This is a guest post by Alex Jackson, who is a writer from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. He mainly writes unsuccessful novels but takes an interest in editorial pieces on politics, the media and local news. If you'd like to write a guest post for Enemies of Reason, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Think of the North East and what do you visualise? Football? Unemployment? Violence? As a Northerner I wish to wipe these stereotypes from the Southern agenda, yet every now and again someone takes a stab at us Tynesiders (or Wearsiders or whatever), the most recent example being a Tory saying Northerners should be used to pick berries in the Summer. Yes, I am often upset by the Southern attitude to the North, partially due to the belief that we're all thick as bricks. Really? My sister recently left school and got a place at Newcastle University: one of the most prestigious schools in the UK, but I need to get to the point of this editorial: The Tyne-Wear derby.
There were some ugly scenes at the Stadium of Light on Sunday as Asamoah Gyan scored a late equaliser: A fan ran onto the pitch and pushed Steve Harper over, the fans got fighting as per usual and chairs were torn from their moorings and thrown around like deformed beach balls. Ugly indeed, but there were also some dodgy scenes in Birmingham during the Blues-Villa game (albeit not as bad as Newcastle-Sunderland, but you catch my drift), but who gets the most coverage in the Daily Mail? Of course, it's the poor, Labour voting thugs on Tyne and Wearside:
The title of the article is magnificent:
Sunderland vow to boot out thugs after crowd violence erupts in derby showdown with Newcastle
because you can't cram too much provocative language into one sentence.
Of course, the Mail need a nice big picture of the thugs fighting one another, and an equally big picture further down the page showing a big, tattooed man scuffling with Police, just to drill home the 'Ooh! Look at those horrible Northerners fighting at a football match!' effect. Yet what about Villa-Birmingham? Ah yes, further down the page are the pictures with the trails of smoke from a smoke bomb (with a Police officer handily caught up in the midst to get the Mail going about the lower classes) and a line of Police trying to paint the football fans in a bad light despite the fact there wasn't much fighting. Of course, they are two small pictures because they don't want to draw the attention away from the scummy Northerners. They also seem to think the idea of banning hooligans from grounds is a new concept, but then again, it's the Daily Mail, they probably think they're too upper class to go to football matches.
I'm not going to lie: the violence was unacceptable, as was throwing a smoke bomb onto a pitch, yet the pictures in the Mail make it look like everyone at the Tyne-Wear game was fighting. Think about it: the Stadium of Light holds around 49,000, at the most there would have been 100 people fighting, so that leaves 48,900 law abiding fans. Of course, the Mail doesn't furnish us with the fact that only 24 (or 33, depending on your source) arrests were made because they want it to look like all the Northerners were scrapping, then again, the other papers were no better. The Sun, The Mirror, The Times and another paper Mr Vowl loves with a passion: The Express
The picture pushes all of their buttons: a Northern thug of student age wearing a hoodie, it couldn't have been better for them unless Diana had rolled in to calm the violence. For some reason they appear to have put the word attack in speech marks. What was attacking Steve Harper if it wasn't an attack? 'A Northern scuffle' probably.
If you take a look at the BBC's article it seems quite fair despite the jab at European fans at the bottom of the page, but compared to The Star's it is slim pickings. The Star's article is perfectly summed up in the title: Steve Bruce's Fan Fury, basically an Orwellian Two Minutes Hate for the football world. Was Bruce furious about the fans? erm...no, he spent the majority of his interview praising the fans who handed the Harper attacker over to the Police.
Taken in isolation the violence itself is bad enough, but today every paper had either the back page or a double spread painted with pictures of Geordies and Mackems fighting it out to try and paint us in the worst image possible (not surprisingly, there were no pictures of the smoke bombs at St. Andrews). The Tory-orientated papers were the worst culprits, the Mail being the worst example and The Star the worst for vocabulary (article and spelling wise). Of course this sort of thing will sell their glorified bundles of dead tree, but as proved in the past it will only succeed in stoking the fires of hatred. First it was Labour, then the Muslims and then the Poles. This time it's Northerners, football fans or both.
