You know it’s a slow day in international week when…
Wasn't Defoe a) being short and b) scoring for England more worthy of a double-page spread when he first scored in 2004? pic.twitter.com/9XnjE9npUH
— Football365 (@F365) March 28, 2017
Those are the third and fourth sports pages of the Daily Mail, comparing the height of England’s shortest and tallest goalscorers because Jermain Defoe scored two days ago.
Mediawatch is left with one lingering question: Wasn’t this more newsworthy when 5’7″ Defoe first scored for England in 2004?
On Tuesday morning, TalkSPORT asked famously sensitive cultural expert Danny Mills to pass comment on Wilfried Zaha’s decision to play for Ivory Coast, his country of birth, over England.
Firstly, here is what Zaha said when making his decision:
“It is rewarding first because I am proud to play for my country, then because the Ivoirian selection has quality players and it has always been a pool of talent. I left for England as a child and I did not return. So I did all my classes in my adopted country and it was the most normal thing in the world that I played for the English youth selections.
“But for the past four years, I have had ample time to analyse the situation and to take into account the offers of the Ivorian federation. So I made the right choice and I do not regret it.”
Now to Mills for his typically nuanced take. He knows all about the difficulties and deliberations of Zaha’s decision you see, because he was born in Norwich and played for England:
“Ultimately he’s taken the easier option and thought ‘Well, I might get a few more caps and I might get to play in a few more tournaments because my chances with England are probably going to be limited.’
“I probably done 30-odd squads and never got any game time; sat in the stands, sat on the bench. But you still turned up every single time in the hope that you might get a chance and take it.”
‘Ultimately’, Danny, you haven’t got a clue what Zaha was thinking or his reasons for choosing his country of birth, and thus projecting your opinion onto him is, at best, mildly offensive.
Still, it could be worse…
‘Gareth Southgate believes Wilfried Zaha never possessed the inner fight to play for England’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail.
‘Gareth Southgate says Wilfried Zaha did not have the passion to play for England’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.
‘Wilfried Zaha has been accused of trying to hold England to ransom’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror. He describes Southgate as ‘angry’.
Firstly, Southgate took specific care during his press conference not to say exactly what Mokbel and Ashton claim he ‘believes’ and ‘says’. He was merely passing comment on not wanting to persuade potentially eligible footballers that they should declare for England, leaving that decision with the players themselves.
Secondly, the first two introductions above suggest that Southgate was intimating that playing for England is somehow above playing for Ivory Coast, as if there is a certain level of ‘passion’ or ‘inner fight’ required for England and that anyone failing to match that level is more fit for an alternative nation. Again, Southgate did nothing of the sort.
Thirdly, and not for the first time, Mediawatch does not know where to start with Cross. Southgate made no such accusation, and was not angry. It’s just absolute codswallop designed to stir up controversy where none exists.
Mediawatch enjoys it when The Sun dabbles with statistics, like letting your granddad have a go on the Playstation and watching as he stares at the buttons and asks why he keeps running the ball into touch. Football editor Charlie Wyett is the latest to have a go.
‘JOE HART is just as good with his kicking as the Premier League’s No 1 sweeper-keeper Hugo Lloris.’
‘England No 1 Hart has kept clean sheets in all five qualifiers for Russia 2018, making a total of eight saves. Hart was axed by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, with the Spaniard believing the player was not good enough with his feet.
‘But SunSport today reveals compelling stats of the top goalkeepers in European World Cup qualifying — and they show Hart is up there with the best in the business. And while Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Spain’s David De Gea and German Manuel Neuer have been marginally more accurate on the ball, Hart’s passing accuracy is a healthy 84 per cent. That is the same as France and Spurs stopper Lloris, who is regarded as the best keeper with his feet in the Prem.’
1) Wyett has used a five-game period to make that conclusion, in which Hart, Lloris and the other goalkeepers played in different systems and against completely different teams. Apples and oranges doesn’t even cover it.
