‘Overhyped’ England slammed, James should face Beckham abuse as World Cup quarter-final ignored

Editor F365
Lauren James is sent off for England against Nigeria
Lauren James should be booed at every ground across the country, apparently

Forget Euro 2022 and the Finalissima: the proof that England’s ‘overhyped’ women have finally made it has come with a stunning hatchet job in the Daily Mail.


A quick task for you, dear Mediawatch reader: compare and contrast these headlines to recent pieces published by the MailOnline.

‘IAN HERBERT: England look ready to go all the way in the Women’s World Cup… and the chance MUST be seized by Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses’ – August 5.

‘IAN HERBERT: England are overhyped and not good enough… Sarina Wiegman’s team aren’t nearly as great as they think they are’ – August 8.

If we had the time, patience and ability, we’d Photoshop Herbert into the ‘We’re All Trying To Find The Guy Who Did This’ meme. Alas, it might forever remain a mystery as to precisely who has ‘overhyped’ England’s women.

The Lionesses may have won against Nigeria on penalties to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, but they did not win Herbert’s heart. Especially not Lauren James.

A protective shield was thrown around Lauren James on Monday night after an act of recklessness in the full glare of England’s big moment on football’s greatest stage.

Why does that read like a criticism? Should England have hung Lauren James out to dry for doing something a) very stupid but also b) very human?

Plenty of grounds for mitigation were thrown out by her manager and team-mates. Most of them nonsense.

Idiots. Sarina Wiegman should have publicly chastised her for 10 minutes. James’ team-mates ought to have absolutely hammered her in post-match interviews. Fancy supporting one of your colleagues in a very difficult moment when they are already sure to feel as though they have let everyone down. What utter ‘nonsense’.

‘She’s still young’ and ‘she’s under relentless scrutiny’, they said of a highly paid professional who is 21, not a 16-year-old.

Two incredibly different ages and levels of maturity, for sure. Those five years in between really do grant someone infallibility and make them immune to gross errors of judgement.

Even that old one about the media being a contributory factor was trotted out, in defence of James deliberately standing on an opponent’s back.

There we go. This is just annoyance at being labelled as partly culpable, isn’t it? Rachel Daly says “they put a lot of pressure on her from the outside – the media. She’s a kid,” and The Media respond with 845 words dedicated to denouncing a team which just reached the World Cup quarter-finals despite having 10 players for more than half an hour.

Way to prove a point.

Of course, no player ever walks out of a dressing room to say a team-mate’s conduct has been reprehensible – and David Beckham and Wayne Rooney can testify to the fact that acts of madness occur on this stage.

Of course. So why are we here?

But James is owed no more cover than a 23-year-old Beckham found after bringing back his leg to kick Diego Simeone 25 years ago.

While James is theoretically ‘owed no more cover’ than Beckham found in that situation, the hope is surely that she receives it.

Perhaps it’s typical Mediawatch to pray that James isn’t subjected to effigies being hanged outside pubs, national newspapers printing a dartboard with her face centred on the bullseye, death threats and any more of the sort of abuse Beckham faced for years after making a similarly stupid mistake while representing his country.

READ MORELucky James dodges the Beckham comparisons as below-par England continue to solve problems

We woke leftie snowflakes would rather lessons were learned and a high-profile player was supported after making an error rather than being vilified by the entire country.

It is at this point the article then veers into quite uncomfortable territory:

They say James’s managers have always tried to protect her because of her particular talent, though the problem for her and every other England player on this occasion was a lack of familiarity with an unrelenting physical threat like Nigeria’s.

Oh no.

They froze, unable to compute a way around the green shirts which pressed the life out of them, challenging with a muscularity which bounced them off the ball.

‘Unrelenting physical threat’. ‘A muscularity which bounced them off the ball’. Eurgh.

Combine that with the claim that this was ‘near two hours of torture, against a side who also brought organisational discipline to the occasion,’ and the undertones are truly awful. Way to dilute an excellent Nigeria performance into a completely false narrative about them just bullying England.