P.S. I apologise for the blatant plagiarism of Mr Vowl's other post title: Chris Jeffries and his Trial by Media
I say this as someone who's quite cheerful to be English, if not necessarily proud. I do love England and I support the teams wherever they play, but there is a danger that we do come across as perhaps the tiniest bit entitled when it comes to sport, particularly football.
Sepp Blatter rather snottily called England the 'Motherland of football' yesterday before he handed the 2018 World Cup to Russia, but there's something in that swipe that goes well beyond simple disdain for Becks, Wills and Dave and the bid they presented. You get the sense sometimes that England feel they somehow deserve the World Cup; that it's somehow our turn and that we're entitled to host it, just because Association Football was codified here. There's the sense that we can wheel out two posh guys (though I was pretty irritated by the prince's Sloaney insistence on saying "footbaw" - I want my posh guys to be posh, not to have Tony Blair-like cod blokeyness) and one pretty guy, and that's that, it's in the bag.
It's similar to the way in which England feel they deserve to win every trophy going just by turning up. Sky has convinced us we've got the Best League in the World (tm) so we're still confused every time we get dumped out of a tournament. Blame the manager, blame the players, blame everyone - don't ever stop to consider that there are other countries who are better prepared, better structured, and who simply work harder at their international football. We never stop to think about that; we just assume we should be able to win anything, if we put a team out. That's why people don't like us.
That's not the way these things go, and it's not the way that hosting a major tournament goes either. You have to dance for the guy holding the gun, and then there's still every chance he might just shoot you in the face for the fun of it. You can emphasise the 'technical' superiorities of your bid, or the benefits you'll be giving to the rest of the world, but if you haven't made the right friends, that's just the way it is. Of course there's also the chance that something else has been going on, something that a lot of people suspect is the case with Fifa, but if you don't want to play that game, and you don't want to speak up about your concerns for fear of rocking the boat either, then you had better just accept whatever decision happens with good grace.
And if we don't want to come across as arrogant, insular or entitled, it'll make sense to applaud the victory of Russia and Qatar, scrutinise how they did what they did, and see whether there are any lessons to be learned. There's no reason why international sporting competitions shouldn't go to countries outside the usual suspects, even ones who don't share 'our' values; there's no use in tut-tutting. The clue is in the title of the 'World' Cup, after all. The rather chippy way in which people looked down their noses at India for hosting the Commonwealth Games betrayed a bit of the western panic - how dare these countries be allowed to host international events!
So was it a fair bidding process or a stitch-up? Well, today's papers reflect the sense of injustice and finger-pointing. A bit of sour grapes, or is there really a whiff of corruption about the whole thing? Or maybe it's a bit of both. But still:
The Daily Mail, of course, has its own take on what it might have been that cost us the bid. I can't help feeling that this article is just outright flamebaitery, which is why I'm not linking to it.
The very un-English video, multicultural, diversity, etc etc. You get the general idea. I'm pretty sure that appearing multicultural doesn't do you any harm in an international competition where you're trying to counteract a perception of being seen as arrogant and entitled; but then there may be others who are horrified by the thought of England being multicultural - that's England, whose football team's captain is mixed race, whose players come from a wide range of backgrounds, who are supposed to pretend not to be, somehow. Like I say I'm pretty sure that article is just an attempt to wind people like me up, which of course it's done, but I'm damned if I'm giving the Mail any website traffic because of it. Go and look at the horrors for yourself if you must.
England does, I suppose, have an opportunity now. We're not going to get the World Cup for the next 10-20 years at least, so why not take this chance to try and tackle any corruption there is at the heart of Fifa or the world game? There's nothing to lose and everything to gain if the country that 'invented' football is seen to be at the vanguard of rooting out the rottenness. Or will we just keep our heads down and hope that we get fed a biscuit the next time it's up for grabs? If we do, we can't complain and mutter about a stitch-up the next time we get rejected.
Enough of the sulking, though. We're not entitled to anything. The best way to get the World Cup back would be for England to put out a team capable of actually winning the damned thing. If we can't do that, maybe we don't deserve the tournament.
