Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

England, Innit?

1. Our New White Elephant

At exactly 12.32pm on Saturday I was giggling away as Gianluca Pazzini walloped in the first ever goal at the new Wembley. Naturally he was being marked by a West Ham centre half at the time but it amused me none the less.

What surprised me most about the new Wembley was not the padded seats, the Somme like pitch or the Seafood and Champagne bar (although that was something of a shock) but rather the people inhabiting the stadium.

I was surrounded by thousands of what I could only describe as "young people". Now Mama Shark insists that I too was once an infant but I can't remember it. Anyway, had aliens landed at Wembley on Saturday, were it not for the game of football going on, they would have assumed that this was some sort of Fake Jamaican Accent Convention.

Or, as I believe they like to be known, 'The National Association of Innit'.

2. The Game

Starting with the Under-21 game first then. This was rather like watching a training game, to nobody's great surprise.

The Italians were significantly better than England, employing the highly unusual tactic of passing and moving. England were somewhat lacklustre, with only David Bentley really displaying an international class technique. But he looks like the sort of chap who doesn't return his library books so I hold that against him.

Alarmingly there were several English players on the pitch who looked simply clueless against the swift, highly skilled Italian attackers. Certainly not least amongst equals were our very own Anton Ferdinand and Nigel Reo-Coker. Ferdinand, especially was woeful. Perhaps his nan was ill again.

3. The Evening Blues: Israel 0 - 0 England

Tel Aviv was a laugh wasn't it? The only thing that surprises me about England anymore is that anyone is surprised at all.

Look at the players: Andy Johnson, Phil Neville, Paul Robinson, Jamie Carragher (at left back), Aaron Lennon (at left midfield) - these are not international class footballers.

Look at the manager: Here is a man whose Middlesbrough team were so dull that local children used to deliberately get sent to detention on Saturday's so they didn't have to go and watch the crap on display at The Riverside.

Be still my beating heart.

4. The Middle 8

Interesting to see the rest of the country catching up on the Francis Lampard bandwagon and throwing themselves headlong on to it.

By my reckoning Lampard in an England shirt has now reverted to being the player he was at West Ham. A near useless central playmaker whose only contribution is to take up good attacking positions and score the occasional goal. Unlike at Chelsea, where the team are dominant and he has Essien to do all his running and Makalele to do all of his defensive work, this England team are middling at best.

With so little creativity, England require a player in the central role who makes things happen rather than reacting to them. For all his undeniable talents, this is not Lampard. There is a fellow at Liverpool who might fit the bill, but we're busy marooning him on the right.

5. Department Of Delusion : Part 342

Andy Johnson is a better option for England than Jermain Defoe.

Possibly the maddest decision taken by an Englishman since someone decided to try and set the River Thames on fire to celebrate the Millennium.

6. Trying To Open The Andorra: Andorra 0 - 3 England

Like a school bully smashing up the little kid at the back of the bike shed, this was a thoroughly unrewarding victory.

The absence of Lampard allowed Gerrard the dominant central role that I've been demanding since 2 paragraphs ago, and look how it paid off. If only Maclaren read The H List.

I will reiterate my earlier point however. It seems churlish to me to question the players desire to represent their country. One does not reach international level without having a near maniacal thirst for personal success.

Therefore, for instance, I do not hold Stewart Downing responsible for his continued ineptness. I'm sure he cares, I'm just equally sure that it's irrelevant because he appears to have no control over his feet. Even more sadly, he may actually be the best option we currently have on the left which is indicative of the gradual lowering of quality required to be an England international in recent years.

7. Why Gerrard Should Be Captain

Exhibit A your honour. Not that two goals against Andorra should be anybody's job application but I have been stating for some time now that John Terry shouldn't be in England's team, let alone the captain.

Shouting loudly at your team mates whilst being continually turned inside out by international class strikers does not a skipper make. I'd rather hitch my wagon to the man who inspired the comeback at Istanbul and then made me cry for a fortnight last May.

Why we haven't made Gerrard the centrepiece of our national team for the past 5 years is a mystery. Instead Maclaren seems determined to shoehorn in as many 'big name' players (and Downing) as he can, in a vain attempt to replace tactical nous with Premiership derring do. And look how well it's working.

8. Your Summer Plans For 2008

You might want to get into cricket and Wimbledon innit.

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