Hitting the boos
Mediawatch would never boo someone unless it was for sarcastic or comedic effect. It is a quite strange thing for an adult to do, a rather childish, immature way of registering disapproval. The idea of simply booing someone for cutting you up in traffic or littering is quite hilarious. But it has long been a pantomime staple of football matches. That is not new.
You would be forgiven for thinking otherwise after Thursday evening. Virgil van Dijk was booed by England supporters in their UEFA Nations League semi-final defeat to the Netherlands on Saturday, and collective sh*t was lost.
‘Best player on pitch, but was unaccountably booed by England fans,’ writes Tony Cascarino in his player ratings for The Times. Whether or not you think it was a bit silly, fans booing an opposition player is hardly inexplicable.
Unless you are Mark Ogden, of course. ‘For 120 minutes of this Nations League semifinal in Guimaraes, Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk was booed by England’s vast army of travelling supporters every time he touched the ball,’ he writes for ESPN.
‘It is difficult to come up with a credible explanation for that, especially considering the contribution Van Dijk made to Liverpool’s Champions League-winning campaign…’
You might have just answered your own question there, fella. Everton, Manchester City or Manchester United-supporting England fans might not have been all that thankful for his part in Liverpool’s success. Club allegiances inevitably seep into international atmospheres: Raheem Sterling was booed by England fans against Ireland in June 2015, remember?
Over to Matt Dickinson of The Times now, who says ‘it was anyone’s guess why’ Van Dijk was being booed. As above.
‘As the last 24 hours had reminded us, trying to read the minds of England fans who still think we are at war with Germany and the IRA is never going to be easy,’ he writes, conflating booing an opposition player with the genuinely idiotic actions of the minority in Portugal this week.
‘Presumably the Dutch captain was causing grave offence by simply taking to the pitch for this Nations League semi-final, what with all this unflappable excellence.’
No, that had nothing to do wi…
‘Perhaps his “crime” was that statistic of refusing to be dribbled past in 65 matches, and a man-of-the-match display to win the Champions League final, or his impertinence in becoming the first defensive contender for the Ballon d’Or in more than a decade.’
Seriously, it was absolutely nothi… wait, who or what are you quoting?
‘Or perhaps some England fans are just dullards (no need to write in).’
No arguments here. But that has more to do with those England ‘fans’ who clashed with riot police, threw bottles at Portugal fans, chanted about German bombers and were general d*ckheads than a few others who treated an opposition player to a few painless jeers.
Winter is coming
But the hottest take of all is from Henry Winter of The Times:
Virgil van Dijk, PFA Player of the Year, imperious Liverpool footballer, European champion, role model, class act on and off the field, supporter of the Red Cross, paid for Christmas party at Anfield for 120 kids suffering from cancer, is being booed by England fans #NEDENG
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) June 6, 2019
They might not have been booing the Christmas party held for 120 kids suffering from cancer. They might have been booing the fact he plays for Liverpool and is the Netherlands’ best player. Just a thought.
Matt Lawton cares not that someone was viciously booed. He does not even make a single mention of it in his Daily Mail report. He must have had earplugs in.
Instead, he is taking aim at John Stones Kyle Walker Harry Maguire Ross Barkley
‘In a rain-soaked Guimaraes, an international season of so much promise ends with an almighty damp squib.
‘But you have to wonder if an opportunity was missed last night, as Southgate also took a gamble that did not pay off. He omitted the Liverpool players who only a few days ago won the Champions League.’
Therein lies your first clue: it was only a few days ago that they won the Champions League. They joined the squad on Tuesday morning and only had two training sessions before the Netherlands game. It would have been a huge risk to play them; Southgate presumably had a better idea than almost anybody else about their fitness.
And Jordan Henderson had only started one of England’s last five games; he has been a relatively irregular regular of late.
Sure, Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum started. But the latter was substituted after an hour on Saturday and the former plays in an entirely different position to Henderson. And the effects of fatigue – both mental and physical – vary from human to human. That’s a thing.
