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

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.

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 02 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, After God Again

Photo: Getty Images
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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.