Date: 20th November 2009 at 4:58pm
Written by:

Ask not what your country can do for you……yada, yada.

L├ęgion d’honneur?

Ask not what your country can do for you……yada, yada.

Jesus, Joseph, Mary and all the saints, will the suffering never end? If it’s not bad enough that their economy should go tits-up, the Irish have to have their chances of World Cup qualification shattered by a bit of cheating, that all the world could see, except the three or four officials who could have put it to rights.

Its going to be a big loss to the tournament and not just for the Irish but for everyone else too. In recent World Cup history, Ireland have always offered the best value for those who love a football underdog, and whether it was Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy in 1994, or Robbie Keane’s brilliant and ecstatic equaliser against the Germans, in 2002, unalloyed joy, while watching the Irish, is always more likely than watching England flatter to deceive their way to an exit in the quarter finals.

Not as though that is much consolation to the boys in green but such is the Irish Diaspora, there will be plenty of Irishmen on show and no one need bother to deny that if your name is Rooney and you look like Rooney, then you are as Irish as any team picked by Jack Charlton.

FIFA’s refusal to demand a replay was predictable, even if a penalty shoot-out would have been more appropriate.

But anyone who has viewed more than a few games, will be aware that cheating of various degrees is the rule and not the exception. Whether it is the blatant cheating at every set-piece, or the diving and simulation, cheating well is as much an attribute of a good team as any other measure of excellence.

As fans we know this all too well.

I have never known a proper fan who refused to crow or celebrate a victory because that victory didn’t quite live up to the highest sporting standards. For the fans it is exactly as George Orwell described it: war by other means. When Owen dived to win a penalty we cheered but when Klinsmann dived, we were morally outraged.

Most of us, secretly hope that should England require it, that there is a player in the England squad who has the courage to cheat in the cause of making England winners. No Italian shed a single tear at the fact that Materazzi did his best to get Zidane sent-off in the 2006 final and the whole world universally ignored the Italian’s vile taunts and blamed Zidane. Likewise when Peter Crouch cheated against Trinidad and Tobago (pulled the defender’s hair, as he scored), we said nothing.

Morality is never put on trial: getting caught is all we care about.

As for Thierry Henry, he did what he had to do for his country and he will take the consequences, in terms of a slightly tarnished brand image and the accusation of ‘cheat!’. Not as though, his reputation is entirely virgin pure and I seem to remember a dive of his was crucial in getting France to the final in 2006.

And I just hope that when Villa get to the Cup Final, next year; that Richard Dunne has the courage to cheat, to win it for us, if he needs to. But maybe not quite so blatantly as Monsieur Henry.

As Earl Kitchener definitely never said: Cheating bastards, your country needs you! But he almost certainly did say, ‘Take no prisoners!’.

The rest of us are left to cling to our humbug and our sporting delusions.

Despite looking totally out-classed on the night, I was not too disillusioned by England’s performance against Brazil, last Saturday. Despite all the negative stuff trotted out by the pundits after the game, as
they produced a sandstorm of carping criticism, to pad out the time the production manager had added, to ensure a bit more, desperately needed, commercial revenue could be extracted from the event.

Brazil fielded a stronger team than anticipated and except for Rooney, most of the better players were missing. With temperatures which might have made a sauna seem a bit parky, England were prevented from playing the pressing, high-tempo game which has been their forte under Capello, and England’s lesser-lights were never going to be able to narrow the technical gulf between themselves and the world’s putative best team.

With Gerrard, Lampard and Carrick all missing, Barry and Jenas were always on the back-foot and there was no useful service for Darren Bent.

Apart from a very nice goal from the Brazilians, the only memorable thing from the game for me, was a fine performance from Villa’s James Milner, who constantly provided England with the get-out ball, when they were penned in their own penalty area. Although he did not do anything spectacular, our Jimmy took up some good positions, never seemed to give the ball away cheaply (something rare amongst England players) and provided a few good crosses into the danger-areas. Most of all, he looked like a player who will follow his manager’s instructions to the letter. The fact that Milner kept going when most of his team-mates were wilting badly, shows what a fit lad he is. If he had scored with his difficult volley, it would have made it a perfect performance and his place in the final squad would have surely been certain barring injury.

As good as his performance was, I am sure that we will never see the very best of James Milner, until he sports a centre-parting and a big moustache. He’s just got one of those faces which demands such facial furniture.

Come Saturday he must make the transition from Brazil to Burnley and I suspect it might be an even more difficult game, in its way, than the sexy football samba of last weekend. Burnley have a fairly decent home record and after the International break, we can only hope Villa can reproduce their form against Bolton and shock us all with another resounding win.

Anything less than a point and it will be me and the rest of the Villans who will be left feeling cheated.

Irish Villans, all the more so.

Keep the faith!