SQUARE pegs, round holes; substitutions that make the team worse; just one chance created in the entire game because the most creative player has been dropped; a delusional post-match analysis suggesting that “we controlled the game out there”… magnificent.
Boro fans won’t need educating about the tactical tinkering and second guessing of opposing coaches’ systems that led to the cock-up in Croatia. We’ve been there. But it will be a shock to the system for the press pack… not least because they picked the team.
The best thing about the England “humiliation” is that Stewart Downing can not be implicated.
Unless, of course, a crack team of forensic video scientists employed by the Sun can find footage from a hidden camera on the grassy knoll that proves conclusively that Stewie caused the divot on a pre-match trudge across the pitch, possibly in a fit of pique.
Scapegoat Downing was dropped because McClaren was too weak to resist the short-sighted clamour from the poison pen brigade to dump him. Despite being the only England player to put a ball into the box in the Macedonia game he was subjected to a scandalous savaging in the press, not just from the populist muck raking red tops but also the ‘quality’ papers.
The Guardian ran an on-line poll asking if Downing was good enough for international football, which is as effective a way of knocking the confidence of a young player by pandering to the mob mentality as you could devise – and yes, Guardian readers are prey to football jingoism too. The last bastion of non-judgemental objective liberalism in the press may more usefully have asked who is a better left winger than Downing? Or who has created more chances for England this year? Or, perhaps more to the point, which household names at glamour clubs consistently under-perform for England but escape the flak?
So with Stewie out of the firing line someone must be to blame… Steve McClaren come on down. It took Sven four years to lose a qualifier and Mac just ten weeks. And with a team of pampered prima donnas that supposedly represents a ‘golden generation’.
It was the first two goal defeat in a qualifier since Graham Taylor lost in Norway in 1993. And we know what a kicking the Turnip took at the hands of the press. The artists will be working on a cartoon carrot with shiny gnashers as we speak.