Saturday, 19 June 2010

Watching England

Well, it has never been exactly fun, but yesterday was the worst I can ever remember in that, in the past, even if England was being hopeless there was a kind of fury of action, however meaningless. This lacked not only fury but drive. It was a very flat battery indeed. The response of David James to a question afterward (- The manager seems to think you are still playing with too much pressure. - Does he? OK, heavy accent on does) was even more than flat. It was sullen and indifferent. That is rather extraordinary. I've never heard quite that tone before.

As to the rest, Rooney may be injured but he never looked as though he might, however impetuously, just go and challenge. Most fifty-fifty situations were lost. The passing was terrible. Gerrard really hasn't been the same since the nightclub incident, Terry since the Wayne Bridge affair. Glen Johnson was sluggish and lost. Ashley Cole hardly ever moved forward. Lampard mooched around in no-man's-land generally in a dead thirty yards of pitch between half-way line and half-way again to the penalty area. Rooney actually played behind and some way away from Heskey, who was decent in the way Heskey is but without any support. Barry was OK but clearly recovering from injury. Lennon kept cutting inside into trouble. Carragher was just about safe most of the time but is out of the next game. David James was good considering he had nothing to do.

I imagine something has happened between Capello and the team, something that hadn't happened before, that can't have happened while they were playing well. It might be that Capello has lost them. Once lost, a team can't easily be found again. The fans booed of course and Rooney was miserable about it on camera, but at least the fans were there. This little article puts it nicely - far more intelligently than any pundit has done. I don't usually link to football websites and I found it by accident. Here are three paragraphs from it. The whole is addressed to Wayne Rooney:

The fans spent a lot of money travelling to South Africa, making personal sacrifices. For many, that is their annual holiday entitlement gone. Some even gave up their jobs. Do you still understand this, Wayne? Do you understand the sacrifices made by supporters following you? Do you understand what it was like before you were paid more in a week than most of us earn in three years? Do you understand that booing you off after such a poor performance is the only way most of us - bar the guy who made it to the dressing room - get to voice our opinions?

But part of what we like about you, Wayne, is that you are still something of a rough diamond. While Gerrard and Defoe knew better than to have a go at supporters for voicing their opinion after a match, you did not. Your comments to the TV camera were really stupid, but that is what we love about you....

...Gary Neville, your Manchester United teammate, describes you as a fighter, says you are raw. That is fine with us; we will write this incident off if you prove you actually care. You and your England teammates say you do, when in front of a TV camera, but the performance against Algeria looked unmotivated. How had you become disenfranchised so quickly?

Disenfranchised is not quite the right word, but the piece puts its finger on something in a surprisingly wise and simple way. And Rooney wasn't fighting. He was standing, walking and missing tricks he'd normally find easy.

As to the team - they'll have to do it off their own backs now. It is rather horrible to watch a collapse like this, if collapse it is. But that's what it looks like.


Paul H said...

Actually I thought your comments, George, were pretty perceptive and a lot more insightful than most. I "watched" the game by following the Guardian's minute-by-minute blog, not having access to the TV and the game 'live'. So I can't say I 'saw' the match, but I read many match reports. Predictably, the media and fans have been shredding the English team since then, but, as I say, your comments seem a lot more apposite than many others.

Perhaps poets should report on football more often?

The Plump said...

Almost every other word from the Greek commentator was 'lathos' - wrong. It should have been 'tipota' - nothing, because nothing happened.

The Plump said...

Mind you, if we are true to form, we will scrape a lucky win against Slovenia and then, in one of the knock-out stages, play brilliantly, turning in the only decent performance of the tournament, one exceeding all expectations. We will take the lead and then concede a late goal to draw the match, finally losing on penalties. Worth visiting the betting shop for that one.

If that doesn't happen and we go out in the group stages then it really is a mess.

charles said...

