Leader of the Oppothition


I’d be delighted if Ed Miliband won the next general election. Not for reasons political you’ll understand, rather aural/ optical. He however, may not be.


(We’ll thort the countrieth financeth out!)

Yes, Miliband is the gift that keeps on giving. You’ve probably not stopped laughing since observational wits made note of his physical resemblance to Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit fame, but I’m afraid you’re about to go through another pair of tousers. Ed has a lisp. Ha! Imagine him saying that. He’d say “listhp”, wouldn’t he?

While the six year olds who evidently dwell in the editor’s office at The Sun may not be particularly erudite in expressing their political affinities, my God do they hang their victims out to dry on aesthetics. The good thing for Roy is that he won’t have to put up with any childish behaviour from the pack of lions he takes to the Euros, albeit mainly because children don’t drink, rape and pillage. Well, not in the Middle England bubble anyway.

As a hypothetical six year old, I’m actually a bit annoyed with The Sun for not also pointing out the fact that Roy’s also got an excessively wobbly neck. And while we’re at it, he also has very thin grey hair. And he looks like an owl. “Look at the old owl man who can’t speak properly,” they guffaw in Sun editorial chinwags. “With his thin grey hair and wobbly neck!” Fans of cerebral comedy can now relax safe in the knowledge that headlines such as “Hodgson flying”/ “Hodgson tawny between Gerrard and Parker” are but a month away. I’m sure the FA weren’t expecting to have to defend their man until news comes through that Theo Walcott was seen embarking the plane to Poland, but Fleet Street’s finest patriots have accelerated the process.

“We are delighted at the media response to Roy’s appointment but are disappointed with the headline in The Sun, which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful,” said David Bernstein, which, all things considered, makes a welcome change to: “No, we didn’t speak to ‘Arry.” Women’s dignity aside, The Sun is a perennial stranger to ‘poor taste’ – in a literal sense at least – as anyone who’s read Alex James’s food criticism will know.

“When it’s busy in a Michelin kitchen, all the chefs are doing is putting pre-prepared parts of a meal together, which is essentially the same as McDonald’s.”

I’ll leave that with you.

It was nice to see Gary Neville calling for the dissolution of The Sun, and he has since been rendered a temporary Scouser, an un-coveted prize for which he and his family are due to receive five minutes respite from LFC internet trolls. He showed a commendable willingness to go against the major shareholder of his new employers BSkyB; the most brand-orientated organisation I’ve ever come across. His outrage was unsurprisingly not in sync however, with the tepidly gutless way in which Murdoch stable-mate Sky News reported The Sun’s latest barrel-scrape:

“The Football Association has criticised The Sun newspaper over its headline about new England manager Roy Hodgson which appeared to play on how he talks.”

Well thank God for Brave Journalism. You make your own mind up, reader. It’s not for the humble Sky News team to arrive at conclusions without hard evidence… which reminded me of a particularly newsworthy event that occurred last weekend.

I was in the garage, and dad asked me for the spade. He pointed directly at it. It certainly did look like a spade.

“Pass me that spade,” he said.

“This one,” I queried, hoping to confirm my earlier suspicions.

“Yes,” he said.

“You mean the one with the square head, that’s roughly twelve inches long by eight inches wide, with the green handle?”

“Oh stop messing around and give it here.”

“I just want to be sure that this is the spade you want, for while it does appear to be a spade, and you and I are both agreed that it is, I would be more comfortable if we sought mum’s opinion too – just to be sure.”

“You will never amount to anything.”


The Hodgson appointment has done nothing but highlight the tragic gulf in quality and, yes, sacrilege ahoy, importance between international and club football. Proud Roy probably wouldn’t get a look in at a ‘top club’, whatever that means, and prior to his appointment as England boss seemed likely to spend the rest of his professional days touring the mid-ranking sides in the midlands, on an everlasting merry-go round with Steve Bruce and Mick McCarthy. Some would say, perhaps harshly, that he still is. I’d probably agree, and not purely on the basis of some flippant but plausible reasoning about England being crap.

Un-simply put, England is just not a week by week, totalising concern for supporters (or indeed players). It exists for fleeting spells, generally two weeks in length, occurring no more regularly than every couple of years. People tend to be on holiday when England play, and to this observer, it is consequently associated with leisure time. Club football is dealt with during months of work and earning, and is thus imbued with similar characteristics.

Like the individual supporter’s career, progress can be gleaned and assessed on a week by week basis in club football, and Saturdays could be said to be an extension of the working week. You commute somewhere you don’t want to go to, get tired and come back on the first available train. At the end of a season you can look back and think: “Play-offs and a pay rise – if you’d offered me that at the start of the season Clive I’d have taken it,” or something. You can relate job offers to games, if you’re that way inclined: “Remember that brilliant weekend? I got promoted and then we got promoted.” Players have good and bad weeks, just like you. It almost makes sense.

England however, is a time for letting your hair down as opposed to serious thought. Success in tournament football often depends on getting the rub of the green: a dubious penalty shout, a player’s timely return from injury perhaps. It renders deep analysis largely futile, thereby vindicating the presence of Alan Shearer in the studio at the taxpayer’s expense. Premier League form is judged over the ‘last six games’, which is number of games the final two teams will play in the Euros. If you hit the ground running, you’ll probably do well. If your players are tired, you probably won’t.

Many will watch the games in the searing heat of the Costa del Romford, in the knowledge that winning or losing invariably means drinking to excess and giving “Manuel” – the hard-up proprietor of the fans’ favourite tapas bar – a harrowing wedgie in front of his young family; the only people in the locale who know that his actual name is Francisco. Either way, they’re in holiday mode, and so subsequently the football isn’t the be all and end all.

“I’ll tell you one thing amigo, I am fahkin hangin’. Sorry fella, did we do this?” says West-Ham-till-I-die’s Gary Watson, slapping the diminutive Spaniard hard on the shoulder as he attempts to glue a pint glass back together. “Still, at least we’re out the tournament, eh? Anyway, I gotta go toilet.”

England is watched with blurred summery vision, the games offering our public a marker by which the individual can know when to start clambering out of drunken stupor, and get back to renewing their season ticket at Griffin Park.


The heartening general reaction to this week’s balls up from News International appears to be along the lines of “if we don’t get behind this man, how will we stand a chance?” Indeed. As Ed Miliband might say, had he not spent his life in Hampstead and Oxford: let’s get behind Roy and stand a chance. Let’s stand a bloody good chance. But of what? You know that at least one idiot will say it. Winning, that is. Obviously Botham’s a given, but I mean some one in the football world. Ironically it’ll probably be Shunned ‘Arry, who I’m sure has copywrited his signature “we’ve got some fantastic players in this country” battle cry. If he hasn’t, he really ought to – those lawyers can’t have been cheap. Just hearing the word “England” brings it out of him.

In a candid moment on the South Coast ladies-that-lunch scene, Sandra once revealed that ’Arry has to sleep in the guest room during major tournaments due to his excessively wriggly dreaming and incessant sleep commentary; and was apparently left bemused on a holiday to New England, which he’d been under the impression was a metaphor.


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