I like football. I am not, though, a dribbling idiot honking kebab-vomit into a pint of lukewarm lager. This, I think, is an important distinction to make. It shouldn't be a distinction that I have to make, but I'm afraid I feel that football fans are treated as if we're all a bunch of gurning monosyllabic fuckknuckles.
Which is a shame, because I don't think we are. Don't get me wrong - some football fans are ignorant turds whom you almost want to applaud for managing to sit the right way throughout the entire game. But this football fan put it nicely during the World Cup:
Football fans, despite what the producers of Match of the Day apparently believe, are not idiots. Granted, anyone who has ever listened to a radio phone-in will know that there is an anti-Darwinism at the heart of every broadcast, a survival of the thickest as sensible voices are drowned out by braying morons. And yet football fans have never been so knowledgeable. The regular coverage of European leagues on satellite television has allowed us to gaze upon a world outside the bloated hyperbole of the Premier League.
Yes, that's it. What you've got now is a situation where fans, including armchair fans, are more able than ever to fill up on knowledge about the game. We can read more about European football than we ever could before the internet; we can see more action from outside of the UK than ever before, too. But punditry hasn't kept pace with this: instead, it's come to the point where fans are becoming more knowledgeable about players and teams than ex players who, while being good at putting the ball in the net in their day, are not so good, it would appear, at doing any research whatsoever. As Tom English so memorably put it, also during the World Cup:
Before the Algeria versus Slovenia game in Group C on Sunday, Shearer seemed to be speaking for the entire BBC panel when he said, "Our knowledge of these two teams is limited." Limited! What the former England striker was saying was that he hadn't done his homework, that he hadn't spoken to any of his vast array of contacts in the game, hadn't tapped into the BBC's huge research machinery, hadn't even bothered, seemingly, to peruse the internet for some background on Algeria and Slovenia or even flick through a newspaper or a magazine. Shearer was content to sit in front of the cameras and tell the viewers that, really, he didn't know much. Hardly a revelation to those of us who have groaned our way through his anodyne commentaries in the past, but embarrassing all the same.
You might have hoped that someone might have had a word with Shearer after this kind of carpeting during the World Cup, but it either didn't happen or Shearer isn't listening. Jonathan Liew of the Telegraph let out a weary sigh of despair after watching the "Yul Brinner/Weetabix"-haired expert proffer his opinions at the weekend:
You may, or may not, have heard of Ben Arfa before he moved here, but then you aren't paid to talk about him on television.
"No one really knows a great deal of him," Shearer asserted confidently as he introduced highlights of Ben Arfa's performance against Everton.
It was an astonishingly deficient piece of analysis, for which his earlier golden nugget of insight – "It's weird seeing Birmingham wear red, isn't it?" – curiously failed to atone.
These 'experts' know about the things that relate to their playing days, but when it comes to actually finding out about things, they're not so sharp. You may say that pundits are not necessarily there to provide expert analysis but rather a bit of colour - look at the bewildering ramblings of Eddie Jordan on the BBC's Formula One coverage, often far more exciting than the races themselves; or Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special, like Geoffrey Boycott but without the insouciant charm - but that seems somehow unsatisfactory to me. I want these people to tell me something I don't know and make me see things that I might not otherwise see. Is that too much to ask?
Surely the very least you could do, as a commentator and analyst on English football, is to find out about English footballers, and keep an eye on what's going on in Europe so you have a good idea about World Cup and European Championship qualifying, players coming to the Premiership in the future, and so on. No...? Well, no, apparently not. It's even got to the stage now where Gabriel Marcotti, someone on the BBC who had a clue, has jumped ship for ITV - ITV! - while Robbie Savage and Steve Claridge lock their antlers of bluff shouty fuckwittery on Five Live on a regular basis.
I'm sitting there listening, thinking "Oh will someone please kill them both", but then I remember that would mean more of Alan Green - who himself delighted in telling his listeners he couldn't be bothered to look up the Bulgarian team before they played England in a European Championships qualifier, yet somehow knew that England should be better than them.
