Mails: England’s lack of winning mentality exposed…

Date published: Thursday 21st June 2018 9:00

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Iran’s tactics
Iran’s first half display may have made Roy Keane and co want to spoon out their eyes, but was I really alone in getting a little peeved at their outrage?

The criticism of Iran’s time-wasting and play-acting hit a nerve tonight. Yes, they resumed play as fast as a treacle covered turtle and yes, some of the play-acting was embarrassing, but it’s the hypocrisy that really stinks here. If the pundits’ respective teams stumbled deep into this competition by occasionally conjuring the dark arts – just like any other team in Iran’s situation would – then would they complain? I wonder. Of course, we’d all rather whomp the opposition six to nil, pivoting and dovetailing endlessly like Brazil ’70, but not every country is blessed with such talent and personally, I couldn’t sit there in the studio and pretend I’d be holier-than-thou in such circumstances.

Oh, and lest we forget this is Spain. Spain of Busquets, Ramos and Pique fame. Have we really forgotten those infamous Clasicos of years gone by – and present day? When it comes to bending the rules Spain are hardly the moral arbiters of sporting conduct. And nor was Michael Owen when he air-jumped Pocchetino’s leg in 2002. Or Henry’s handball in 2009. Or Bilic getting Blanc sent off in ’98. I’m not saying it’s right – in an ideal world it wouldn’t happen – I’m saying it’s near universal conduct when an advantage can be taken. Pious pundits, do me a favour.

Sometimes the ex-pro brigade need to think back to their own careers and ask themselves what they’d do – or indeed what they did do. If they found themselves one step behind the beat, I bet they wouldn’t be too shy to dance with the devil.
Jack, 24, London (just not the cha cha slide)


…Ok, I’ll bite on the Matt Stead article in praise of Iran’s approach. It was ‘admirable’ in the sense it almost worked, but I genuinely felt embarrassed watching that. As the umpteenth Iranian player clutched themselves in fake agony, or gave another sly little kick before protesting innocence, I thought ‘what’s the point?’ When do the ends no longer justify the means? When have you debased yourself so thoroughly, not just as a sportsperson, but as a man, as a representative of your nation, that ‘victory’ ceases to mean anything?

As Bunk said, ‘Makes me sick, how far we done fell’

Hoping Portugal and Iran manage to lose against each other somehow


Highlighting England’s flaw
Here’s a question for you: Following the England game I was struck by how many people, including pundits, cried foul, penalty, Kane was hauled down, not once but twice. Wot? No VAR?

Yet no one pointed the finger at Kane for failing to appeal.

Where were the appeals from the England team at the time?

Not one player appealed – this is why England simply will not do well. They are meant to be professionals yet clearly lack a winners mentality. Ref CL: nice guys do not come first. Professionals do. And England are ever so slightly amateur.

I’m not suggesting you fall down and cry foul when the opposition sneezes in your direction, but when they practically rugby tackle you in the area have the balls to draw the ref’s attention!


Boycott 2026
For the last few years, the western media has been busy telling us how naughty the Russians fans are, how terrible they are at human rights, how they will throw gay supporters in jail – and this was usually followed by some sanctimonious call to boycott the World Cup.

Now that the World Cup has been going on for (almost) a week, everybody has generally been saying nice things about the hosts so far.

Anyway, can we start a new bandwagon rolling calling for the boycott of USA 2026, on the pretext of how their evil president is kidnapping babies, and how they have more guns than any reasonable human being requires. Imagine drunk yobs with guns at a football (sorry, soccer) game!
Vincent Hantubola


Kane fall-out
An interesting read on Mediawatch today regarding the somewhat gushing response in the media to Kane’s match winning performance on Monday, which is in stark contrast to the general lack of class shown towards Raheem Sterling.

First of all, it absolutely goes without saying that I have full admiration for Football365 and their response to the nasty, spiteful and dog whistle crusade of the tabloid press against Sterling. What I’m struggling with in the usually excellent Mediawatch today though, is how they’ve taken an unnecessary dig at Kane, and appear to be looking at angles they can use to take him down a peg rather than tackling the media…which I believe is the point of the column?

The pieces on Kane this week have been a little over the top, and some of the language and adjectives used have been needlessly flowery, but let’s not forget what the entire point of your positive Sterling campaign was. It was about not judging everything he does in a deliberately snide manner, and about calling out unfair biases or false positions by journalists used to show Sterling in a deliberately negative light. So why does the piece feel like it’s digging at Kane when all is needed is to simply comment on the difference in the treatment of the two players?

