It’s never enough for England

First indication of the direction the week might take came early in last Sunday’s Anfield skirmishes when Tom Cleverley propelled himself into the shins of Philippe Coutinho.

It’s never enough for England

So far, so noble. Then the ugly practice of mime worked its evil, as Iago Aspas delved into the murky recesses of his mind to flourish the reviled imaginary yellow card.

Naturally, the commentary box harrumphed in a rally of tut and countertut as Martin Tyler and Gary Neville reflected, not for the first time, on how ‘European players’ had infected the culture of the English game with their performance art.

John Foreigner in their sights then, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that he got both barrels, when new FA chairman Greg Dyke began talking about a 10-year plan, much of which, it seems, should involve getting John Foreigner’s feet out from under the Premier League table so that football can finally come home.

Incidentally, Dyke should enjoy a fine reception in English football.

When he began his role as director general of the BBC, Dyke had a set of yellow cards distributed, which BBC foot soldiers could brandish at meetings when they felt their creativity was being repressed by management.

I suppose you would hardly expect people who were having their imaginations stifled to wave imaginary yellow cards, but people like Neville will be heartened that Dyke took measures to ensure it wouldn’t happen.

Tough on mime, tough on the causes of mime.

But England fans willhardly thank him for the other part of this week’s manifesto; a promise to target the 2022 World Cup.

Neville and Roy Hodgson might thank him, since the big plan more or less absolves them of any responsibility to win next year’s World Cup.

But anybody who knows the ways of England will realise Dyke’s words actually lessen their already slim chances of winning any of the upcoming tournaments.

They won’t be able to win the 2014 and 2018 World Cups because they will be ‘in transition’ and they certainly won’t win it in 2022, because of the ‘weight of expectation’.

Long before the foreigners arrived, England have been able to talk big about winning while giving themselves plenty of reasons for not doing so.

A deficiency in ability, youth structures, coaching, the long ball, Germanic inevitability, penalties; there have always been problems England need to get round to fixing before the winning can start.

They are no Cork.

With the Cork hurlers, winning is what happens while you’re making other plans, or making no plans, whichever the case may be. When JBM landed again, to win them another one, he wasn’t anxious to hang around until their problems had been fixed first.

There are enough hurlers in Cork to ensure the county is always competitive, he insisted, when he arrived.


Dyke shot a hole in his own argument on Wednesday, when he admitted that of the 65 English players who started in the Premier League last week, many weren’t good enough to play for England.

So sending John Foreigner — and his imagination — packing will only make room for more poor players. And there will never be enough poor players to win the World Cup.

But they only need 11.

“Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little,” advised Epicurus once, which sounds a bit like something Paul Merson might say, only a bit wiser.

JBM might like more players, and some better ones, but it would be hard to envisage him targeting the 2022 All-Ireland, or any All-Ireland apart from the one he was currently in the business of winning.

And he has enough to do it now.

But then English football has never produced a man like JBM.

If Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton had gone on to become the charismatic, inspirational figureheads their work on the field insisted they should, maybe England could have carried on winning while they went about fixing their problems.

There were times when they just about had enough.

Hansen unable to change after going flat

It is probably appropriate that no acknowledgment yet of Alan Hansen’s impending departure from our screens has avoided mention of his scepticism about entrusting the business of winning to kids.

An opinion he dispensed fully 18 years ago. There was a time, early in the modern age of football punditry, when people watched out for Hansen, to see what he might say. Latterly, they have begun to do so again, mostly to make sure he was awake. Maybe the punditry was just too easy for him, like the football looked to be once.

In his book, A Matter Of Opinion, Hansen says his TV career could have branched out into all kinds of exciting areas, but he kept turning down opportunities because he didn’t have the confidence.

But he has never come across as a man with a tremendous appetite for work.

Kenny Dalglish once described taking a lift from Hansen when he heard the ominous thump of a flat tire. ‘Pull over’ he advised before suggesting Hansen change it.

Change it? ‘Jockey’ didn’t even know how to open the boot. In the end, Kenny sorted it. He was the one who got his hands dirty in management too.

At times, Hansen’s work has betrayed a similar attitude to learning about the nuts and bolts of foreign football teams.

But at least he was memorable once, which is more than most can boast. While he never became ‘shocking’, or ‘diabolical’, another of his favourite words might fit the bill; ‘mediocre’.

Quinny swims against the tide

Sign of the times? The Six-Red World Championships in Bangkok this week.

Eventually, the Twitter and the Facebook and all the rest will have truncated our attention spans so badly that they will cut to the chase and settle the snooker on a spotted black.

Second sign of the times? Tottenham Hotspur fans marshalled outside White Hart Lane on ‘Deadline Day’ singing the name of Franco Baldini, their director of football.

Might this be as far from the glory game as Danny Blanchflower could ever have imagined? But at least there are things that stay the same. Almost anyway.

When he was imparting his wisdom on Sky Sports News before the close of the last transfer window, Niall Quinn told us that QPR chairman Tony Fernandes was “in that goldfish bowl and is swimming against the tide.”

Perhaps realising since that aquaria are largely immune to the gravitational pull of the moon, this time round Quinny had a new explanation for the choppy waters awaiting Gareth Bale in Madrid.

“He will be like a goldfish in a bowl and it will be like there’s a blender on in that bowl.”



The Gah: For all that hurling has owned the summer, Cork and Clare will have to produce something special to oust last Sunday as the match of the season.

Arsene Wenge: Wriggled out of trouble again, at the death, and in some style. One of the great survivors.

David Frost: What a shame he turned down that contract from Nottingham Forest — we never found out what kind of football pundit he’d have made.


Paolo Di Canio: He might eventually go down as the greatest ever exponent of the blame game.

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