Would pay cuts for losing have more effect on the way they play the game than bonuses for winning? Big ones. I do think the silly money has an influence: many of the more-than-well-paid players appear to believe they have a right to be there, while many of the players for poorer nations are clearly thrilled to be in a World Cup and play accordingly. Surely there's too much money in the English game for its own good (£800 million for the Wembley Stadium, and they can't even get the grass right). The analogy isn't perfect, but if the poetry editor at Faber was paid what Cappello gets (£6 million a year, as the press is today reminding us), and the poets got what Terry and Lampard et al get, would the poetry list be a better one? No. Almost certainly it would be worse. (And the argument that you have to pay what the market demands collapsed with the bankers.)

James said...

Less sympathy for the "fans" from here, George. Frankly, anyone who has made it through 2007-10 and ended up with enough money to travel out there or the ability to borrow it is doing far better than most, and to listen to some of them, you'd imagine they'd not noticed how the people around them in SA are living. I'm on Wayne's side (and on Anelka's).

George S said...

I don't think money comes into it as much as that, Charles, unless you're a player criticising the fans. Certainly the players are paid vast sums but unless you regulate the market that is going to happen, if not in England then in Spain or somewhere else. The market could be regulated. with I don't know what effect. As to fines if you play badly, the equivalent of the fine for a footballer is being dropped or sent home. I imagine that might have happened at Faber.

I shall have to ask Matthew Hollis how near he is to £6m next time I see him. I see Faber have gone into hardback recently - a real problem for the PBS.


I wish you were right, Plump, but it may not get as good as that. An off-form team is one thing, but what we saw yesterday was something else - an entirely rudderless team. Bring in Joe Cole for either Wright-Phillips or Lennon. Give Dawson a go (might have to).

I suspect it's a mess but hope I'm wrong.

George S said...

I thought that was a decent piece by the England fan, James. It isn't for the players to lay in to them. We may; other fans may; even the manager might, but not the players, not after a performance like that.

As the blogging fan says they will forgive Rooney because they like his rough edges - as do I - but he wasn't showing them in the game.

I'm not sure what any European fan is supposed to think in South Africa. Certainly there are far poorer people there, but not all the England fans out there will be comfortably off. Between ourselves, they may just be slightly mad and overspent. Many of them may be idiots and drunken yobs. But the fact that many might be doesn't mean that players should take out their own frustrations on them. It works the other way round, as they well know.

It's not a big deal, but I would have had a quiet word with young Wayne and trust that he understood - as he probably does.

Gwil W said...

I think Capello may drop Rooney. Is it 9 or 10 England games without a goal?

He'll have to play Crouch and the reserves to scrape a win. 3-1.

Gwil W said...

hello charles,
I saw Wills and Harry at the match! Unfortunately the Swiss commentator said, after only 35 minutes: "We are not very amused". And they weren't. Wills, especially. He looked totally pissed off. I'm not surprised. They gave the ball away every 3rd pass. They never took on an opponent. Algeria pitched their tent in the midfield. And that was that.

I've been shouting for years: "Bring on Giggs!!!" Now,

But that's another story.

charles said...

It’s hard to argue my money case, George, because it's not about about rates-of-pay comparisons, more about money’s shiftiness, the way it starts to become an abstract force. Once you get over a certain tipping point - which for the sake of argument I’d put at £50K a year, which is probably a bit mean for show-biz and football, but still - it can often take over from other things: hunger, and joy in the doing the job. Idealistic, I know, but why not bypass market regulation and simply offer a reasonable wage and see who takes it? It's not as though there won't be lots of candidates, and many of them with talent. (A similar argument might apply to publishers' advances to writers; and may in fact be now applying, the heyday being over.) Once over the tipping point, the relationship of the players not just to the game but to its followers changes: the Porsches and Ferraris (and Ronaldo’s crashing of his), and instances such as Wright-Phillips’s petulance on being offered £70K a week at MC when others he plays with get over £100K, don’t just show greed but effectively stimulate, even license, the yobbish element in fans’ yelps when things start to go wrong.

George S said...

