It is a longstanding English journalistic tradition that as soon as a World Cup or European Championship base is found for the England football team, it has to be derided as either too secluded or too central, too opulent or not opulent enough, too expensive or really not expensive enough.
The MailOnline shoot first with this classic of its genre – given top billing on their football page on Thursday morning:
‘Inside England’s World Cup hotel: Southgate picks secluded base in northern Russia (but one review calls it a ‘Soviet sanatorium’)’
It was indeed dubbed a ‘Soviet sanatorium’ but it took quite some time looking through an awful lot of reviews – and armed with Google Translate – to find such a wonderfully negative turn of phrase. That review was left in November 2015, so of course it is entirely relevant to how England’s players will be treated in June 2018.
Alternative headlines for said piece, based on the website’s default reviews of a hotel given an overall rating of 8.8 (which earns it the wonderful rank of ‘Fabulous’) on Booking.com:
Inside England’s World Cup hotel: Southgate picks a ‘restful and happy place’.
Inside England’s World Cup hotel: Southgate picks ‘excellent breakfast and good location’.
Inside England’s World Cup hotel: Southgate picks ‘a very good hotel for those who like sport’.
Inside England’s World Cup hotel: Southgate picks a ‘nice place to walk and dream’.
Mediawatch would love a nice place to walk and dream; we just hope not to bump into anybody from the Mail.
The intolerance of youth
Mediawatch is perhaps too easily confused but we really are befuddled by Dave Kidd writing in The Sun about Gareth Southgate and the fact that he will ‘not tolerate homegrown kids suffering from a victim complex over the foreign invasion – and is challenging them not to live an easy life of luxury as highly paid Premier League fringe players’.
Well, well. As The Sun say themselves in their back-page promotion of Kidd’s opinion, ‘Mr Nice Guy? No, Gareth is not soft with his stars’. He simply will not tolerate English players who are content to be fringe players. No way. It’s an admirable stance.
He definitely would not ‘tolerate’, never mind give an England starting spot to a player who has not started a Premier League or Champions League game for his new club, would he, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?
And he absolutely would not give a squad place to a young English player who has not started a Premier League or Champions League game for his club this season just because he is at Manchester United, would he, Jesse Lingard?
And he definitely would not give a first English squad call-up to a player who has started one Premier League game this season – in the absence of several foreign players – just because he is at Tottenham, would he, Harry Winks?
Never was Southgate’s intolerance of English footballers who ‘live an easy life of luxury as highly paid Premier League fringe players’ more apparent than when he called up Fabian Delph, who had started ten top-flight games for Manchester City in two seasons.
It’s not as if Southgate, now Mr No-Nonsense, actually admitted that there were players in his squad who didn’t deserve to be there.
It’s ridiculous to think that Gareth Southgate is too nice to be England manager. If anything, he is too harsh.
A winter’s tale
The most damning thing about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting for England despite not starting a Premier League or Champions League game for his new club?
Well, according to the Daily Mirror, he has been at Liverpool since January.
— The Media Blog (@TheMediaTweets) October 5, 2017
If you expected Chief Football Writer and Arsenal fan John Cross to know better, then you really have not been paying attention.
It’s quite interesting that Harry Kane employs a personal chef to come to his home every day. It’s quite interesting that Harry Kane is so obsessed with becoming a better player that he is keen to make marginal gains through nutrition. It’s less interesting that his personal chef has encouraged him to eat more fish.
Unless you are the Football Editor of The Sun. Because if you are the Football Editor of The Sun, you believe this to be the single biggest story in sport.
Yes. Man eats fish. Via a sequence of fishy puns including ‘World Cup plaice’, ‘prawn again’, ‘batters opposition defences’, ‘due for a frying’ and ‘Codfather’, the choice of which suggests that said Football Editor has no concept of fish beyond the battered and fried variety. We are no experts, but we don’t think Harry Kane is employing a personal chef to go to the chippy for him.
Man. Eats. Fish.
That. Is. All.
Famine or feast
The Daily Mirror’s John Cross obviously missed the fascinating ‘fish’ part of that story (silly Crossy) so he instead began his piece on Harry Kane thus:
‘HARRY KANE is dining out on a diet of goals.
‘But the England striker revealed he has hired a personal chef to make sure he stays in peak condition and never suffers a goal famine.’
Did the chef take August off?
Admission for one
Of course, The Sun already had their back page as soon as one man mentioned that he is now eating fish, so they had no interest in Harry Kane’s answer to the inevitable question about interest from Real Madrid.
In fact, Neil Ashton writes: ‘He skilfully and diplomatically handled questions about his future with Spurs after yet more links to Real Madrid and Barcelona.’
But one man’s ‘skillful and diplomatic’ straight-batting of a question is another man’s, well…
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) October 4, 2017
Apparently Harry Kane ‘has admitted for the first time that his future may one day lie away from Tottenham when he refused to rule out a move in the long-term to Spain’.
This is Harry Kane, fellas. He couldn’t even rule out eating bloody fish.
Harry Kane Real Madrid Tottenham transfer news
The gulf between newspaper and website has never been so great, so while The Sun’s Chief Football Reporter Neil Ashton saw Harry Kane ‘skilfully and diplomatically handle questions about his future’, his ‘colleague’ Jamie Gordon of The Sun website was more than happy to declare that ‘Harry Kane puts Real Madrid on alert by admitting he would ‘never rule out’ moving to Spanish club’.
There is literally no room for diplomacy when you are trying to get those damned clicks.
Ask a simple question
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) October 5, 2017
Bizarre capitalisation of this or any other day
‘Jan Vertonghen’s MUM reveals hopes of Ajax return for Tottenham defender’ – talkSPORT.
His MUM? What would SHE know?
Oddly, there were no capital letters when talkSPORT reported: ‘Neymar transfer news: Barcelona player’s dad wants to delay PSG move.’
Obviously dad had earned the right to an opinion by dint of his testicles.
After further investigation, it emerges that in football, MUM is always in capitals.
In the Daily Star: ‘Alexandre Lacazette: How Arsenal star’s MUM stopped him from becoming a goalkeeper’.
How bloody dare SHE?
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Liew on Peru.
Barney Ronay on the Premier League TV ruckus.
Jim White with Martin Ling.