Dear England team:

Dear England football team: Big day for you today, a chance to redeem yourselves in the sad eyes and weary hearts of your country; a chance to regain the respect of the men, women and children who look to you to bring excitement, passion and pride to the day to day grind of their hard lives; an opportunity to show them, and the rest of the world, that you’re NOT Page 3 model-chasing, attention-seeking, money-grabbing, celebrity-obsessed playboys and actually *care* about representing your country.

So, pull on that shirt, kiss the 3 Lions, get out onto that pitch, shout out the National Anthem and then play, play your hearts out, run for every face-painted, overpriced England shirt-wearing kid watching, heart in mouth, in their school; run, until your red-hot lungs threaten to burst, for every Budget-hit factory worker, listening to the game on a sneaked-in pocket radio, who lives in a world you have absolutely no idea about.

And if none of those people matter to you, if you really do, as many of us suspect, care more about the next deal with “Hello” or “OK”, or about the next advertising deal, then run for *yourselves*, just to prove that you can do it.


England V Algeria

Went to watch the England vs Algeria World Cup match at the Brewery Arts Centre last night. The BAC did a great job, with no less than THREE big screens, food indoors and out, and entertainment and activities for the kids to enjoy (and hopefully keep them away from the aforementioned big screens so the game wasn’t ruined for the adults!). All that was needed was an even half-convincing performance by England – a performance good enough to suggest that they actually DO have a cat in hell’s chance of beating big teams – and the couple of hundred people packed into the Malt Room would have gone away happy…

What we got instead was a sad, shambolic, shamefull and spiritless display that was in turns embarrassing and infuriating to watch. Our team of “sporting heroes” – so hyped up before the tournament, flagged-up as potential winners of the cherished trophy – looked like they really couldn’t be bothered, it was pathetic. Algeria, a low-ranking but spirited, gutsy team that our squad of Premier League “stars” really should have taken apart with three or more goals, made our national team look like clod-hopping donkeys unable to string more than two passes together.

It was literally painful to watch. Our shots were fewer and far between than interesting episodes of “Big Brother”. In fact, we bothered the Algerian goal so little that a bird was able to sit on the top of the net and watch the match without any fears for its safety whatsoever.

Understandably the England fans in the Brewery – and out there in the big wide world, especially those who have spent a small fortune going down to South Africa to support the England team, having bought into the “This time we’re good enough to win it!” fantasy – were angry at the result. After all, those players on that pitch were there because they usually perform magnificently for their clubs… but the moment some of them pull on an England shirt they forget how to pass a ***** football, they forget how to run forwards, they lose their strength and guts, like Samson having his hair cut, it’s just crazy!

The lack of spirit and heart was bad enough… the lack of passion and determination to grab the game by the throat and shake it until it passed out was bad enough… but what really upset people last night, what really rubbed salt in the wounds of England fans like myself, was when Wayne Rooney, striding off the pitch, head still held high for some reason, looked into the TV camera and whined about the booing of the England fans in the stadium.

Oi! Rooney! SHUT IT!! Those people travelled many thousands of miles and spent many thousands of pounds to support you, so they have every right to boo you and your fellow half-hearted ball hefters if they feel let down by your efforts. Your team were rubbish, from start to finish, and you, matey, were particularly poor; you gave away so many balls and were so quiet that you might as well have stayed in the hotel playing “World Cup 2010” on your Wii.

Here’s an idea for our football team: stop behaving like celebrities and start behaving like, oh, I don’t know… FOOTBALLERS?!?!?! Stop prancing about on TV adverts, stop posing in front of marble fireplaces for “Hello” and “OK”, and get back to doing your job, which is kicking a ball into a net for your country.

Shocking. Just shocking. There were moments last night when our players actually had “Uh oh, the cat’s out of the bag.. everyone can see we can’t actually play very well” looks on their faces. They were found out, big time.

What next? Well, if we play like that against Slovenia, we’re out of the competition, and it will be no less than we deserve. If we somehow claw our way past Slovenia, but don’t play considerably better, the first time we meet one of the Big in-form teams – Portugal, Argentina, or heaven forbid Germany – we will be gutted like a fish, in front of the world, and there’ll be nowhere to hide.


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