I think it's this kind of arrogant ignorance that gets people's backs up. By all means we can all agree or disagree about football - it's one of the marvellous things about the game that we can all watch the same match and take something different away from it - but it's getting to the point now where viewers are becoming more aware of what's going on than the presenters and pundits who are meant to be there to offer an insight. Now I don't mind people being well paid, off the licence fee or not, because I'd be tempted to think "Well, they've earned it" if they're any good; but it's hard not to think that some of these faces are just coasting along on their footballing glories without bothering to put the work in with their day jobs. But please, can we just have some people who actually like finding stuff out? Who want to know about new players, because they're interested? Who offer something other than just a lot of pub bore opinions? Please...?
No, probably not. But I can't help wondering if the rumblings of discontent from fans are getting a bit louder.
1. Parking the bus.
Yes, no matter what else happened, 'parking the bus' scored a wonderful victory in South Africa. Take a look at North Korea's experience in the tournament: park the bus against Brazil, shut out the mighty five-time champions for half a match, get plenty of plaudits; don't park the bus against Portugal, get crucified. What's the lesson? Exactly. Park the bus. When in doubt, park the bus. Defend, defend, defend. Block, block, block. Now I'm not saying there isn't an art of defending and it shouldn't be lost entirely, and I don't want football to be like basketball - the tension comes from the few scoring opportunities and the rarity of goals - but come on. Even more adventurous teams like Japan ended up parking the bus. Spain did things a little differently, and parked the bus in midfield. But they still parked the bus.
2. "Don't write off the Germans"
Some football cliches died at this World Cup - happily, the "perennial underachievers" tag has been taken away from Spain and handed to, well, England maybe; but "Don't write off the Germans" has come good. Don't write off the Germans! Why not? Well, their league produces great players and helps the national side, as opposed to the best league in the world (tm). They were great to watch on the counter attack, but nervy against Spain, and deserved to go down in that semi-final. Shame. That performance against Argentina was terrific.
3. That octopus.
If Pulpo Paul had fucked up the very first World Cup prediction, we'd have moved on to some other animal somewhere doing some predicting - a porcupine catching ping-pong balls on his spines, perhaps; maybe a tiger in a cage with a couple of scared deer painted in national colours. What would be wrong with that? Anyway, the 'psychic' (pick the one on the right and keep your tentacles crossed) sea-dweller got things perfectly correct. What are the chances? Well, not astronomical, actually, but that's beside the point.
4. Footballers looking like old men on a day out at the bandstand in October.
Look at the saps, covering their chilly legs with blankets to stop them getting all cold. Awwwww! For fuck's sake! What kind of international athletes are these, scared of a bit of cold? I'll show you proper cold weather, freezing in horizontal sleet in the middle of winter! And they wear gloves nowadays! Would you like a Werthers Original? All my friends have died. I'm lonely now!
5. "This is poor"
Alan Green needn't attend the next World Cup. He should simply record "This is poor" and sprinkle some corn over a play button on a tape recorder, then bring in a couple of chickens. "This is poor... this is poor... this is poor..."
I know Greeny had a point at times during the tournament, but as Woody Allen said about bad orgasms "My worst one was right on the money". It's the ruddy World Cup, you jammy bastards! At least rouse a bit of cheeriness! Chin up!
6. New Zealand.
The only team to remain undefeated throughout the entire competition, they win the "Scotland 1974 award for being undefeated but not especially good either". Switzerland also win a special award for having beaten the world champions, thereby having a legitimate yet paper-thin claim to be the best team in the world, despite all other results hinting otherwise.
7. Sven-Goran Eriksson.
There he was again, not doing a tremendous amount, but not doing a tremendous amount wrong either. His mysteriously high football stock will have mysteriously risen yet further, and he'll get yet another plum job in the very near future. Wouldn't have been 4-1 to Germany with Sven at the helm! It would have been 2-1, with no attacks whatsoever, Owen Hargreaves brought on as a sub when England needed goals. What's that you say, Heskey? Oh, fair point.
