100 not out: NORMAN GILLER was reduced to tears this week, but not just because he has been filing weekly SJA columns for nearly two years
Perhaps it’s my three score years and 10 beginning to weigh on me, but I found myself twice leaking tears in front of the television and almost crying a third time within the space of a few hours this week.
Or maybe it’s because this is my 100th SJA column? Enough to make anybody cry. Thank you fellow sports scribes for allowing me to trespass on your time and territory.
There was good reason to cry at 4.11 on Wednesday morning, when I watched the first of the rescued Chilean miners emerge from beneath the rocks of the Atacama desert in a capsule that looked like a spacecraft. This was a true miracle. A triumph for the human spirit and everybody pulling together. A lesson for us all. What Prime Minister Cameron might call the Big Society.
It was something England’s footballers would not recognise. A thing called teamwork.
I’d had tears in my eyes late on Tuesday when BBC screened their documentary about diving wonder boy Tom Daley and his father, who is battling with a brain tumour. What an advertisement young Tom is for his much-maligned generation, and there were tears of joy the following day when he dived to gold in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
I could have cried three or so hours earlier when I watched England’s footballers playing like passing strangers in their goalless Euro qualifier against “mighty” Montenegro, a country with a population the size of Glasgow’s.
For me, it reached a nadir when Ashley Young shamelessly performed a Tom Daley-style dive to try to con his way to a penalty. I would rather England withdrew from the international stage than sink this low. It is no good us moaning about “Johnny Foreigner” diving if we are going to allow England players to go down the deceit road.
Okay, I am a dinosaur with one foot in the grave and the other in the past (Note from Editor: Ouch. Doing the splits, eh Norm?).
But I do know that a team needs a playmaker, a navigator who understands the geography and the geometry of the midfield.
These days we produce “box to box” players, robots with as much creativity as a tin of sardines.
If Fabio Capello wants to keep his job – it will only cost £10 million to get rid of him – he needs to select a player who can pass the ball 1) to a teammate wearing the same colour shirt, 2) with thought and accuracy, 3) with a flair and vision that decides rather than decorates games.
What would a Johnny Haynes be worth in today’s transfer market? He could pass the ball like Beckham but with both feet. Let the bidding begin at 50 million. Pounds, not euro.
Fabio should have a look at Jack Wilshire at Arsenal or give a proper run out to Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone, who tends to lope around the pitch rather than run, but he hits the ball with the cleanness and precision of a Glenn Hoddle. There can be no higher praise.
How sad and pathetic that Capello – a proud man with an unmatchable pedigree as a club manager – was reduced to complaining about the referee playing a couple of minutes short. If England cannot master international newcomers like Montenegro inside 90 minutes, they do not deserve a place in the finals.
I got the feeling that Capello would not mind a capsule arriving to rescue him from what has become the misery of his situation. I will wager that within a few months of him relinquishing the reins, he will be producing a book bemoaning the scarcity of talent in England. The way things are going, his successor will have to watch reserve team matches to find England players.
I would like to see Harry Redknapp getting a chance to manage England. He has the gift-of-the-gab motivational powers that are beyond Capello, because of his inability to sound as if he is talking Chico Marx English.
All right, England had an obvious penalty turned down when Milan Jovanovic handled an Ashley Cole cross, but how lucky was Joe Hart not to concede a goal when Jovanovic’s dipping shot shook his crossbar?
It was predictable that Montenegro would come and park their bus, playing a 4-5-1 formation that has helped them through four qualifying matches without conceding a single goal. Despite the obvious tactic, England still lined up with a holding midfielder, and yet further up the pitch they had no idea how to think or trick their way through the 10-man barrier. They were strangled to death, and the coroner’s verdict has to be that they were choked to death because of a lack of creativity.
England will, I am convinced, reach the Euro 2012 finals, mainly because they are in a group where the overall standard is pitiful. But their chances of making it to the business end of the finals depends on Capello finding a player who can pass … or the FA finding a manager who can motivate.
I WATCHED THE game on ITV and cringed when I saw Adrian Chiles holding his nose and miming the pulling of a lavatory chain to sum up England’s first-half performance.
There were days when presenters were paid to find the right words to capture the moment. I wonder what previous ITV presenters like Des Lynam, Steve Rider or the late Brian Moore would have made of that.
Enough to make you want to cry?
Read Norman Giller’s previous columns for the SJA website by clicking here
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