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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Former Irish premier John Bruton on Brexit: "Britain should pay for our border checks"

The former Taoiseach says Brexit has been interpreted as "a profoundly unfriendly act"

At Kapıkule, on the Turkish border with Bulgaria, the queue of lorries awaiting clearance to enter European Union territory can extend as long as 17km. Despite Turkey’s customs union for goods with the bloc, hauliers can spend up to 30 hours clearing a series of demanding administrative hoops. This is the nightmare keeping former Irish premier John Bruton up at night. Only this time, it's the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and it's much, much worse.   

Bruton (pictured below), Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997, is an ardent pro-European and was historically so sympathetic to Britain that, while in office, he was pilloried as "John Unionist" by his rivals. But he believes, should she continue her push for a hard Brexit, that Theresa May's promise for a “seamless, frictionless border” is unattainable. 

"A good example of the sort of thing that might arise is what’s happening on the Turkish-Bulgarian border," the former leader of Ireland's centre-right Fine Gael party told me. “The situation would be more severe in Ireland, because the UK proposes to leave the customs union as well."

The outlook for Ireland looks grim – and a world away from the dynamism of the Celtic Tiger days Bruton’s coalition government helped usher in. “There will be all sorts of problems," he said. "Separate permits for truck drivers operating across two jurisdictions, people having to pay for the right to use foreign roads, and a whole range of other issues.” 

Last week, an anti-Brexit protest on the border in Killeen, County Louth, saw mock customs checks bring traffic to a near standstill. But, so far, the discussion around what the future looks like for the 260 border crossings has focused predominantly on its potential effects on Ulster’s fragile peace. Last week Bruton’s successor as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned “any sort of physical border” would be “bad for the peace process”. 

Bruton does not disagree, and is concerned by what the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights might mean for the Good Friday Agreement. But he believes the preoccupation with the legacy of violence has distracted British policymakers from the potentially devastating economic impact of Brexit. “I don’t believe that any serious thought was given to the wider impact on the economy of the two islands as a whole," he said. 

The collapse in the pound has already hit Irish exporters, for whom British sales are worth £15bn. Businesses that work across the border could yet face the crippling expense of duplicating their operations after the UK leaves the customs union and single market. This, he says, will “radically disturb” Ireland’s agriculture and food-processing industries – 55 per cent of whose products are sold to the UK. A transitional deal will "anaesthetise" people to the real impact, he says, but when it comes, it will be a more seismic change than many in London are expecting. He even believes it would be “logical” for the UK to cover the Irish government’s costs as it builds new infrastructure and employs new customs officials to deal with the new reality.

Despite his past support for Britain, the government's push for a hard Brexit has clearly tested Bruton's patience. “We’re attempting to unravel more than 40 years of joint work, joint rule-making, to create the largest multinational market in the world," he said. It is not just Bruton who is frustrated. The British decision to "tear that up", he said, "is regarded, particularly by people in Ireland, as a profoundly unfriendly act towards neighbours".

Nor does he think Leave campaigners, among them the former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, gave due attention to the issue during the campaign. “The assurances that were given were of the nature of: ‘Well, it’ll be alright on the night!’," he said. "As if the Brexit advocates were in a position to give any assurances on that point.” 

Indeed, some of the more blimpish elements of the British right believe Ireland, wedded to its low corporate tax rates and east-west trade, would sooner follow its neighbour out of the EU than endure the disruption. Recent polling shows they are likely mistaken: some 80 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote to remain in an EU referendum.

Irexit remains a fringe cause and Bruton believes, post-Brexit, Dublin will have no choice but to align itself more closely with the EU27. “The UK is walking away,” he said. “This shift has been imposed upon us by our neighbour. Ireland will have to do the best it can: any EU without Britain is a more difficult EU for Ireland.” 

May, he says, has exacerbated those difficulties. Her appointment of her ally James Brokenshire as secretary of state for Northern Ireland was interpreted as a sign she understood the role’s strategic importance. But Bruton doubts Ireland has figured much in her biggest decisions on Brexit: “I don’t think serious thought was given to this before her conference speech, which insisted on immigration controls and on no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. Those two decisions essentially removed the possibility for Ireland and Britain to work together as part of the EEA or customs union – and were not even necessitated by the referendum decision.”

There are several avenues for Britain if it wants to avert the “voluntary injury” it looks set to inflict to Ireland’s economy and its own. One, which Bruton concedes is unlikely, is staying in the single market. He dismisses as “fanciful” the suggestions that Northern Ireland alone could negotiate European Economic Area membership, while a poll on Irish reunification is "only marginally" more likely. 

The other is a variation on the Remoaners’ favourite - a second referendum should Britain look set to crash out on World Trade Organisation terms without a satisfactory deal. “I don’t think a second referendum is going to be accepted by anybody at this stage. It is going to take a number of years,” he said. “I would like to see the negotiation proceed and for the European Union to keep the option of UK membership on 2015 terms on the table. It would be the best available alternative to an agreed outcome.” 

As things stand, however, Bruton is unambiguous. Brexit means the Northern Irish border will change for the worse. “That’s just inherent in the decision the UK electorate was invited to take, and took – or rather, the UK government took in interpreting the referendum.”