Technically not winners, in that they were stunningly shite, they did, however, give all other teams and nations a wonderful laugh at their expense during the rather ponderous group phase. It's usually the Dutch you can rely on to slip into infighting and split camps before they've even got off the plane, but this year France were determined to take on the mantle. Unlike Eriksson, Raymond Domenech's stock has fallen; while the French players kept up the national stereotype by going on strike for a day. What more could you want, apart from a dodgy handball to see them go out?
9. Juan Sebastian Veron.
Argentina might have been undone by Germany, but Veron managed a rather interesting feat in the game against Greece, completing more passes than the entire Greek team managed between them in the same game. He and Diego Forlan were among the players who proved that you can be a flop in the best league in the world (tm), even in the best team in the best league in the world (tm), and still be a rather good footballer.
Not a victory for beautiful silky football, as the cliche will have us believe, but they just about edged it over the entire tournament, I think. I'd have liked to have seen the Germans win, but Spain deserved to beat them in the semi-final. And now 'perennial achievers' at last.
1. Adrian Chiles.
The man once memorably described by Stewart Lee as a 'toby jug full of hot piss' has had a miserably bad World Cup. Time was when Chiles was a rather matey counterpoint to the deadly seriousness of the BBC's Match of the Day dourness; now he just looks like a slightly bored lumpy cushion whose one-note schtick has run out of steam. Soon to be shunted onto a GMTV sofa to talk about cookery, diets, celebrities and all kinds of tedious wank instead of football, it's hard to see how the stardust has worn off in so short a space of time.
Chiles was so unappealing, and fronted such a desperately bad ITV effort, that he might as well have presented the final yesterday in his pants and vest - no-one was watching. This despite the rubbishness of the BBC - ITV always manage to go that one notch lower, and even Lineker's hackneyed trash was seen as being superior to Chiles's hackneyed trash. Dark days.
Is it just that anyone moving from BBC to ITV for the bigger bucks and the better break - think Eric and Ernie flopping on ATV, or the Goodies, or well just about anyone really - tarnishes anyone's career? Or is it just the pressure to be funny in those tiny spaces between advert breaks doesn't suit his style? Or is it just that pundits, presenters and analysts have been shown to be shite? Which brings me to number two.
2. Without exception, all pundits, presenters and analysts on TV.
Go on, name me one pundit you looked forward to seeing on telly. One. Just one. No...? No. Of course not, no. Fucking garbage, the lot of them. When they weren't blithely going through the teamsheets at the last minute to see if they'd heard of a Premiership player, they were wrongly predicting the results with a smug certainty reserved for those blokes down the betting shop who end up in grainy CCTV footage throwing chairs through windows when their sure things don't quite come off.
For the likes of Shearer and Hansen, they're like old-school stand-up comedians still going through the same routines they did in the 1970s, unaware that everyone in the audience has seen it. Yes Alan, the defending was scandalous; yes, the other Alan, he's got to hit the target from there. Andy Townsend is just all kinds of diabolical wrong. And then there's Kevin Keegan, a man whose optimism for England, in the face of their inherent shitness, reminds me of an excitable golden retriever with its tongue hanging out, waiting for you to chuck that tennis ball one more time. But they all ended up looking like mugs - unable to tell you what was going on, who was going to win, anything at all.
3. Team England.
Christ, they were bad. Really, hummingly bad. Incapable of putting two passes together. First touch bouncing out for a throw. Slagging off their own fans. Fighting among each other. You'd hope that this would be the prelude for the England management to take a flamethrower to the 'Golden Generation' and start looking to the future. But I don't think they will. Beckham will still be lingering around like Iago, and the same failures will be trundled out for the next set of qualifiers, and we won't learn anything. But somehow that sense of expectation will have returned...
4. Whoever did this graphic.
5. Anyone who advertised anything.
Didn't look too good, those endorsements by players who turned to cack as soon as they entered the southern hemisphere. Still, Messi, Rooney and chums have been laughing all the way to the bank.
I don't want this to turn into an 'ITV were the worst thing in the history of broadcasting ever during this World Cup' piece, but fucking hell. I once tried to watch an entire half an episode of his World Cup show, just to see how bad it was. Christ! I couldn't have done it if I'd nailed myself to the floor - and even then, the pain wouldn't have been enough to distract me from the horror. Corden's ubiquity got to the stage where a device to banish him from the internet had to be invented.