Nigeria were quicker and stronger. That’s fair. But boiling their display solely down to that is inaccurate at best. They pressed relentlessly, but that is absolutely not the same thing as being a ‘muscular’ and ‘unrelenting physical threat’.

The implication there is that Nigeria were dirty, that they booted England off the park. The reality is that they were just better at everything bar taking penalties. The only bad foul was committed by an England player and punished with a red card.

England star Chloe Kelly
Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring the winning penalty against Nigeria

Herbert does praise Nigeria’s ‘pure footballing excellence’ at one point, to be fair, but it comes much later and well after said ‘excellence’ was undermined.

As the attacking link play dried up and ambitious passes were cut out, England were reduced to stasis – in retreat, constantly playing the ball back and not once producing what a World Cup requires: world-class football, imagination, something dynamic and unexpected.

A World Cup also requires determination, belligerence and a refusal to lose. Argentina were taken to penalties twice to win the last men’s edition. No winner has ever been ‘world-class’ throughout an entire tournament. It’s almost as if they have to face opponents who are also quite muscular good and that they, too, are trying to win the match.

Herbert positively seethes at how England ‘showed little willingness to admit that the performance was inadequate,’ and that ‘to hear the players speak of ‘pride’ in the display was to wonder which field they had occupied,’ which might be the single most miserable line ever committed to print.

How dare those professional footballers take ‘pride’ in overcoming an incredibly difficult opponent after having a player sent off in a World Cup last-16 game? And just because they didn’t feed you a line about how ‘the performance was inadequate’, it doesn’t mean conversations about how they can and must improve aren’t being held behind the scenes.

Herbert later slams the ‘baffling self-justification’ offered by the England players; they should obviously still be hanging their heads in shame as we speak at not being able to thrash little 11-time African champions Nigeria.

The inconvenient truth is that the performance reinforced what the group stage had hinted at: that they are overhyped and nowhere near as good as they would have us think.

Everyone was saying it after England battered China 6-1. ‘Overhyped, that lot,’ we all scoffed.

A reminder that in the aforementioned piece Herbert wrote three days ago – you know, the ‘England look ready to go all the way in the Women’s World Cup’ thing? – he wrote about how they had ‘a calmer, unspoken, more innate form of self-confidence’ than before, and that they looked ‘comfortable’ and ‘at home’ in the tournament.

‘England know they will never forgive themselves if they forsake this chance,’ he said, yet he himself weirdly refuses to forgive them after reaching the quarter-final.

Herbert also described Nigeria as a one of the ‘landmines ahead’ for England, but is now chastising them for… avoiding it. Odd one.

But back to this hatchet job, and how ‘the mystery of where that warm breeze of Euro 2022 confidence had gone was compounded by the mystery of Sarina Wiegman’s response to what played out.’

Again, they won. The only ‘mystery’ is how keen Herbert seems to be to overlook both that and the various injuries England have sustained, which Herbert makes absolutely no mention of.

Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby were all ruled out before the tournament, each having started the Euro 2022 final. So, too, did record scorer Ellen White, who has since retired.

Maybe – and again, Mediawatch is likely being silly here – that unideal preparation has slightly impacted England, who have nevertheless done well to absorb those problems and continue progressing.

There were saving graces for England. Millie Bright, the captain, was a beacon, anchoring a defence which was tested. Alex Greenwood and Jess Carter were steadfast either side of her.

They also won. That’s quite the ‘saving grace’.

‘Neither Colombia nor Jamaica, in the quarter-finals, are likely to present as tough a test,’ Herbert continues, setting up another straw man in eagerness at potentially being able to deconstruct it soon.

Colombia, who beat Jamaica 1-0 on Tuesday, have already helped eliminate Germany, who are ranked second in the world. They, like Nigeria, are excellent in their own right and England will know not to underestimate them as ridiculously and arrogantly as that.

It is a dreadful piece which confirms only one thing: England’s women are on the same standing as England’s men in terms of being built up to be subsequently knocked down. A key difference is that England’s women are still in the tournament they have been simultaneously ‘overhyped’ and billed as favourites for by the same man.