Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Agony

No two ways about it. Bad few days for English sporting heroes.

I logged onto the BBC website while I was in Rhode Island on Wednesday to discover that England's footballers had lost in Russia. This now jeopardises their participation in Euro 2008.

England's rugby chaps lost the world cup final in Paris as I was whizzed into London on the Eurostar.

I don't have a mobile phone which can capture the internet so I didn't know the score. While I was at Waterloo I heard a few lads singing and asked them for the result.

There were lots of disappointed drunken faces on the Northern Line down to south London.

Would Louis Hamilton restore pride by clinching the formula one world title on Sunday?

Woe, woe and thrice woe.

When I was but a young boy I used to get very upset at England's demise in football. I distinctly remember wailing when they lost 3-2 to Germany in the 1970 World Cup quarter final.

"They'll be back," said one of the consoling adults. I think it was my mum. But she was so wrong. England didn't qualify for the 1974 World Cup in Germany, nor the 1978 extravaganza.

By the time they were in the 1982 finals I'd found things like French and Gemany literature to interest me.

This was what was so interesting about being in France last summer. Experiencing the feeling of a place preparing for a football World Cup final. Marvellous.

Even if France had won, I don't think I would have gone down the Champs Elysées to celebrate frenetically

After all I'm not actually French.

But as I prepare to return to action this Saturday in my own veterans' soccer league, I take heart as it's better to have been within reach of glory than nowhere near it.

I must maintain that frame of mind as the team's first three games in the top flight have yielded one win and two heavy defeats.

And it's still early in the season. So there's no need to be even thinking negative thoughts.

Look at the Boston Red Sox. They were 3-1 down in the seven match series for the right to contest the World Series.

While I was in Boston on Thursday night game five was on. I could hear the TV upstairs in the foyer of the guest house we were staying in.

The Red Sox won that game and on Saturday they won game six against the Cleveland Indians to tie the American League series at 3-3.

Game seven is on right now and Boston are 2-0 up but as they're in the bottom of the third innings, I have no intention of going back to American time to follow their progress through to the bottom of the ninth innings.

I'll go to sleep and find out what happened in the morning.

Much more logical. And maybe that kind of clear, incisive thinking will finally kick in with the English Football Association.

The bigwigs there might actually pick a manager who has an idea about winning things. Steve McClaren, the present coach, is likely to get sacked if England don't qualify for next year's tournament.

One football writer suggested in one of the Sunday papers that McClaren should be shunted even if they do qualify and the FA should hire a certain José Mourinho, formerly of the parish of Chelsea, on a short term contract.

He knows how to create a winning team.

If England won without the putative entertaining style that cost Mourinho his job at Chelsea, I don't think many people would care.

Roman Abromovich owns Chelsea and is at liberty to choose his terms. Somehow England belongs to all. During the 2006 world cup, England weren't particularly dazzling under Sven Goran Eriksson and they didn't advance past the last eight.

It's really not looking that good for the national team.

Moreso since no major silverware has been anywhere near being added to the trophy cabinet for more than 40 years.

It sounds like the scenario at Chelsea before a smooth young Portuguese took control.