2) Wyett doesn’t account for the different lengths of passing, or the situations in which they were made. Nobody doubts that Hart can pass the ball five metres to a teammate under no pressure.
3) Maybe Guardiola made his decision on something more than passing accuracy?
4) Maybe Guardiola was more interested in Hart’s Manchester City form than (future) England form? In the Premier League last season, Hart ranked 22nd for passing accuracy among goalkeepers (and more than 10% below Lloris).
5) Is Lloris really regarded as the ‘best keeper with his feet in the Prem’?
Still, don’t worry about all that: ‘JOE HART is just as good with his kicking as the Premier League’s No 1 sweeper-keeper Hugo Lloris.’ And that’s a fact.
‘You only have to look’
It really is easy to define classic Stan Collymore. State a big opinion, often for effect, before backing that statement up with ‘evidence’ that does not bear scrutiny. Today’s Daily Mirror column brings a wonderful example of classic Collymore.
Collymore’s big opinion is that ‘The Merseyside derby is the biggest single game in English football’. It’s the opening paragraph of his piece.
Collymore’s evidence is that ‘you only have to look at the number of trophies the two clubs have won between them, compared with Manchester United and Manchester City, and Arsenal and Tottenham, to know that’.
The things we’re all left asking are why, if we’re comparing trophies as Stan Collymore urges, don’t Manchester United (20 league titles, 12 FA Cups, five League Cups, three European Cups and one Cup Winners’ Cup) compare to Everton (nine league titles, five FA Cups, one Cup Winners’ Cup). And why on earth do we only have to consider teams from the same city when comparing big games?
A tip, Stan: Add together Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s trophies. The results will blow you away.
He’s one of our own
From Manchester United’s official site:
‘When former Manchester United Under-18s boss Paul McGuinness posted this picture on Twitter, it caused quite a stir and struck a chord with most fans of the club and youth football in general. At the front of the shot was a very young Michael Keane, now an accomplished 24-year-old defender with Burnley, who made his competitive debut for England in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley. And that’s the thing about watching any of United’s youth sides: they genuinely provide a glimpse into the future.
‘Maybe there is something about the fortitude of those developed at the Aon Training Complex but photographs like this do end up carrying resonance in future years. A look back at any of the Reserves and Academy teamsheets from my six years at the club would include names of those who have gone on to enjoy great careers in the game, whether at United or elsewhere.
‘Such longevity in football is notoriously difficult for any schoolboy footballer to achieve. Yet United seem to do it so well. For instance, there’s Sam Johnstone, who is on loan at Aston Villa and starting to perform so well that newspaper reports claim Steve Bruce will make a permanent bid for his services soon… At a club like Manchester United, this is not a pipe dream. It’s reality.’
Way to put the positive spin on selling a future England centre-back for £2m, guys.
It’s political correctness gone mad
‘Friend of Sir Alex Ferguson sacked by Manchester United after putting arm around female colleague and calling her “love”’ – Daily Telegraph.
That’s one way of selling the story of a female member of staff at Manchester United making a formal complaint over her colleague’s behaviour which eventually led to his departure. The most important part of that story is definitely that is Fergie’s mate.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) March 28, 2017
Non-sequitur of the day
‘Jesse Lingard confirms Manchester United contract talks as he takes his £100k Range Rover for a spin’ – The Sun.
Stop it. F*cking stop it. F*cking stop doing this. Please.
Headline of the day
‘Frosty Defoe man’ – The Sun on Jermain Defoe’s cryotherapy chamber really is top notch.
Headline for our times
‘Shanghai stadium engulfed by dramatic fire that could mean £615,000-a-week Tevez has to play next matches elsewhere’ – MailOnline.
And that’s the real quiz, not whether there have been any casualties.
Recommended reading of the day
Jack Pitt-Brooke on the next generation of black managers.
Adam Bate on ‘half spaces’.
Harvard Melnaes on the slaves of St Petersburg.