The following quote, far from challenging the authors, just comes across as a ‘double down’ follow up to Sarah Winterburn’s article about Kane following the Stoke City game, where he ‘claimed a goal that wasn’t his’ and where Sarah challenged his ‘selfish character’. The goal was later awarded to him on review of evidence by the Premier League.

“And neither David Jones nor Sarah Rainey has ever seen the post-match interview where Harry Kane swore on his daughter’s life that he had touched a ball just so that he could take a goal away from his Tottenham teammate. Such magnanimity.”

It’s amazing to me that a website that has launched such a campaign in support of Sterling, challenging desperate attempts to sully the player’s reputation, is now taking literally a throwaway saying like ‘swearing on someone’s life’ as absolutely literal. It’s time to grow up please. It’s a desperate sounding phrase, fair enough, but let’s not pretend Kane has somehow literally sacrificed the life of his daughter in order to secure one more Premier League goal. It’s a badly phrased defence of his honesty and character. This kind of over-wrought, cynical bullshit undermines your argument.

In addition to this, this is almost one of the most striking examples of ‘false equivalence’ you could find, which when discussing mainstream media is some achievement. Just because the media have taken a bogus, propaganda like approach with Sterling, which demands to be challenged, doesn’t mean the Kane narrative regarding his character and how he carries himself, requires meticulous ‘debunking’. The elephant in the room is the political and perhaps racist views that prompt or underpin many of the Sterling stories, not Kane’s reputation


…Also, my tuppence worth on Harry Kane. I agree with Dan G, THFC, he does seem actually unpretentious rather than fake ‘humble.’ Also, I like the fact he’s not got tattoos. Tattoos used to be for generally interesting people and convicts but now they’ve been hijacked by the dickheads, so again it probably shows he’s a decent bloke. Besides, his mum wouldn’t like it.

Also, he constantly looks like a school boy whose walked into the wrong class room and I find that strangely endearing.
Matt, AFC


…Given their beautiful tribute to Harry Kane, what will the Daily Mail do if he:
– celebrates the World Cup and Golden Boot winning goal by shaking his wang, tattooed with the faces of the Royal Family, at the cameras;
– lifts the cup draped in the European flag; and
– parties late into the evening, spraying pensioners in the face with champagne shot from a replica AK47 before snorting cocaine from the breasts of a non-British prostitute?
Aidan, Lfc (admittedly the Golden Boot is a longshot)


Video nasty
Your reader Pranav wrote in Wednesday’s mailbox a very long, enthusiastic defense of VAR. He made a well-argued case. I disagree with him entirely.

I hate VAR with the intensity of a thousand suns. VAR has spoiled for me what otherwise would have been a very entertaining World Cup.

Pranav’s long argumentation ignores the real issue us VAR-hating “thugs” have with video-review: it breaks up the game’s rhythm, it makes matches BORING.

I now dread the inevitable moment when something vaguely controversial happens and players swarm the referee drawing imaginary TV screens in the air. Then the referee rushes to the sideline. Now you have to wait. One, two minutes are wasted. When the oracle finally speaks, any sense of fluidity to the game is gone. Instead of a sporting contest, matches become an interminable forensic procedure.

Pranav and other VAR apologists claim VAR is needed to “get it right”. But football is entertainment. I’d rather not “get it right” 100% of the time than turn football into a boring review of referee mistakes.

Even by Pranav’s narrow standards, VAR is not a success. Refereeing mistakes are not in any way down; arbitrariness is not at all eliminated. Just go ask Brazil how great VAR has been. Just go ask Australia.

But worse is that the acceptance of VAR would lead to even more terrible ideas in the never-ending quest to “get it right”. I don’t mean to sound like if I’m just dumping on your reader Pranav, who sounds like a very nice person. But he already advances one such dreadful idea:

“Perhaps a solution to this would be to introduce an appeal system whereby each team captain is given a certain number of appeals which his team would retain in the event that the appeal results in a change of decision”

Yes, let’s turn football matches into American football. Let’s turn them into a courtroom procedural! Law and Order – World Cup edition. Sorry,Pranav, but I really would rather not.