Maybe TV is largely run by Ruperts and Tristrams, and they think Corden is what plebs are like. So they must think we like Corden, because he's one of us. Except it's not a class thing at all - he's just fucking atrocious, in every way, in every sense. Please, for the love of all that's good in the world, for the sake of humanity, don't let him back in four years' time.
7. Interesting football.
I know Spain are apparently 'beautiful' because they can pass in triangles without ever getting the ball anywhere; and yes, compared to England's pisspoorness, they look like veritable footballing giants. But there were so many nervy matches, so many scaredycats unwilling to try and play the ball around a bit, that even pedestrian, ordinary Spain end up looking like geniuses. Where were the cracking games, the 4-3s, the 3-2s, the fightbacks, the comebacks, the dramatic wins, the stunning spectacles? Not really anywhere, and that's a shame.
Honestly, I don't have a vendetta against ITV, but fuck me sideways, that game where Jim Beglin got taken ill was the most gear-grindingly tedious affair ever. You don't see the point of Beglin until he's not there - but he provides a gap where you don't have to listen to Tyldesley for a few seconds. Some readers may be aware of 'pass the gap' games. Beglin's the gap. You don't think you need the gap, until all of a sudden you get more and more desperate for it. But that analogy would imply that Tyldesley is actually anything other than otiose drivel, and he isn't.
9. The Dutch.
Oh dear. I had kind of wanted the Oranje to win the final, to make up for those previous defeats, but they couldn't get the bloody ball in the net, and then went and blamed the ref for booking players who had made horrendous fouls. The blame lies with the Dutch team themselves - for once not kicking lumps out of each other, but taking it out on Spain in the final. It wasn't the 'beautiful passing velvety soft loveliness v ugly brutal Leeds of the 70s' final that a lot of people are saying it was, but still.
10. Sepp Blatter.
Made to look like a dick, as usual, for breezily dismissing the use of technology in football and then having on the same day two clear incidents that showed why its use is obvious in the 21st century. And just generally for being him really.
All other suggestions welcome...
I've noticed something funny over the past few days. Not just in myself, though it's there too, but among other England fans and English folk I know as well. I want Germany to win the World Cup.
I say it's something 'funny' because the lazy, cliched stereotype of English people, and England football fans - one which regrettably gets dragged out by my so-called comrades on the political left - is that we're a bunch of knuckledragging xenophobic idiots who would rather cut our own nuts off than see the Germans win. I sigh when I read that kind of candyfloss, because I'm afraid it's really rather out of date. It's been refreshing to tune into 606 and hear England football fans say they'd like to see Germany win, and feel the same thing myself.
Not just because they beat England and it makes our crushing humiliation a little less damning - though it does, a tiny bit - but because they deserve to win it. I'd be happy if the Netherlands got revenge for 74 in the final, I guess, and I wouldn't mind Spain winning either - it's only Uruguay who are the villains of the piece thanks to that handball against Ghana... and even then you have to admire the way their players have fanned out across the globe to learn their craft (avoiding, it might be noted, "The Best League In The World (tm)" as they've done it).
But... no. I'd like to see the Germans win most of all. They set a good example (apart from the odd bit of Klinsmann-like diving here and there), play attacking football, play as a real team greater than the sum of their not inconsiderable parts, and clearly love what they're doing. It's the excitement of young players playing with freedom - as opposed to the clunky creaking Premiership stars licking their wounds in their Baby Bentleys back home. Some twerps have been saying they're glad Germany won because somehow the PC Brigade scuppered England, but they're idiots who should be cheesegratered to death, quite frankly, the usual attention-seeking parochial planks - and they also ignore the multicultural German side, with the likes of Ozil, Boateng, Cacau and Podolski playing their parts throughout the tournament.
