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O’Bugger

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There is no point dissecting England‘s defeat to Ireland today. The form book has been thrown out. The rule book has been thrown out. In fact England have piled up every piece of literature or article written about cricket and torched them. There is hardly any point in typing words because England will take them and drop them to the floor and burn those too. They like dropping.

 

Every time I close my eyes I see green. And a bit of purple.

 

Written by harrisharrison

March 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm

England vs Germany Memories

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1990

It may seem parochial to suggest it but the enmity between England and Germany didn’t explode until 1990. There’d been a few scuffles on and off the pitch before it but even in 1966 there is little mention of malintent between the sides. Even chubby Helmut Haller’s egregious pilfering of the matchball was only retrospectively condemned after Turin.

I can only recollect the game itself in highlight form. Largely because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, preferring instead to drift outside to the family garden and busy myself inspecting the herbaceous border. Peonies were more appealing than Klaus Augenthaler at that stage. Although I was too young to summon the emotional faculties to cope with the tension, but I understood the aspects of the West German squad that made them so unpopular: pioneers in the art of diving, jammy deflected free-kick merchants, and above all ruthless and strong and unbeatable.

1996

The European Championships semi-final at Wembley followed the blueprint created by the Turin match: fated England raise their game to be foiled again by Germany, who since 1990 had lost the ‘West’ in front of their name to be replaced by ‘fucking’. It was so sickening inevitable that Alan Shearer’s early opener just seemed to have written the opening passage in another tragedy. The Germans were more unlikeable than before, having slunk through pragmatically against Croatia in the quarter-finals. Matthias Sammer had been recruited from the old East Germany to ramp up the villainy factor. I think it was something about the way he minced forward from defence that was so disagreeable. And in front of him, a player I’d never heard of before or want to since, Dieter Eilts, dropping back to allow Sammer to flounce forward. He was a balding assassin required only to destroy anything resembling football that happened in his vicinity. It was anti-football and it was horrible.

2000

Both England and Germany were going through what might euphemistically be called a ‘transitional period’. They were rubbish. Dennis Wise kept Steven Gerrard out of the side. I don’t remember anything about the game. I don’t remember where I watched it. It was a hollow victory put into context by both teams’ subsequent departure from the tournament. Some men throwing outdoor furniture at each other in the town squares of Belgium just added to the squalor.

Later that year Germany got revenge of sorts in the qualifying stages of the next World Cup, after which a bedraggled Kevin Keegan fell on his sword. He may have been polishing it up before the game. It would explain away ill-conceived team selection which brought back the worst excesses of the Graham Taylor era. I know that Gareth Southgate is a massive square, but putting him in a round hole in midfield was a bit much.

2001

I pitched up at a pub at lunchtime to watch the reverse fixture from the best seat. I’ve watched football in pubs lying on the floor before. And on a window sill. Sofas are generally more comfortable. So we shoved one about a yard in front of a screen the size of Somerset. And waited. And waited. Scotland and Croatia came on. There was nothing else to do but get drunk. By the time the match kicked off there were about 200 punters behind our sofa but I was too confused to notice.

What transpired after is now a haze. Premium lager will do that to you.

Brushing Up On German History

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Given the deleterious effect it may have on his magnificent hair, Joachim Loew has probably never worn a spiked helmet. So I have no idea how he might look in one. But we’ll probably find out this week when The Sun publishes its unique interpretation of the German manager amid a gallery of goose-stepping bratwurst and possibly David Hasselhoff in lederhosen.

Despite the tabloids’ most strained attempts at whisking up the xenophobia, it’s definitely more difficult to hate the Germans now. And it’s not really because of the war. We’ve been laughing about that for yonks. Since ‘Allo ‘Allo that is.

But mainly because German football has changed. It’s been a sustained period of mutation since 1990, when they were thoroughly disagreeable largely because they were really good. During the European Championships in 1996, when their powers just began to pass their sell-by date, they substituted in a grittier wilful arrogance which simmered throughout the tournament and came to the boil in that hellish peacock walk executed by Andreas Moller on sending England out.