Best regards,
Peter Van


Flag on the play
Few days late here but without wanting to have the game go all ‘American’, for instances like the Kane penalty shouts maybe the coaches can get 1 challenge per game where they can review a decision that has not gone to VAR. Imagine the excitement as you wait for the decision to be announced by the ref who is connected to the stadium sound system..
Gareth, Sydney


VAR-y important question
Following on from Scott’s biq question about a missing chair in the VAR room… Why the hell do the VAR referees wear their uniforms in the dark windowless room. Is it like a army and there is a line of command that they adhere to (saluting possibly)?
Julian (bloody Polish defence) Gdansk


Liam’s right of reply
It seems my mail from yesterday caused a bit of stir, I didn’t even think it would get in!!

Just so we are clear, I’m not a bitter, kilt wearing anti-english Scotsman, if you read the e-mail I stated I quite like this England team and wanted them to do well!

My problem is not that there’s extra coverage of the English national team, I expect it, but for me there’s a time and a place, my point was and still is it’s the first game of both Colombia & Japan in the world cup, do a little bit on them, show us how they got to the world cup, then do a little bit on England, don’t focus the first 15mins of the program on it and then just give us line-ups for the game.

There’s not really a point in comparing our coverage to that of France or Germanys as they’re one country, we are not.
Liam (brackets are still in right??)


Here’s Johnny
I was intrigued by John Nicholson’s article today, “England win reaction exposes an unhappy, divided country”.

For someone who is apparently a nice person and a liberal caring person, it seems that John thinks that people who fly England flags from their car or hang them from their windows at home are guilty of “nasty nationalism” and symptomatic of “What Is Wrong With Life”. Indeed they are “fascist fools”, apparently. (This is the man who wrote an article on Monday singing the praises of the World Cup, stating that “nationality matters”).

It seems that there is indeed a lot of hate in today’s society – a small but sizeable percentage of it coming from the liberal, caring John Nicholson.

Kind regards,
Jack McSack


Just curious if anyone knows what would happen in the not completely far-fetched scenario that Portugal and Spain end up on the same points, goals scored and goal difference. Obviously ordinarily who comes first would be decided by one of these factors and if not then by head-to-head record but they obviously drew so that can’t happen. And obviously finishing second or first has a massive effect on their draw for the later stages, so how would the group winner be decided in that scenario?


Ronaldo v Messi
Let me be clear. I don’t have a horse in the Ronaldo vs. Messi debate. I might even go so far as to say I naturally gravitated towards Messi as a modest, respectiable man. I simply could not care less comparing two all-time greats with different skill-sets to one another. But I will say Ronaldo is winning on character these days. Whereas Messi is crying according to his mother and instructing his Barca bosses who to sign and being unable to lead due to his introverted personality and not being happy if his body language is anything to go by, Ronaldo is seizing the spotlight and demanding attention and proving to be worth every penny spent to watch him. I never thought I’d say this, but I much prefer the brash bastard over the withering weakling any day. While both demand attention, at least the former is actually worth giving it to.
Niall, Denver


Footy on (USA) TV
Greetings. I am a longtime reader, first-time writer.

When I learned that Fox had secured the rights to this World Cup and the next here in the U.S., I was filled with dread. My dread seems to have been warranted. The top broadcast team of JP Dellacamera and Tony Meola has actually been pretty good. Meola has been thoughtful and insightful, and Dellacamera has a soothing voice. What Dellacamera shares with other U.S. play-by-play announcers is a weird fixation with regularly describing corner kicks as either an “inswinger” or an “outswinger.” Why does this seem to matter so much to them? My suspicion is that they just can’t come up with anything else to say about a corner so they fall back on this strange formulation. It is starting to get on my nerves. Have any other U.S.-based viewers noticed this?

Derek Rae, who seems okay, has been paired with Aly Wagner. Aly pops up with useful information and insights from time to time, but she seems curiously allergic to the letter “g,” especially at the end of verbs. Uruguay, for example, are “shootin’,” or “passin”, or “tryin’ to manage this game,” never “shooting” or “passing” or “trying.” Maybe she is related to Dusty Springfield of “Wishin’ and Hopin'” fame? She also gets tongue-tied at times and needs to be bailed out by Rae on such occasions.

The other Fox game broadcast teams are just terrible, although it is hard to ever be entirely angry with Stuart Holden, whom I would adopt if he were a shelter puppy.

