Our man inside the game wasn’t impressed with Gareth Southgate’s attempts to play political football after a poor England showing.
Sometimes football is so relevant and on the money that it is scary.
Tactically and philosophically our game has never really got past the idea that Johnny Foreigner ‘Doesn’t Like It Up Him’.
So on that basis the gaffer made a catastrophic tactical decision before next week’s big game with Johnny Foreigner and it backfired spectacularly.
Still the gaffer has to come out and defend the big mess and talk it up like it’s a win. Meanwhile, the gaffer’s associates sharpen their blades on old whetstones and bide their time.
On the other side of town we have a once unfashionable outfit deliriously celebrating a narrow defeat. Not getting hammered isn’t the same as winning silverware. But who cares because none of it matters anyway.
We are about to hand the running of the entire game over to some new owners from Belfast who wouldn’t pass the fit and proper person test if they tried to buy a League Two club.
And after all that we had the British derby at Hampden on Saturday. It should have been a distraction. Instead it just felt like more of the same.
When Theresa May came clean during the election and courageously announced that the ‘naughtiest thing’ she had ever done was (deep breath, fasten your seatbelts) run through a wheat field with her friends, possibly the only person in the world who reached for the smelling salts and felt scandalised was Gareth Southgate.
I suspect that if Gareth or Theresa ever do something as reckless as appear on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are, it may turn out they are both the spawn of the same nice goofy vicar.
On Saturday Gareth came out and stood in front of number ten, no wait, I’m getting confused… he came out and stood in front of the media and expressed his delight at drawing a game with Scotland.
In football terms Scotland achieved independence long ago. The country doesn’t really involve itself in trading with England anymore let alone participating in significant international events like World Cups or European Championships.
Where once a city like Glasgow would send out players to backbone every top side south of the border now it makes as many great players as it makes great ships. Staying at home and deep-frying Mars bars are their unique selling points.
So scrambling a last minute draw with Scotland and remaining undefeated in an amusingly weak group is about as valiant and bold as running through a wheat field. Yet there was Theresa Southgate smiling on bravely like one of those poor chumps who turns down an offer of £100,000 in the first round of Deal or No Deal and then has to look pleased with winning £500 at the end of the show.
“Better than nothing Noel isn’t it?”
I got flashbacks to the poignant Hodgson and Neville double act that constantly bigged up the achievement of winning every qualifying game and then got dumped out by Iceland in the actual competition. Oh!
England now have an unbeaten record of 35 games in qualifiers. As a statistic that is about as saleable in the real world as being good at keepie-uppies. Defending the extension of that record is as delusional as insisting that Europe needs us more than we need them or a bad deal is better than no deal.
The only deal for Gareth Southgate to be considering is leading his team out in the final of a major tournament. Taking that as the measure, getting a last-minute draw with Scotland just has no importance or value.
Scotland started the game in a very Scottish way, all roary and fiery. Sort of a tartan haka. For a while the much more sophisticated sassenachs looked a little taken by how primitive it all was.
In the end there was a consensus that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling had made the difference. Well those two are the very definition of dependability, aren’t they?
This was a draw against a side that with four qualifying games left are basically out of the competition. It was a draw scrambled in a roller coaster final few minutes of a mediocre game of football.
It is accepted football wisdom that when the other side have just scored then they are at their most vulnerable. When the other side are Scotland and they have just scored twice against England and they are pining for the final whistle like kids in the back seat asking “are we there yet, are We there yet”, well that other team is very vulnerable.
Harry Kane had the cold blood to exploit that. That’s what he is paid to do and what he does very well. Gareth Southgate needs to worry a bit more about the previous 93 minutes of football instead of talking this one up as a good day for strength and stability.
It’s fine, of course, for poor old Jeremy Strachan to talk it up, he’s been clinging to his job for long enough that he deserves a moment or two of self-adulation but in the 32 years since Scotland last beat England at Hampden both nations have declined into irrelevance on the world stage.
If we were all a bit more outlooking then we’d place Saturday in a global context. Which would be depressing. Because what Johnny Foreigner really likes is a good laugh and hubris is the gift that keeps on giving.
It was interesting to see Scotland experimenting with the new fangled three at the back system and Southgate will have been a little anxious at how handily young Kieran Tierney took care of Marcus Rashford.
Looking ahead to a time in Russia when England will face more vaunted names than Christophe Berra, Charlie Mulgrew and Tierney standing in front of the opposition goal, Southgate may long for the ‘strength and stability’ feeling that comes with playing virtually meaningless qualifiers.
The takeaways? Joe Hart is done and has been for a while. Any player who shouts that much in the tunnel is dealing with his own issues by deflecting attention onto others. I’ve seen it a million times, not least with a former captain of mine.
Young Pickford must have been rubbing his giant mutant hands together. Relegation will set him free from Sunderland and now this! Delli Ali was rattled by a predictable early Scott Brown tackle at the front of the game.
Brown can play but his preference is to use football as the perfect cover for legalised violence.
Southgate and Strachan sold their party lines at the end. A depressing end to a depressing week.
At times like this you feel very small as an island. If only we could be part of something bigger.
No such luck.
Scotland started the game in a very Scottish way, all roary and fiery
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