It's time for those stupid thinly-veiled references to the war - witness several tabloid headlines in the build-up to England's football lesson a week ago - to be consigned to the dustbin. Time to grow up, and I think most of us have - not all, of course, but I'd like to hope that the "Two world wars, one world cup" jingoistic drivel has gone the way of the two-footed tackle. I think we can be a bit more mature now, and say that the Bundesliga is something to admire and be envious of, despite our own league's self-proclaimed status as the best anywhere ever; we can either learn the hard lessons from being outplayed by Germany, or we can sink as they move ever further away from us.
It's fun to have rivalries, of course, and that's part of the appeal of the World Cup. One of the good things about the tournament - which its detractors don't get, I think - is that it can heal old wounds, not just reopen them. And besides, they beat bloody Argentina, so they're all right by me*. Come on Germany!
* This is a joke. Get it? A joke.
BRITAIN'S football pundits have released a statement condemning their own ignorance and lack of insight, and have offered their immediate resignation.
In a surprise move that echoes the admission of pointlessness expressed by political reporters during the recent general election, the pundits have contributed a joint statement bemoaning their "feeble and tedious" analysis, regretting their "inexcusable lack of knowledge" and "ridiculously limited assessments of teams."
The statement, issued on behalf of all of those chirpy but clueless former professional footballers and their TV presenter friends who have shed not a fucking bit of light on this year's World Cup for British TV viewers, begins: "We, the undersigned, may have tried to give the impression that we knew anything about football, and international football in particular, ahead of this year's World Cup.
"In truth, we now realise that other than watching some Premiership games and maybe the odd bit of La Liga on Sky Sports, we've got no better knowledge that anyone at home. Indeed, anyone with the most rudimentary researching skills probably knows a bit more about world football than we do.
"We had hoped to bluff our way through our crushingly inexcusable ignorance with a bit of chat and some accurate predictions, but since we all smugly sat there and said that a Brazil-Argentina final was almost inevitable, we're a bit fucked when it comes to that fig-leaf, if truth be told.
"Sure, we're ex-professionals, but instead of actually doing our well-paid job and doing some proper research into world football, we just sat around joking about what a funny thing it was that nations like Japan and Paraguay dared to even play football in the first place, as well as patronising all the African teams as much as humanly possible, then expecting that a bunch of players from the English Premiership, the Best League In The World (tm), would find their way into the final, because we'd heard of them.
"We now realise this was not as professional as it could have been.
"Yes, we did some slow-motion replays of goals with exciting graphics and so on, but this, if anything, exposed our lack of insight all the further. It still didn't shed any light on why one team might be playing better than the other.
"With a heavy heart and after a lot of soul-searching, we now ask that we be relieved of our duties immediately by our employers, and our salaries given instead to some bloke from down the pub called Jeff who's actually heard of players outside the Premiership and understands that there are leagues in Europe and South America as well as the famous ones."
A BBC spokesman added: "We did think that viewers appreciated these millionaires being flown out to South Africa and not doing even the most basic of research for their well-paid jobs, but apparently, for some reason, they don't."
An ITV insider said: "Look, we've got the best theme music and some nice graphics. We've blown the rest of the budget on Moon Face Chiles so there wasn't any cash for people who'd actually bothered to fucking learn something about international football. You'll just have to make do with shit like Chris Coleman, all right?"
A lot has been written about the failures of the England football team, specifically what went wrong and who we can blame. Not enough has been said, in my opinion, about what can be done to rescue England from another tournament travesty in two years' time (if we're lucky enough to qualify) or four years' time (ditto). So I've decided to grasp the nettle and come up with a plan. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments...
1. Learn to pass the fucking ball properly. Passing is a good way of getting the ball from one player to another. A lot of football teams - ones which pundits will bewilderingly describe as being 'not as good on paper as England' - like doing this, and they can do it rather well. Passes are good when they go to someone on your team, and not someone on the other team. Special note for Steven Gerrard: Passes don't necessarily have to be raking 60-yard crossfield balls. If you've got a friend you'd like to pass to just a few feet away, why not let him have a bash with the ball for a bit?
