Entourage too small? Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney at a World Cup press conference, 21 June. Photo: Getty
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Next time, let’s give our lads their own hair stylists and some major surgery

And of course give up all training or playing for five weeks before their first game, perhaps even have some major surgery, spend some time in a wheelchair, like Luis Suárez.

When I wake up in the night, for about five minutes I just lie there, trying to work out where I am, which house I am in, where is the lavatory, who am I, what am I. Leaving chalk marks on the floor, that often helps to locate the lavvie; but for some time I am still dozy and dopey.

For two nights after England’s exit, I woke up dead wide awake, all senses alert – and with one thought in my tiny mind: ENGLAND IS OUT. I suppose it must have been lurking there, in my semi-conscious sleeping mind, and crashed right to the fore once I opened my eyes. I then groaned loudly, and tried but failed to turn over and go back to sleep. Pathetic, or what.

Yet I always tell myself it is football that I follow, which matters most, rather than individual teams such as Spurs, Carlisle United or England, so in theory I can just relax, lie back and enjoy. But it is hard, so dreadfully hard. I feel let down, furious, when England do so badly.

There’s pleasure in seeing Uruguay do well, a country with a population of only three million, or in cheering on the likes of Chile and Costa Rica, most of whose players I’d never heard of before this World Cup, who tried so hard, were so brave and committed, who have played above themselves.

England played below themselves. Where they should be is of course not very high, and not one of their players would get picked for any of the Top Ten teams – but they failed even to be mediocre. Much smaller, so-called less favoured nations are doing better, exceeding themselves, and are exciting to watch. Unlike England.

Why was that? Not good enough, is the obvious answer, but many believe it is because Our Lads are spoiled. Lauded and lavishly rewarded in the Premiership, egos flattered, lives pampered, they feel entitled – as many do in this modern age.

Inside their heads, they gave us their best, are furious at the suggestion they did not try – but, watching them, it was clear they could not raise their game. And they got found out for the lumps they are. So sad.

Look, will you just get over it, said my wife. I expect a small boy to react like you, taking it so personally, but not someone of your age, especially not one who has just got this OBE thing, so grow up.

Gazza’s spell-check

Yes, that was a surprise, but it didn’t make up for England’s defeat. You aren’t going to accept it? she said. I said: certainly, I should get at least 1,000 words out of it. “Services to Literature”, so it said, which made them all laugh in our house. Wasn’t ghosting Rooney’s autobiography a work of high art? And Gazza’s book was highly literate, if not literary, thanks to Gazza personally correcting my spelling and punctuation. Next stop, Nobel Prize, oh yes.

Jimmy in the tartan tammy

Back to Ingerland. Obviously next time they should not have to scrape along with only 72 back-up staff in the FA’s entourage. This time they included a turf specialist, cook, psychiatrist, nutritionist, dieticians and video geeks, plus coaches, physios and blazers. I hope next time they won’t penny-pinch and will let each of the 23 players have his own hair stylist, financial adviser and brand manager. It’s only fair.

And of course give up all training or playing for five weeks before their first game, perhaps even have some major surgery, spend some time in a wheelchair, as did Luis Suárez.

And ignore all hot weather acclimatisation. In their second game, where they played even worse than in their first, they were in São Paulo, where it’s temperate, and still they could hardly work up a sweat or knock themselves out, like Algeria or Korea.

Ah well, it’s given a lot of fun to a lot of fans around the world, seeing England fall flat on its smug face. No wonder that lone Scottish fan, in his tartan tammy and waving a saltire as England went down, was such a global hit on the internet. The whole world got the joke.

It also means that when Costa Rica play England in their final, pointless group game on Tuesday – the result of which yous will all know by now – they will be able to field their B team, amateur players from their Conference League, perhaps even their girlfriends and grannies. And probably still stuff us. If, of course, Our Lads manage a scoreless draw, I’ll be dancing in the fields.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Who was Franz Ferdinand?

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The struggles of Huma Abedin

On the behind-the-scenes story of Hillary Clinton’s closest aide.