And then they turned bad. Laughably bad. So bad they lost to Keegan’s England. So bad they were thumped by Sven’s team. So bad that when they reached the World Cup final in 2002 the rest of the world giggled and sighed at their ludicrous durability in the face of total incompetence.

And at their nadir Jurgen Klinsmann and Loew applied the final spin on the revolution, liberating the team from the defensive shackles that bound their predecessors. Joyous yet fragile football that has inched them closer towards the summit again. And since they’ve gone onto the offensive they’ve become less, well, offensive.

So if like me, you’re struggling to summon up the bile from your innards to aim at Germany, then here’s a little aide-memoire for you:

It’s Fun Being Fergie

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So Colin Montgomerie is seeking the counsel of Sir Alex Ferguson in preparation for his leadership of the 2010 Ryder Cup team. The prospect of  Monty assuming Fergusonian management techniques in South Wales is a fascinating one. One wonders how much of Sir Alex’s advice the portly Scot will take to heart, but there are several intriguing scenarios:

1. The referees

John Paramore, you have been warned: there are no technical areas on the fairways. There is no fourth official to divert the wrath of Colin against the chief referee of the European tour and his hardy crew of officials. If Ferguson’s vituperative attitude towards the ref is replicated by Montgomerie on the golf course then we could find ourselves in an unpleasant situation. A red-faced Monty, jabbing an accusing finger into a disbelieving referee, while being forcibly restrained by a couple of stewards. All for a minor disagreement over the invocation of rule 18-6 (ball at rest moved in measuring).

And think of the final fourballs on the Saturday afternoon. Donald rolls in a four-footer at the last to halve his match with Casey against Mickelson and Kim. Handshakes all round and off to the bar. But no. In front of a baying crowd, Monty is pointing at his watch, eyeing down the referee. And we’re back off to the first tee to see if we can get Europe that point.

2. The Americans

Sir Alex is notorious for winding up his opponents with his wily mind games. Wenger, Mourinho, most recently Benitez and most hilariously little Kevin Keegan.

Monty’s opposite number Corey Pavin is a character who will not shrink away from a scrap. This a man who donned a Desert Storm army cap during ‘The War on the Shore’ Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in 1991. What a prick.

So let’s hope that Montgomerie can get under Pavin’s skin, maybe by questioning the professionalism of some of his American team: “When you do things like that about a man like Jim Furyk, I tell you what, I would LOVE it if we beat them in September”.

In truth Monty has form in this particular regard: maybe he could teach Ferguson a thing or two. He suggested that Brad Faxon may not be at the peak of his mental game in the run up to the 1997 Ryder Cup because he was in the middle of sticky divorce proceedings. It didn’t go down too well over the pond.

3. The Europeans

So Justin Rose takes Rory McIroy out for a night in downtown Newport the week before festivities: booze, drugs, strippers, a half-arsed orgy back at the hotel suite. Cue Monty. He is furious. The curly whippersnapper is hauled out by his ear and Rose is dropped from the team, banished to an South American satellite tour. Only to resurface on Celebrity Love Island reluctantly cavorting with Abi Titmuss.

And woe betide anyone who should three-stab on the 17th green to hand the Americans a vital point. Because Monty will be aiming a size 11 Footjoy straight for your forehead. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for the telltale studmarks on Robert Karlsson’s large Swedish noggin.

4. The press

And more particularly the BBC. Ferguson’s relationship with the Beeb disintegrated into nothing following a documentary shown on the channel about his son Jason. So what can we expect if Sir Alex’s mistrust has polluted the Monty view?

A vice-captain, lets say Paul Broadhurst, is pushed forward to take all press conferencs? A broadside is aimed at Peter Alliss, the commentator dismissed as “arrogant beyond belief”? Or even a shove in Hazel Irvine’s face as she proffers a hopeful microphone?

We can but dream…

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