2. Taxi for Beckham. How many times did the camera cut to Nonpreciousmetalballs Beckham grimacing away making vague sex faces during the World Cup? Did we really need to see him all the time? Sure, there was a time when Good Old Becks would get us out of a hole with a well-taken free-kick, but that time's gone. I hate to say it of someone the same age as me, but he's past it, and slow, and can't tackle. Saying 'thanks but no thanks' was a good move from Steve McClaren, one of his better decisions. Sure, he's an ambassadorial figure, etc etc, good for the lad and I know he's worked hard, but he's not a good enough footballer to be in the team on merit; and certainly not a good enough coach to be in the coaching staff on merit.
3. Drop players who are playing like shit. It seems an obvious enough move, doesn't it? But we're back at Beckham again here for this one, in a lot of ways. When he was top dog, there was no way he was ever going to be dropped, regardless of how badly he was playing. "Ah, but it's Becks," people would say. "Look at what he's done in the past, you can't drop a player of that class." You can, and should, if he's lumbering around like he's in a suit of armour. For Beckham then, read Rooney now. How many inept first touches, hopeless bits of control and feeble attempts on goal does it take to bring it home? "Ah, but it's Rooney, look at what he did for Manchester United several months ago." I couldn't give a shit! If he's not delivering in an England shirt, get him on the plane home.
4. Stop hoofing it up there like some bloody kind of non-league centre back trying to clear the ball into the allotments. A little hoof every now and then is understandable; resorting to lumping the ball skywards every 10 seconds when a midfielder isn't immediately available just seems a little bit on the lazy side. And yes, Peter Crouch is tall, and yes, Emile Heskey is good at winning knock-downs; but Jesus Christ, how many goals do England actually score from speculative punts that go miles in the air? And yet, we never learn.
5. Furthermore, any parent standing on a touchline telling his child to whack the ball miles upfield at the earliest opportunity should be taken away and beaten to death, then hung in a barbed-wire basket at the entrance to the little league playing fields, as a warning to others. It's only right and proper.
6. Realise that we don't deserve to win anything. We're fucking well England, not Brazil. We won the World Cup once. Once! And it was 44 years ago. In the meantime, while everyone else has learned to play football, we've stood still and kept our fingers crossed that somehow everything will suddenly slot into place. It's not going to just happen. There is not and was never a Golden Bloody Generation. Winning tournaments means hard work, skilled players and a bit of luck. We're just hoping for a bit of luck.
7. Stop defending like twats. Again, this may seem an obvious point to make, but apparently not. While many other nations have realised the importance of stopping goals from going in, we haven't. It might make for an exciting Premiership to see goals whistling in from all angles every few minutes, but it's not so good when your national side's matches deserve to be replayed to the Benny Hill theme tune.
8. If you're told to play somewhere, fucking play there. Don't grumble behind closed doors about how you think you'd be better off somewhere else. Have a word with the boss if you're peeved, then if he won't change his mind accept the decision and play your heart out. You're in the immensely privileged position of playing international football and representing your homeland on the world stage - yet you want to whimper about how you reckon you'd be much better off in another position. Here's another position for you - on the fucking subs bench. Better still, watching the match on the 50ft cinema screen in your enormous mansion. See how you like that.
9. Don't slag off your own fans. You might be used to undying adulation at your club side, but those are people who've been on a coach from Surrey for five hours to come up and watch you play in Manchester or Liverpool. They're just happy to be there. They'd be happy if you jogged up and down the touchline, or wore a funny hat. England fans are even more loyal to the cause - they can't choose to support Brazil just because they're the best team, like a lot of your fans choose to follow your club because they want success and can't bear the thought of having to deal with defeat. We love you, honestly we do. But don't play like shit and then get the hump. Try scoring some goals. Or playing like you're not some overweight plumber turning out in Sunday League with a hangover. That might help smooth things over.
10. Don't raise our hopes. Please, if you're going to be cack in a tournament, just play that way in the qualifying campaign so we can have some warning about it. Don't go looking pretty competent during qualification, lulling us into that foolish idea that you might actually be quite good this time, then turn to shit at the first kick when it really matters. Just be consistent. Consistently good would be nice; consistently shit would be less preferable, but at least it would be consistent.