No Svengali

England's manager isn't working any magic on the team

I was so depressed after England's first game against Paraguay, I went into the fields and started lashing out, kicking the sheep, slamming gates, shouting at the thistles, looking for someone or something to blame. That stupid BBC studio panel, what idiots, telling us at half-time that England were doing great when they clearly were not. I screamed at them, but still they chuntered on, praising our lads.

Then I blamed German TV. What rubbish camera-work, shit reception. Imagine having that overhead screen, or whatever it was, casting giant shadows all over the Frankfurt pitch so you could hardly see what was going on. Didn't they know that would happen? It took me back to college hops in the Fifties, when they shone a light on a revolving glass ball during the last dance to make even the ugliest girls look moody and mysterious. At least when England gave the ball away, it made it harder to identify the culprit.

And I'm sure there was a hair in the gate. That's a technical term, used in TV, when something gets on to the camera lens. In this case it looked like fireflies, which were enlarged so much that it often seemed as if there was an extra ball whizzing about on the pitch. No wonder our poor petals were confused. Or it could have been my eyes. Or the Beaujolais.

Next day, I learned what the real problem was - the heat. I should have realised. Trust old Sven to point it out. He didn't know that at two o'clock on a June afternoon it might be hot. Not his fault.

So I felt a bit more cheerful and able to appreciate some of the good things about the World Cup so far. The English language, that's a clear winner. The German announcers seem to use it first, before their own language. And during the opening ceremony, the first banner that got unfurled read "My Game is Fair Play". And there has been a lot of it, players helping up opponents they have just felled, giving smiles and handshakes.

The crowds have not been as colourful as in Japan and South Korea but the singing has been excellent: the German, Polish and Dutch fans chant away to exactly the same tunes we chant to, such as the ones which begin, "There's only one . . ." and "Stand up if you hate . . ." It would be helpful if one of the more educated commentators, for example Peter Drury, could tell us the words.

I take that back. He's so smug, self-satisfied, portentous, though not quite as annoying as Jonathan Pearce. "I seem to remember when, aged nine, the Mexican goalie opened a fridge and electrocuted himself . . . I seem to remember that the Iran winger once had a trial for Wolves . . ." Jonathan, we all know you've got it written down in front of you.

For this World Cup, Drury appears to be in tandem with David Pleat, who is boring rather than annoying. Pleat has got it into his head that the first words of his commentary must always be a greeting to us, the grateful viewers, who, of course, have been sitting panting for him to appear. "Evening all," he says, as if he's auditioning for Dixon of Dock Green.

I do know the real reason why I'm depressed and who is to blame - myself. Once I saw Argentina play, I came to my senses. How could I have got carried away? All the England flags, all the excitement, all the coverage, the luck of being in such an easy group, the number of highly talented individuals we happen to have, had led me, for a moment, to forget that Sven is a lousy manager. All this time, all this talent, and he still hasn't formed a team or a pattern.

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