Things are no better at the Fox Red Square studio desk in Moscow. I have no huge beef with Rob Stone, and I indeed welcome him into my life in the fall for Pac-10 college football. If Colorado at Washington State is on the menu on an October Saturday, please do put Rob Stone on my TV screen, Fox Sports. However, the World Cup is a different matter. Rob’s California-isms and assorted malaprops are simply not suited to this sport, and the whole presentation suffers for it. It was particularly painful to watch him mangle “Buenos Aires” while sitting next to an extremely patient and forgiving Hernan Crespo. I hit the mute button out of embarrassment for him. Ouch. Alexi Lalas usually kind of bugs me but Rob Stone’s ineptitude has eclipsed any Lalas-based concerns for me. Guus Hiddink has been good.

I will be “hopin'” that England and Mexico continue to accumulate points. As an aside, I thank F365 and the Mailboxers for adding some fun words and phrases to my lexicon. I recently accused a colleague, for instance, of lacking “technical nous.” I referred to an opposing attorney as a “danger man,” and later as a “shithouse,” and was understood on both occasions by my managing partner. I have not yet referred to anybody as a “talisman,” but who knows what the near future holds? I strongly associate that word with objects rather than human beings, but I reckon I will work my way up to it soon.
Joe Doakes, Cooper City, Florida, USA


A few other things
F*cking hell, more of Ben, Ingurlund, Manchester please. If not for his more classic liberal view point then for his morning mail, I’ve been wondering about the effectiveness of strapping axes to my feet all day.

Couple of other points if I may:

1)Alan, Irishman in Córdoba says “You can choose your club but not where you come from”… umm well, players can (thought an Irishman might have picked up on that) and the question of whether the rest of us can is a topic that I’m not about to delve too deeply into. Basically my point is that’s demonstrably not true.

2)Why’s everyone so preoccupied about the media? The media this the media that. The only time I hear about what ‘the media’ think is when F365 or the like write about it. I spend an unhealthy amount of time consuming football related articles when I should be working but have never felt so desperate that I’ve wondered what the Mirror thought of the match or the Daily Mail’s opinion of the readers players wives.

3)Why does everybody in England seem to equate how a player plays for their club to how they play for the national side? For years we’ve seen European and South American teams play what seem like inferior options who, for whatever reason, play better for their country than their clubs. Klose is a perfect example, more recently Giroud is a good example. Basically, in case you haven’t guessed where I’m going with this it’s that Danny Welbeck should start instead of Sterling against Panama.

4)Lastly, because it stops me going into any sort of detail that would require thinking. 128 team world cup, no qualification – based off top 128 teams in fifa rankings, straight knockout. 127 games spread over 7 rounds. Don’t tell me that’s not a perfect plan. No, seriously, don’t tell me, it’s never going to happen anyway, you’d just be wasting your time.
Matt, AFC


Stop hammering West Ham
I’ve been a daily visitor to this website for about 12 years now and have often felt compelled to write in about various things but I’ve never actually done it until now.

The reason I did it today is because of something that has been bothering me for some time now. It has nothing to do with anything topical, all I have is a question – why do you guys hate West Ham so much?

I know we haven’t covered ourselves in glory recently, but seriously – it seems that every article I read now slips in an unpleasant reference to some fundamental failing of ours as a club. You write today about how we have made (by your own admission) two decent signings in Diop and Fabianski, and yet for some reason feel compelled to get in two separate jabs at the club in both the link headlines. Why?

Believe me, no one is more aware of the cluster f**k that’s been the past two seasons than the supporters. But if the club is making positive steps in the right direction, why stick the boot in then? You had plenty of opportunity to do it when we were displaying our unerring ability to be the most dysfunctional club in the league. You’re supposed to aim up in comedy.

I know our owners are two of the most unlikeable c**ts in football (and that’s saying something), but we are hardly unique in that quality. We’re not really such a bad club, just very misguided. It would be nice to see something positive written about our club after seeing nothing but (well justified) negativity for the past two years.

Just a thought.
Daniel (It’s not like we’re Man Utd), China


Emery lookalike?
You keep using that picture of Unai Emery and every time I see it I think he looks exactly like someone else, but cannot for the life of me work out who the hell it is. The closest I can get is a weird mix of Seb Coe and the bloke who plays Professor Moriarty in Sherlock….

He keeps nonchalantly wandering onto my laptop holding that bloody coffee cup with his lookey-likey face and its driving me nuts.

Please help.
Ben B (although it’ll probably turn out to be someone who works at Greggs in Bury or something), MCFC


…Anyone else see the resemblance between Unai Emery and Will “GOB Bluth” Arnett?

Insert “I’ve made a huge mistake” joke here.
Joe (Xabi Alonso = Jason Bateman) FFC

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