‘The absence of Harry Kane was fair enough. England’s principal striker did not look match fit in Madrid last weekend and his omission from the starting line-up for a game of this magnitude was the right call.
‘Rather more risky, however, was the decision to also ignore Jordan Henderson when the Liverpool skipper was happily exchanging passes with Trent Alexander-Arnold in the warm-up. Indeed, so poor was Kyle Walker that there was a strong case for the inclusion of the young Liverpool full back, too.’
In hindsight, perhaps. Walker was terrible. But Alexander-Arnold has only ever started four games for England, only two of which were in competitive fixtures, if we count that relatively meaningless final group game against Belgium at the World Cup.
Lawton kindly points out that England were actually drawing 1-1 when Henderson was introduced, before going on to lose 3-1. Indeed, ‘only then, Southgate might argue, did England fully collapse’. Although it should be noted that he had nothing to do with the two extra-time goals.
‘Pack the team with winners from the start, though,’ Lawton adds in his final paragraph, ‘and the outcome might well have been different.’
Says the man who is happy to pretend that he wanted Treble-winner and two-time Premier League champion Kyle Walker dropped for a major tournament semi-final.
Tone it down
At least Tony Cascarino’s aforementioned Times player ratings were a delight.
On Kyle Walker: ‘Looks like he knows he’s not first choice – 5’
He has started six of England’s last eight games. Only Marcus Rashford (29) has played more matches than Walker (27) under Gareth Southgate.
On Raheem Sterling: ‘He certainly didn’t play like a captain in early stages – 5’
But he didn’t even Panenka anyone?
The highest rating Cascarino handed out to any England player was 6/10 – to Jordan Pickford, Ben Chilwell, Fabian Delph, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. Two of those can probably consider themselves fortunate.
But that is nothing compared to John Cross’s offering in the Daily Mirror. He gives 7s to Pickford, Chilwell, Delph and Rashford, as well as Harry Maguire – ‘solid and strong, he defended well and rarely gave ball away’ – Declan Rice and Ross Barkley, who ‘was guilty of an unforgivable howler’, but exactly as good as Frenkie De Jong.
The lowest rating Cross hands out is 5/10 to John Stones. To be fair, he did only make mistakes leading to three goals.
The final scores? Netherlands 71-72 England. Wonderful.
What was the biggest reason for Tottenham’s Champions League final defeat to Liverpool last week? The decision to drop Lucas Moura and start Harry Kane? The unfortunate award of an early penalty? The lack of signings over the past 18 months? The fact they were against a team that had already beaten them twice this season, finishing 26 points better off in the Premier League?
Nope, nope, nope and nope again. Let The Sun‘s Neil Ashton enlighten you:
‘Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is admired for his personal touch.
‘But the tone was set for their disappointing Champions League final when he allowed the WAGs to watch the final training session.
‘While Liverpool seemed business-like and determined to get the job done, Tottenham’s touchy-feely approach in the stands at the end of that session gave off a different vibe.
‘Attention to detail is critical and Poch’s pastoral approach is one of the many reasons the Argentine is so popular.
‘Family time is important but calling in loved ones to watch training diverted their gaze.’
There you have it. ‘The tone was set’ for Moussa Sissoko to handle the ball within the opening 30 seconds because Harry Kane kissed his fiancee.
On that note, where does that term fit into the WAGs? Is it FWAGs? FAWGs? GAWFs? GWAFs?
Or is it just ridiculous that WAGs is still a thing in 2019?
Writes Mike McGrath in The Sun:
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revolution started with Dan James’ £18million move from Swansea.
‘The winger, 21, sealed his Manchester United medical after gaining permission from chief Ryan Giggs to leave the Wales squad.’
He did what now?
Recommended reading of the day
Barney Ronay on Frenkie De Jong.
Matt Dickinson on Diego Maradona.