Date: 16th October 2005 at 12:02pm
Written by:

Now that Summer’s season is but a memory and Autumn seems more about decay than mellow fruitfulness, it hardly needs the sort of TV footage we have been seeing lately, to find yourself dreading some future hard rain that’s a-gonna fall. What with hurricanes and earthquakes supplying a regular parade of painful broken bodies on the news, it became easy to concur with
Woody Allen, when he said life is divided between the horrible and the miserable. If you add in the constant stream of propaganda about global warning and the possibility of a ‘bird flu’ pandemic there seems rather a
lot be concerned about. They say that when you have been in the mad house long enough, you no longer notice the screams and similarly the death toll from Iraq, has been drowned in the white noise of horror-fatigue.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been asked, directly or indirectly, why, with so much wrong with the world, I expend so much time worrying about the trivialities of football and it is sometimes hard to find
a convincing answer but with so much happening this week, I could only conclude with a resounding: ‘Because it is so much more manageable!’.

Pondering the iniquities of Robbie Savage, is so much easier than working out why thousands of Muslims got killed or mutilated in the middle of Ramadan.

All people’s have one thing in common – we all ask our Gods the same questions.

So I gave up pondering the uncertainties of why some victims of the tsunami ended up with eleven cooking-pots, while the fund for Kashmir started at zero and decided to concentrate on my role as an economic unit, while trying to keep myself cheerful by contemplating the delights of actually seeing an England team play quite well and with some much welcomed and unfamiliar

All courtesy of a result produced by another team in an entirely different group.

We’ll now have to forgive Holland for the penalty that Platt never got from that fat bloke or Gazza’s broken cheekbone and thank them for the result which took the fear out of England’s game and the caution out of the
manager’s tactics. We might even have to forgive the referee for sending Beckham off, as we count up the plus points of an England performance which has provided some rich loam where the possibilities multiply and dreams of
winning the Word Cup take root and from which the bright flower of delusion will emerge in next year’s summer sun.

Order the flag, dust off the shirt – lets pretend until reality hits.

It really was a splendid night and with the considerable egos of Gerrard and Beckham absent and with Rooney given the role he prefers, Lampard was left to do all the fancy stuff in midfield, while the heroic Ledley King
demonstrated industry, control and modesty in the holding position, he surely has made his own, should the manager ever have the courage to drop one of his posers for a proper man and adopt what looked like a more efficient formation, than the tabloid all-stars he has succumbed to.

The goal which sealed the points and England’s status as top team in the group was totally superb and it seemed, as he executed his gorgeously controlled volley, that all the things they used to say about Paul Scholes
but which we never quite saw at International level, could actually be true of Frank Lampard, who seems to have emerged as a great player, with so little fuss and hype that it is quite the case that, you can’t help but take him for granted.

Of course, as a Crouch watcher I was interested to see the role Eriksson handed him when he replaced Wright-Phillips, late into the second-half. The England manager immediately put him in the hole behind the two strikers and pushed Rooney forward along side Owen. This was very interesting because the ‘head on a stick’ immediately turns that area of the game into one-touch
and if the defender misses the header, he doesn’t get a second chance – the ball’s gone. The Swede was able to demonstrate that he is rather quicker on the uptake than most of his peers and he obviously realised that big Pete, is not really a striker but nevertheless, someone who can make a huge contribution. I could not help but notice that it was Peter Crouch’s composure and ability to pick a pass which started the move off, from which
funtime Frankie scored the winner.

I shall indulge myself with the delusion that England can do well in the World Cup (bird-flu notwithstanding) but I don’t think WE (hark at me) can win it. The defence still looks at home to Mr. Cock-up and despite all the kind words from his Liverpool mates at the Beeb, I can’t see Owen scoring enough goals – three dozen hamstring injuries have robbed him of the pace
that used to be so killing. But at least there are eight months in which to dream.

This offered a much needed respite and a smidgen of consolation but with Villa playing the Blues on Sunday, I don’t expect it to last. Unfortunately for Villa, the importance of the result takes on more significance than
local rivalry this time round because a loss will surely put them down amongst the relegation fodder and turn up the volume of the crisis talk. According to last Saturday’s Times, Villa are quickly becoming the club,
people aren’t quite sure which division they are in – which was painful to read but it rang entirely true.

Villa might be a disaster waiting to happen but these past few weeks and months have taught me, its not exactly the end of the world.