One way and another, I surmise England will slide and scramble their way into the finals of the European Championship where in all likelihood they will sink without trace.
That Fabio Capello has long shot his golden bolt is all too clear. He should have course have gone from his ludicrously overpaid £6 million a year job immediately after the disaster of the South African World Cup, but a bunch of boneheads at the insipid FA, various of whom have been blamed, decided to strike out the clause which enabled either side to withdraw, after the tournament ended.
Against a largely superior Switzerland, Capello deployed a team which in major instances stood logic on its head. How could he possibly have kept his eventual savour, Ashley Young, on the bench until half time? How could he have kept an ineffectual and notably out of form James Milner on the field throughout? Why was Theo Walcott, notably inconsistent this year, preferred to Stewart Downing who, like Young had been sparkling with Aston Villa, but who was used far too late to make an impact?
The initial formation was supposed to be a 4-3-3 but of course it wasn’t. Darren Bent, whose shocking right footed blast over the bar should have ejected him forever, was, in fact, left all alone up front in the first half though he did when unmarked, send over from the left an inviting cross which deserved a decent response. The arrival of Young, playing “in the hole,” made movement and co-ordination vastly better. One could sympathise with Peter Crouch angrily resenting his total exclusion. I still regard him, at international level, as a superb rabbit killer, but he was surely more worthy of a place than Bobby Zamora, who, as his ex-manager Mark Hughes had warned, has only an hour’s play left in his legs as he endures his injury.
There was some excuse for those two horrible goals conceded by poor Joe Hart, latest in the seemingly unending line of blundering England keepers. Green in South Africa, Robinson in Zagreb, “Calamity” James in Copenhagen and Vienna. And yes, let is, alas, be recorded that late in his international career, even David Seaman erred in Japan when Ronaldinho’s attempt swirled past him, and in Southampton, when he was beaten direct from a corner by Macedonia.
Montenegro, who have already drawn so boldly at Wembley, await England, presumably with Wayne Rooney and transplanted hair this time, in October. Montenegro wasted a fine chance to go a point ahead of England, albeit with a diminished side, by drawing at home to Bulgaria, Capello hardly has a cornucopia of talent at his command, there are signs that even those erstwhile bulwarks of central defence, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, are showing signs of wear and tear. But please, let us hear no more of that weary old excuse of…weariness.
That tireless investigator Andrew Jennings promises that before long, the Swiss prosecutor in the canton of Zig will emerge with a verdict which will blow the ineffable Blatter out of the water. All too easily said, alas, than done. When Blatter is publicly embraced by Franz Beckenbauer, when Michel Platini, beyond doubt an honourable man but seemingly a deluded one, votes for wretched Qatar in the 2022 World Cup, what hope is there for a better, cleaner FIFA?
In truth, what hope has there ever been since the Machiavellian Havelange eased Stanley Rous out of the FIFA Presidency in 1974? And stayed there virtually unopposed, with not a voice raised against him, till, 1998? Den of thieves, sink of iniquity, Augean stables, you may classify FIFA, in the ensuing years, however you wish. Meanwhile, I still wait to know what moved Chuck Blazer suddenly to blow the whistle on his previous dear friend, the abominable Jack Warner.