt to avoid the inevitable knockout blow. I watched the match at home with my Dad who always seems to find the words to sum up what you are thinking. In response to Clive Tyldesley’s announcement that “England are beginning to run out of ideas”, my old man, with a puzzled look slapped across his fizzog, replied “What do you mean ‘beginning’? We had no ideas to begin with!” He went on to claim “As soon as UEFA told us we were not allowed to field eleven goalkeepers, we were screwed.” was silly, but somehow seemed bang on the money.
I never thought I’d write the following sentence but I honestly believe that Stewart Downing was Man of the Match.
On Tuesday, an England senior team beat Sweden for the first time since a young Colin Bell made his first appearance in the white shirt. We were told it was a young, experimental side. Again, ITV’s commentary team and strange selection of pundits (ex United, Irishman Roy Keane has now been a studio guest for both Manchester City and England matches) would have us believe that there is a bright future and a golden generation just around the corner. To me though, England were more functional than full of flair. Not so much sublime as sub-standard. We huffed and puffed against the worst Swedish team I have ever laid eyes on. I never thought I’d write the following sentence but I honestly believe that Stewart Downing was Man of the Match.
A midfield packed with steady midfielders may work against the likes of these Scandinavians but can you imagine the damage Germany would have inflicted had Tuesday night’s line up faced them in Bloemfontein? Up front, a 30 year old Bobby Zamora was handed his first full cap. Again England fell into the trap of playing a forward who could “Do A Job”. When will we realise that the long list of lummoxes we have thrown too many caps at would never get a moment’s consideration in teams such as Germany, Spain, Holland, Brazil, Argentina or Italy. Can you imagine any of those nations listed picking the equivalent of Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Kevin Davies, Bobby Zamora or Carlton Cole simply because they are “a handful”?
I will look forward to next summer’s tournament because as a football fan, an International Championship during the summer is one of life’s great pleasures. I will not however, be pinning my hopes on my national team turning it into a summer of love, resulting in a shiny piece of silverware at the climax. The best I can hope for at the minute is that we bloody the nose of one of our historic enemies on the way to a glorious failure at the semi-final stage. I’ve lost all hope in the England team but to finish on a positive, it’s often claimed that it’s the hope that kills you. At this rate, I’ll be around for many more International tournaments.