At last for some kind of cool consolation we can say that Spain on Saturday at Wembley will be on a hiding to nothing. If they with all their coruscating stars cannot beat a much weakened England team and beat them comfortably, it would be a frustrating and surprising evening.
For once it is hard not to feel sorry for Fabio Capello whose stewardship of the England team has been a dull and disappointing affair, even if he has now got them, pretty unimpressively, to the European finals.
Wayne Rooney his best player – though you would never have thought so during the last World Cup – is lost to him for three Europe matches. That he still intends to take him to the finals is quite understandable. To gamble on England surviving the first round of the finals makes sense in hoping to qualify and thus have Rooney on board.
But in addition to Rooney, there is now Jack Wilshere, shamefully enough the only English midfielder who arguably can pass a ball, no Steve Gerrard, injured yet again, no Ashley Young, the English attacker most in form this season.
With John Terry still embroiled in the long running, distasteful episode of the racist insult which was or wasn’t ever made, and which certainly wasn’t heard by its putative victim, Anton Ferdinand, there were calls for Terry to be excluded, let alone be deprived of the captaincy, on moral grounds. Though a much stronger reason for omitting him both from the Spanish and the Swedish games was surely on his shaky club form. Presumably the reason why his usual partner, the other Ferdinand, hasn’t even got into the squad.
As to the question of captaincy and its presumed significance, I’m never able to understand it. After all, by and large, what does a soccer captain do, unless he is a splendid strategist such as Danny Blanchflower in his halcyon years with Spurs and Northern Ireland, or Alfredo Di Stefano when he was ruling the roost and running the team in his glorious seasons with an all conquering Real Madrid.
I would accept that Terry off the field is no role model, though I couldn’t make sense of Capello’s decision to deprive him of the captaincy because he had been having an affair with the ex, and I stress the word ex, lover of the English international Wayne Bridge, even if Bridge was mortified and refused to shake Terry’s hand. No, I am not condoning adultery but the words of Hamlet occur to me: “Treat each according to his deserts and who’d escape whipping?”
Meanwhile, the Terry-Anton Ferdinand case, in which the Metropolitan Police is so inexplicably involved – aren’t there any robbers and murders to catch? – does show one thing. That in England today, at least racism is taken seriously, where some years ago it was endemic.
Quite unlike such countries as Russia, where it is repugnantly present; witness the way that fine footballer Nigeria’s Peter Odemwinge, was driven out of Lokomotiv Moscow by shamefully bigoted and gleeful fans.
Not to mention the way black England players have been abused in countries as far as apart as Bulgaria – so recently – and Spain. When Real Madrid’s vicious ultras some years back drove the excellent black Colombian coach Pacho Maturana out of town before he could even take office, the gutless club allowing them their way.
Just, you might say as feeble hypocritical FIFA have allowed Russia with all its racism, – and despite their down professed Kick Out racism policy, to stage the 2018 World Cup. And no, MP Hugh Robertson, the confused head of the Sport Culture and Whatever committee in the House of Commons, it had nothing to do with FIFA giving the tournament to countries, even soccer negligible, overheated Qatar, which had never had it before. Robertson and his committee minions appear, with menacing mien, to want to overhaul the FA. Well, many of us want to, but what would a bunch of clueless Parliamentarians put in its place?