The stark realisation for Manchester United fans is that their Everton counterparts seem much happier without David Moyes. Even more so after their 1-0 win...
Great value on the golf course but not in the TV studio, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers wonder if Alan Shearer just serves as a source of comfort for the average viewer...
It often seems we're a hand-wringing bunch in this country. There must be a gloomy tinge to everything we do. It's tricky to imagine another country in which a book called 'Is It Just Me, Or Is Everything Sh*t?' could be a popular publication.
Of course, when it comes to football, we aren't alone in wailing when things don't go perfectly. Most other 'major' countries (that is to say, any country with any vague international pedigree) get into a frightful tizz about their national side.
However, in England our football identity seems to be (and I'm generalising here) a curious yet winning combination of instinctive pessimism along with an over-inflated sense of our position in the world. We think England should be doing well, but don't expect them to do so.
This combination, along with the notion that bad news sells, seems to explain the woe, the doom, the sky is falling in attitude towards the England team from the press. As far back as the draw with Ukraine at Wembley (England's second game), there was talk of a qualification campaign on the rocks, what would happen if it all went wrong, sob, sob, sob.
A prominent national newspaper writer (actually, let's not be coy about this - The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel) has been banging a drum marked 'Roy Hodgson is a cautious manager and this is very bad' for some weeks now. Last week he wrote a piece detailing how Hodgson prioritised 'not losing' over going gung-ho for a victory, because drawing isn't as good as winning, and we all thanked him for clearing up that particular conundrum.
He followed up that piece with another on Monday criticising Hodgson for the presumed selection of James Milner ahead of Andros Townsend for the game in Ukraine, on the basis that Townsend has looked quite threatening for three games this season against fairly rank opposition. That Townsend was largely anonymous and subbed after 75 minutes against Arsenal, Tottenham's biggest test of the season thus far, apparently wasn't considered relevant. Samuel's attitude is not isolated to him, with most of the press wringing their hands about Hodgson's conservatism.
As Mediawatch noted on Monday, imagine for a second the sh*tstorm that might occur if Hodgson lost himself and played 3-3-4, opted for all-out attack in Kiev and, as would quite probably be the case, England lost. One presumes the opinion columns would not be full of 'Well, England lost, but at least they had a good go' sentiments. They would have been looking for an appropriate vegetable to Photoshop Hodgson's face onto.
The real problem with this gloom is that it would be more relevant if Hodgson's tactics weren't working. England are, at the time of writing, top of their qualification group. This is only on goal difference, but the reason for that is that England have the best goal difference of any side in any group, at + 22. England have the joint-best scoring record (25, level with Germany) and have let in a measly three goals in seven games thus far. Only Spain and Belgium have conceded fewer. One might think that a good defensive record would be cause for praise. Not so, it seems.
Granted, England have a couple of truly dreadful teams in their group, but they've scored more than Portugal and Russia (who've both faced Luxembourg), the Netherlands (Andorra), Italy (Malta) and Belgium (Scotland). They have the same number of goals as Germany, who have the Faroe Islands to contend with. There are obvious caveats that are there for all to see, but 25 goals in seven games does not suggest a crippling and counter-productive negativity.
It's reminiscent of the criticism given to the England cricket team by assorted bombastic ex-players this summer, for whom Alastair Cook's cautious style of captaincy is anathema. England have just won their third straight Ashes series at a canter and have yet to lose a Test in 2013. For the critics, it's an infuriatingly successful approach.
The last time England lost a qualifying match was against Ukraine four years ago, and that was a dead game when Fabio Capello's side had already secured their place in the World Cup. The last meaningful qualification loss was some six years ago, that drizzly night against Croatia. You might think that the gloomy sages of the press would think back to that night and recall what a truly rubbish England side looked like.
For this reason we should also dispel the notion that a draw in Kiev on Tuesday evening would be a bad result. On the contrary, it would be at worst a very solid point against a team in form. Since Oleg Blokhin left to manage Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine have won all four of their games under new coach Mikhail Fomenko by an aggregate score of 18-2. A draw would leave England clear at the top of Group H, with two (admittedly tough) home games to play. See? It's probably going to be okay. Sure, England could lose, but you know what? They could win as well. Don't depress yourself with pessimism, chaps - be happy! Have a sunny disposition! Turn that frown upside down!
This, of course, is not to say that there are not problems with Roy Hodgson's England. Obviously there are, but at present qualification is the issue at hand, and that is going reasonably well. Just because England haven't won all their games 5-0, it doesn't mean disaster is imminent. Obviously this is going to look plenty silly if England lose in Kiev, but if I worried too much about looking silly...well, I'm in the wrong business.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter
The criticism of the England cricket team is different and legitimate in a least two ways. Firstly England's negative tactics over the summer lapsed into gamesmanship (or "cheating" as it's more commonly known) and secondly because of the feeling that a talented group of players could be even better and are being held back by negative leadership. This latter cannot be said of the football team.- jonnywishbone2