The latest on books and the arts

RSS

Why we should actually be proud of England’s World Cup performance

I am honestly and truly now coming to the conclusion that England did astonishingly well. In fact, they overachieved. 

Boys' done good: Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard of the England team after the Costa Rica game, 24 June. Photo: Getty
Boys' done good: Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard of the England team after the Costa Rica game, 24 June. Photo: Getty

Forgotten they were there? If you popped out to put the kettle on, or went to the lavatory, or just blinked, you probably missed that England were at the World Cup. I am slowly getting over it, just as I have survived other tragedies in my life. You do. You have to. Life goes on.

The other trick is the Glad Game. Thank God our lads are back home early doors, they can have a nice quiet holiday, which they jolly well deserve, after all those exertions, and be fit and bursting to go when the Prem begins, ready to delight us once again.

There is also Defiance, that does help in trying times – maintaining it was someone else’s fault, or really it wasn’t a defeat after all, but a victory. I am honestly and truly now coming to the conclusion that England did astonishingly well. In fact, they overachieved, so we should be proud of them. This is how it works.

Last season, only 32.26 per cent of the players who turned out in the Prem were English, which everyone said was disgraceful, not fair to our lads, these foreigners, coming here, taking our Bentleys, driving our women.

One thing this World Cup has shown is just how many good players there are who have not been able to get into a top-half Premiership team, unlike our own brave lads who every week are stars of Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Southampton.

Yet at the World Cup we have the likes of Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica, who got chucked out of Fulham, Leroy Fer of Holland, who has hardly made it at Norwich, Gary Medel of Cardiff City and Joel Campbell of Costa Rica, who turns out to be an Arsenal player but has been loaned out most of his young life to, oh I dunno, somewhere in Europe.

All these players have had a great World Cup, their teams so much more successful than England, yet back home, playing in our leagues, Our Brave Lads have seen them all off, kept them out of the top teams. Which proves, you must agree, that English players must be really, really good.

There are 32 top teams in the world – based on the number of countries that got to the World Cup – and England are about the 30th best, as they did get a point. Do not forget that.

The Premiership, so we are told, is the world’s best and richest league, has the pick of the top players from all over the world. You would therefore expect English players to make up only 5 per cent of the league. This will eventually happen. Perhaps if the Prem continues to get even richer, there will be no English players at all. So, having 32 per cent English in the current Prem, when there are so many better players out there, some of them languishing in our lower leagues, is a terrific achievement. So well done, England. I feel better already.

More boring footie voices

I don’t know why everyone has been rubbishing Phil Neville for his banal comments and horrible voice. When Gary Lineker started, his Leicester accent was mocked, as was Adrian Chiles’s Brummie brogue. Now that we have grown to love them both dearly, we’ve forgotten their accents. Jonathan Pearce is still my pet hate, because he’s convinced he is the cleverest, most knowledgeable, most imperious football commentator ever. Robbie Savage makes me smile, not just his hair, clothes and grammar but his determination not to be clever or astute, but to rant on like a pub bore, repeating everything: “That was a pen, definite pen. Ref, that was a pen, it was a pen . . .”

Andy Townsend has his critics but I did like him telling us that the Belgium manager is “looking at his wrist on his watch”. He clearly believes he’s incisive and analytical, that we’re all hanging on his every word, as if we can’t see the game, or the telly, and it’s his duty to tell us what is happening and to comment on it, usually by saying: “That’s betta, that is betta.”

At the start of the Costa Rica-Greece game, the ITV commentator told us that “our referee is Australian tonight”, which made me wonder what he was on other nights. Does he make out to be Scottish or Russian, depending on whether free Scotch or vodka is being served? Or dress up as Portuguese when they’re playing fado?

What he should have said was, hmm, it did take me some time to work out, “Tonight our referee is Australian.” No, that would still have had pedants picking holes. “Tonight’s referee is Australian.” That would have sorted it.

Oh, there’s lots of good fun still to be had in the World Cup, even without super, fab Ingerland.