The Wright-Phillips case might argue something rather more relative and much more common. The question then is Why is X worth more than me? We value ourselves by our position among others like ourselves. I don't get as much thrill out of being published by magazines as I used to. Simply having a new book is not the landmark it was. When I am asked to do a reading with other people and the question of the fee is raised I often say Pay me what you pay the others. (I mean 'as little as', as well as 'as much as').

I imagine footballers are much the same. An international footballer will compare himself with other international footballers, a member of a team with another member of the team. This constitutes one common idea of 'fairness'.

I really don't think money as an absolute value makes very much difference to performance to the individual. It does to the team if one - say Robinho at Manchester City - was being paid far far more. Even then it wouldn't make the others perform worse - though, in the long run, it might corrode team spirit.

I wouldn't read less well for £200 if I knew Carol Ann, top of the bill, was getting £600 or more. I suppose I could ask for £300 or even in £400 (but I don't). I'd notice it and expect it but the fact that I am getting £200 for reading for twenty minutes doesn't register for much. (It comes down to the Ruskin-Whistler question and answer in the end.)

That doesn't mean I don't resent it if I feel someone is actually exploiting my unwillingness to ask for more - if they had the money to spend.

Darn complicated. The fact is I cannot value myself in any absolute way so I have to put up with others' valuation in a relativist market in which there are, in any case, many more issues than the elusive notion of quality to consider.

The fans' point of view is different. We have paid for a show by apparently - or so we are told - the best so put on a show like the best. Back to the Glasgow Empire.

That is pretty normal too.

Gwil W said...

Black and silver balls
and no more golden goals,
but fashionable boots
of an unsuitable hue
studded, of course,
with a ruby or two.
Cos they'll pay me
what I'm wuff!
That's life.
It's tuff.

Gwil W said...

Re the football poem:
I should add, for the record, that Tuff boots were a reasonably priced popular brand of reliable boots, sold almost everywhere in England, and worn by honest working men (and others).

George S said...

You could never leave your club in
The days of honest greasy Dubbin,
nor dance on flittering fancy feet
when plastered over in Deep Heat
(or stink out the whole firmament
with jock-straps soaked in linament)...
But sure as hell you knew your stuff
When pounding over turf in Tuff.

Golden bollocks, golden boots,
Alice bands and sharp grey suits.
Hey nonny-no, whip-crack-away!
I wish we were back in yesterday!

Stephen F said...

The squad are giving their match fees away to charity for this World Cup.

Perhaps if they were allowed to keep them...


On Tuff shoes, I heard the story that they were put out of business by the Bangladeshi community in the east end because they were worn 24 hours a day : as one man came in from his shift another woke up, swapped beds and also shoes. Tuffs came with a twelve month money back guarantee on the soles which, under these conditions, was constantly being claimed back. I don't know whether it's true or not (and certainly strikes me as an apocraphil), but I've always liked to believe* in it for the image of The Shoes That Never Sleep.

* Belief, that's what's missing from Engerland. I think the boys might not get through.

Gwil W said...

heard a similar story about Tuff shoes only it was the Pakistanis of Blackburn who managed wear them out. I can't see it myself for they mostly wear sandals and drive taxis.

Gwil W said...

Well here it is, today's the 'doordie' day.

I'll stick my neck out like one of George's hares and predict England to start with Crouch (Rooney on the bench). They'll then win and go through along with the USA.

George S said...

They win with Rooney in - and I must say they played well. Properly well. If I hadn't been so anxious about them letting in a stupid goal I would have enjoyed it. England looked like a normal team, a rather good team in fact, though without any convincingly world-class players (though they have them on occasion) - and missing chances.

Stephen F said...

The belief was back, and now I am starting to think Fabio has a master plan:

1 Finish second in the group so that you can
2 Lay the ghost of Germany so that you can
3 Lay the ghost of the Hand of God
4 Win a semi on penalties
5 Carry the Trophy Home after the traditional shaky Italian start.