In a dreary campaign, it was a moment that shone: Hillary Clinton, on the road to the caucus in Iowa, stopping at a Mexican fast-food restaurant to eat and somehow passing unrecognised. Americans of all political persuasions gleefully speculated over what her order – a chicken burrito bowl with guacamole – revealed about her frame of mind, while supporters gloated that the grainy security-camera footage seemed to show Clinton with her wallet out, paying for her own lunch. Here was not the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, known to people all over the world. This was someone’s unassuming grandmother, getting some food with her colleagues.

It might be unheard of for Clinton to go unrecognised but, for the woman next to her at the till, blending into the background is part of the job. Huma Abedin, often referred to as Clinton’s “shadow” by the US media, is now the vice-chair of her presidential campaign. She was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the state department and has been a personal aide since the late 1990s.

Abedin first met Clinton in 1996 when she was 19 and an intern at the White House, assigned to the first lady’s office. She was born in Michigan in 1976 to an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. When Abedin was two, they moved from the US to Saudi Arabia. She returned when she was 18 to study at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her father was an Islamic scholar who specialised in interfaith reconciliation – he died when she was 17 – and her mother is a professor of sociology.

While the role of “political body woman” may once have been a kind of modern maid, there to provide a close physical presence and to juggle the luggage and logistics, this is no longer the case. During almost 20 years at Clinton’s side, Abedin has advised her boss on everything from how to set up a fax machine – “Just pick up the phone and hang it up. And leave it hung up” – to policy on the Middle East. When thousands of Clinton’s emails were made public (because she had used a private, rather than a government, server for official communication), we glimpsed just how close they are. In an email from 2009, Clinton tells her aide: “Just knock on the door to the bedroom if it’s closed.”

Abedin shares something else with Clinton, outside of their professional ties. They are both political wives who have weathered their husbands’ scandals. In what felt like a Lewinsky affair for the digital age, in 2011, Abedin’s congressman husband, Anthony Weiner, resigned from office after it emerged that he had shared pictures of his genitals with strangers on social media. A second similar scandal then destroyed his attempt to be elected mayor of New York in 2013. In an ironic twist, it was Bill Clinton who officiated at Abedin’s and Weiner’s wedding in 2010. At the time, Hillary is reported to have said: “I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would [be] Huma.” Like her boss, Abedin stood by her husband and now Weiner is a house husband, caring for their four-year-old son, Jordan, while his wife is on the road.

Ellie Foreman-Peck

A documentary filmed during Weiner’s abortive mayoral campaign has just been released in the US. Weiner shows Abedin at her husband’s side, curtailing his more chaotic tendencies, always flawless with her red lipstick in place. Speaking to the New York Observer in 2007, three years before their marriage, Weiner said of his future wife: “This notion that Senator Clinton is a cool customer – I mean, I don’t dispute it, but the coolest customer in that whole operation is Huma . . . In fact, I think there’s some dispute as to whether Huma’s actually human.” In the film, watching her preternatural calm under extraordinary pressure, you can see what he means.

In recent months, Abedin’s role has changed. She is still to be found at Clinton’s side – as the burrito photo showed – but she is gradually taking a more visible role in the organisation overall, as they pivot away from the primaries to focus on the national race. She meets with potential donors and endorsers on Clinton’s behalf and sets strategy. When a running mate is chosen, you can be sure that Abedin will have had her say on who it is. There’s a grim symmetry to the way politics looks in the US now: on one side, the Republican candidate Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country; on the other, the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton relies ever more on her long-time Muslim-American staffer.

Years before Trump, notable Republicans were trying to make unpleasant capital out of Abedin’s background. In 2012, Tea Party supporters alleged that she was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and its attempt to gain access “to top Obama officials”. In her rare interviews, Abedin has spoken of how hurtful these baseless statements were to her family – her mother still lives in Saudi Arabia. Later, the senator and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain spoke up for her, saying that Abedin represented “what is best about America”.

Whether senior figures in his party would do the same now remains to be seen.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad