Date: 17th October 2008 at 5:57pm
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Should they lose, I don’t think they will be doing much of an impression of mumchance.

Strictly mumchancing.

Well, that might not be the most laboured pun I’ve ever attempted but its up there with the worst and if you don’t like it, blame Capello and the England boys.

It has been very much a case of veni, vidi, vici, for the stern Italian, as he came, saw the England weaknesses and conquered them. Okay, he compensated for those weaknesses, rather than vanquished them but the victory was plain enough to see – four of the buggers.

By the time Rooney had got his second against Belarus, I was the nearest thing to a misty-eyed patriot, as I am ever likely to be.

Like Canaletto trying to paint Warwick Castle, Capello hasn’t quite managed to make it look like Piazza San Marko but he’s certainly done his best with what he’s got. Like Canaletto, he has brought Italian light to a rather dull English vista and lit the whole thing up.

McClaren’s Lowry, now hangs on the wall at FA headquarters – looking ironic – and I understand that their new door-bell plays The Umbrella Man by Flanagan and Allen: there’s even a video on Youtube (search – Umbrella man football)

Getting there though, was no easy ride and the first half performance against Kazakhstan, revealed everything you needed to know about England’s shortcomings.

Credit for what turned out to be a substantial win, has to go to the manager for making a tactical gamble that happened to work, but I thought the good players lost their bottle, as usual, in the first half and ran out of patience.

England started well and although their passing could have been better (as always), they were moving up and down the pitch as a unit and releasing Walcott usefully on the right, to get round the back. Barry was providing extra protection to a rookie defence.

But a little time after the 30th minute Gerrard started to knock it long and the gap between the midfield and the forwards became too great. So Heskey was getting the ball but there were no midfielders moving past him (Fat Frank’s job), so the moves all broke down.

With Barry on the pitch it never looked like Borat and his mates would manage a shot on goal but things changed as soon as he went off.

In the second half Capello gambled on England out-scoring Kazakhstan as the England defence lost the protection of the covering midfielder. A better team than Kazakhstan would have scored but luckily they didn’t, without the help of Doris at left-back, that is.

The tactical change was crucial in that it encouraged the opposition to attack and it was these exertions which completely exhausted them in those final minutes, when a rampant England toyed with them.

Most of the credit must go to the manager but his decision to play both Fat Frank and Stevie-G, did make me wonder.

By the time England took to the pitch in Minsk, it looked like England’s Maestro had vidi(ed) vici(ed) and varied his tactics, or at least his instructions. He seemed to have concluded that Gerrard is incapable of limiting his role to a small area of the pitch and so Fat Frank was detailed to play a dual holding role with Gareth Barry, which he fulfilled in an exemplary manner and left Gerrard to wonder where ever impulse drew him. When Scouser Steve passed the ball into the net from outside the Belarus area, to give England the lead, it looked like a brilliant idea; an assessment not too much dented by a wonderful equalising team goal for Belarus.

In the final analysis it was a great win based on traditional English qualities, which of course, do not include the ability to break records for the number of consecutive passes; it was about power, physical presence from Heskey and great finishing from Rooney.

It was certainly the finest performance in an England shirt from Shrek for a very long time, possibly, ever. Harder games in the future against better defenders and better teams, will reveal whether he has matured beyond the histrionics of frustration which have marred most of his England career. Indeed, the transfer of the role of England saviour from him to Walcott, will have lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.

Rooney’s efforts were heroic and his finishing was world-class: there, I’ve said it.

Obviously my greatest pleasure was seeing Gareth Barry put in a couple of solid, if not spectacular performances, and finding nothing to criticise Fat Frank for over two England games was quite a novelty. In fact, over the two games, Lampard was probably England’s most consistent and versatile midfielder.

Even more satisfying was seeing Heskey prove what I have said for a long time, that his contribution is one on the most unsung in the game. Its not surprising that the fans have underestimated him, or even that they were cruelly critical, because the average fan’s appreciation of the game is fairly superficial, as I demonstrate quite often, but the press have no such excuses, as they are supposed to be part of the cognoscenti. But I suppose, as it is that profession’s habit to perform their jobs, while being totally pissed, we should be glad that they even get the words in the right order, some of the time.

Congratulations to Gabby and Milner for helping England, to progress to the finals of the Under-21 European Championships. Only a sore hamstring prevented Gabby from joining the senior England squad in Belarus, as recognition of his crucial contribution.

I have lost count of the number of games Gareth Barry has played already this season but it is a measure of his fitness, that he seems to have played two games a week since mid-August – it makes my legs ache just thinking about it. So lets hope his one and a half games for England and the travails of a long trip to Belarus, haven’t taken too much out of him and that Peter Crouch had to sleep in a bed a foot shorter than he needs, as Villa prepare to take on Portsmouth, this Saturday.

Old Harry and his team seem to have more than the measure of Villa in recent seasons and a loss for O’Neill’s boys, might start to make Villa’s glitch at Stamford Bridge look like a trend. The Crouch – Defoe combo, is certainly drawing a lot of plaudits, as Defoe leads the Premier’s top-scorers list with Torres, with 5 goals, but Portsmouth are amongst those who have conceded the most too (13)

It promises to be a high-scoring tussle between two close rivals for the accolade of best outside the best. It promises to be a bright sunny autumn afternoon and a perfect day for both watching and playing football. Lets hope its the Villa fans who have winning smiles, at five o’clock, to keep them bright and warm on the way home.

Should they lose, I don’t think they will be doing much of an impression of mumchance.



5 Replies to “Something For The Weekend (210)”

  • Quality as per usual. Love how we all call him ‘Fat Frank’. Jeez, wish I was as ‘fat’ !!!!!!!!!

  • “but the press have no such excuses, as they are supposed to be part of the cognoscenti. But I suppose, as it is that profession’s habit to perform their jobs, while being totally *****ed, we should be glad that they even get the words in the right order,

  • Great read. Missed this column when I was holidaying, and banned from computers, VV, and all other things I enjoy, by the power that be.

  • Wonder if we will all be singing the praises of Fabio Capello after South Africa 2010, or whether by then, following another disappointing World Cup Finals, we will all be clamouring for a change at the helm?

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