Mirroring our fortunes

They tell me that Kaiser Chiefs had been set to share the billing with Aslan at Shamrock Rovers’ ground later this month.

Surely something of a decline in fortunes for the yelping Britpop revivalists?

Dare one draw a parallel between this unlikely alignment and the respective moods in the two bands’ homelands heading into this European Championship? For once, their hopes are as modest as ours.

England predicts nothing, except maybe a riot. Ireland fully expects everyone to hit us, everyone to knock us down.

Alas, it might be more allegorically relevant to note the entire Tallaght gig has now been shelved due to lack of interest. After all, what does either of us really have to offer Europe this time round? Ourselves and our neighbours are about to show at a hipster party in our work clothes, lugging a stale bottle of 442 and a crate of perspiration mixers.

Our war cry? We will contain.

What’s to like? Trap’s party piece is, whatever tune you hum it to, as gloomy as the Radiohead track that triggered Fr Kevin’s depression on the bus from Craggy Island to America. “I have underlined that all 11 players attack and defend, without necessarily expecting to play well.”

Gareth Southgate, the FA’s head of elite development, has been wailing the Ingerland lament, while Roy still learns the chords.

“I don’t think we are in a situation where, as a country, we can go out there and outplay too many teams.”

It’s a far cry, where England are concerned, from business as usual. The last time we shared the Euro stage with them, Bobby Robson’s boys bounced into West Germany to the shrill, synthpop racket of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s All The Way. While we and Jack were simply giving it a lash, Lineker, Barnes, Beardsley and company tunelessly insisted that they would be going the distance. That’s the kind of bullishness we know and love from our neighbours; part of the familiar circle of confidence, certainty, missed penalties, dismay and recrimination which livens up any major tournament they qualify for.

All gone now, as Roy’s infectious realism has quickly ensured. The English aren’t up for this one — the Jubilee bunting already taken down. A headline in The People this week possibly summed up how far they have fallen in their own minds.

“Welbeck has no regrets about choosing England ahead of Ghana.”

Ordinarily, the scale of their injury problems would dominate the rolling news bulletins. Before tournaments gone by, they fretted and prayed and filled video walls with diagrams of Beckham and Rooney metatarsals. This time, the fallen have been carted off the battlefield without ceremony. The deepest wounds are to their pride.

Still, for a couple of weeks, you couldn’t help feeling this strange, downbeat England might just be the subdued new paradigm that would finally win them something again. But then, after a brace of turgid 1-0s, the first tentative whispers about Doing A Greece surfaced. About winning it ugly. And you knew it couldn’t happen.

England can never do a Greece. Their reserves of humility are too low. Their sackcloths too freshly woven. While the marvellous Otto Rehhagel had three years to convince his players they had no right to expect more from themselves than to bore Europe into submission then beat them with headers from right-wing crosses, Roy hasn’t had nearly long enough with his men to demoralise them fully. To break them into believing his is the only gameplan in town.

As things stand, all it would take is the first 1-0 on Monday to fatally loosen the shackles. They will believe again and Stevie G will begin to maraud, allowing the Ukraine and Sweden to pour through.

To have any chance at all, then, to give Roy’s way a prayer, England must lose to France. Ideally heavily.

Helpfully, as far as we’re concerned, Trap began talking about Doing A Greece the moment he arrived among us. In case he hadn’t found us sufficiently broken, he quickly stripped us of guitar players, shapers and people with notions. Ideas men. Dangerous people.

One of the best footballers this island has produced, Danny Blanchflower, once suggested the best tactic was to equalise before the other team score. That won’t be Trap’s way next week. We mightn’t even try to equalise after they score, at least until all other options have been explored.

And our lads will stick with it, because it’s the only way they know now. Maybe it’s the only way he can protect us in this crazy world.

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