England have left the party as they so often have in the past, arriving with favour-currying bottles of Grey Goose, only for revellers to gradually discover that they’ve merely decanted Glen’s Vodka into some brand-name empties before leaving, shamefaced and friendless. And so, too, draws to a close England Euro 2012 Bingo. What began as a flippant attempt at cataloguing clichés eventually incorporated a growing sense of subversion, as certain tropes were put to rest by a savvy manager who leaves with his reputation bolstered amongst fans, media and possibly even players who were slow to accept him. Some hardy perennials – the self-destruct button, the futile defiance against the odds, simply not being good enough – can always be relied on to thrive, but the sense of entitlement, of clinging to a fading past, means that the ubiquitous, smothering presence of 1966 and arrogant claims to the game’s heritage have been waylaid. Perhaps not forever, but for the time being at least, they promise hope of something less worthy of jaded cynicism in future times.
False hope was tantalisingly proffered by Riccardo Montolivo’s penalty miss, but it didn’t matter, because once again England were simply not good enough: There were plenty of examples of this, but none more damning than Ashley Cole’s penalty miss. No-one has ever, or will ever, say of a penalty: “He’s caught it well, but the run-up just wasn’t right.” His stuttering run-up was a dismal exercise in studied nonchalance, and it sapped his shot of power and accuracy. Trying to psyche out Gigi Buffon with a tricksy run-up to the ball was simply never, ever going to work given the goalkeeper’s experience. This is something Cole can match him for, and yet the arrogant preamble to his tame kick was something you might expect from someone much younger and greener than a man who, while much-maligned, has quite possibly been England’s most consistent top-level performer since Gary Lineker.
Futile defiance against the odds: Defeat in these circumstances was a lot easier to take than failures of yore given the simple fact that Italy deserved it. England fans and players have bemoaned the lottery of the shoot-out, and the fickle nature of fate, but these traits would never have been more apparent than if Italy had lost on this occasion. There are some positives to take from the tournament though, chiefly the fact that Roy Hodgson has taught his team how to defend again. This was the faint tactical promise that shone not so much like a beacon, but like the functional high-vis coat of a paramedic: serviceable, reliable, dependable, utilitarian. For all the talk of Andrea Pirlo running the show, he still couldn’t quite engineer a goal for his team, which speaks of something positive for England’s obduracy. The odds were already stacked against England before the tournament began, due to a litany of injuries, Wayne Rooney’s suspension, John Terry’s court case, the Rio Ferdinand fiasco, and the overarching fact that Roy Hodgson had to juggle them all in a matter of weeks. The fact that England took Italy as far as they could’ve in spite of the obstacles heralds a restoration of a fighting spirit that had been lamely submissive in South Africa two years ago.
Bad luck! – If it could be said that footballers are responsible for making their own luck, then Ashley Young paid a fair price for a poor tournament by hitting his penalty against the bar. The fact is, pre-tournament brouhaha’s aside, nothing had gone against England on the pitch. There can be no recriminations, no vengeful, skyward fists – England got what they deserved and can blame no-one or nothing for their elimination. Indeed, there is some slither of good fortune to be found in the fact that it was Young that missed a penalty, rather than someone who had acquitted themselves fairly well, such as Andy Carroll. The man whose headed goal against Sweden marks a subtle reinvention from joke-butt to burgeoning Crouch-like cult figure could well have been destroyed by such a high-profile failure. Young, whose four-game disappearance was a source of huge frustration, is more worthy of some guilty introspection, as he seeks to right wrongs in the future.
Grown men crying – Well, obviously. ’Twas ever thus. ‘Twas ever fat men smearing face paint with their own salty emotions. ‘Twas ever retired stalwarts choking back the tears of vicarious adrenaline. ‘Twas ever England, England, England…
Rejoice, for England have triumphed and progressed beyond the group stages, prolonging this farcical nonsense for at least one more game. Is Roy Hodgson pleased? You bet your sweet bippy!
Surely by now you would expect to have at least seen the coquettish, sashaying ankle of bad luck. Quite the opposite in fact. It seems that, for the time being at least, Lady Luck is wearing one of those rubbish we-won-the-World-Cup-once-Ingerlund t-shirts found every other summer in Burton. Against France there was no late goal to break hearts, against Sweden there was no doleful introspection after going behind, and against Ukraine, a perfectly good goal was disallowed. We’ll ignore the fact that Marko Devic was offside anyway, since that seems to be what everyone else (Hello, Oleg Blokhin!) is doing. The point is, some stereotypes are being subverted. And who doesn’t love a bit of stereotype subversion, eh lads?
Stephen Fry’s pompous physiognomy can be stamped all over the square marked with England’s next destination – the quarter finals. This stage represented more a quiet hope rather than the cynicism thickly spread elsewhere on the bingo card, but the fact is that elimination at the hands of Italy would still represent a fine effort. The majority of (sane) England fans would’ve accepted going out at this stage before the tournament, and the fact that this glass ceiling is now considered an achievement illustrates the re-evaluation of expectations that have been a hallmark of this campaign. You’ll note that the semi-finals are not represented on the image above, but, stripping away all the psychological accoutrements of a frenetic campaign, England are one game away from reaching only the third semi-final in their history. Just imagine the size of Roy’s celebratory Waterstone’s bill should we get there! He’d probably buy, like, eight books. Brother be crazy, yo.
False hope has aggressively asserted its presence on the national psyche, like an overly made-up, scantily-clad girl, convinced of her own attractiveness, even though men only stare at her through a sense of curious pity. But stare we do, trapped as we are in a perpetual simulacrum that distorts lowered expectations into something resembling the quiet defiance of naive optimism. This was always bound to happen, but this is a triumph in and of itself; that any England fan has legitimate cause to hope for anything at this stage in the tournament excels even the crazed pre-tournament thoughts a sane man dare not think with another man’s head.
A lack of creativity was evident when news of Wayne Rooney’s terrible pre-match playlist smeared across the internet like a thick turd thrown at a solid surface. Any collection of music that contains the work of James Morrison is barely worth the effort of the big headphones that signify the self-importance of the man wearing them. Terry Butcher used to rouse his team-mates into a state of frenzy by repeating the demented mantra: “Caged tigers! CAGED TIGERS!” The ostentatious expense of the modern footballer’s cans is instantly ridiculed when you find that they are being used to whip him into a pre-match state of mania via the medium of Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven.
A final nod, too, for gallows humour. How Wayne Rooney laughed at his hair transplant after scoring, in staunch defiance of the fact that he is dying, the reaper’s hand firmly ensconced on his bonce in solemn reminder of his inevitable fate. No amount of one-yard wondergoals can change that, Wayne. Laugh while you can, for there will be no banter in the grave.
In 2006, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner recorded a series of podcasts for The Times during the World Cup. The comic duo and longtime friends travelled to Germany for the tournament, recording their observations live during games, as well as in their hotel rooms. The shows were a mixture of live reaction and post-match analysis, with the two riffing on various comic tropes, and offering their opinions on England’s stuttering form.
There was a sudden shift in tone for one particular episode, which has become a valuable resource to me whenever England flatter to deceive, which is often. It is something that I have returned to in the past, and expect to turn to again this summer, despite the best intentions of one Roy Hodgson at the European Championships.
The podcast recorded on July 1st, the day of England’s elimination at the hands of Portugal, deserves greater recognition for the way it transcends itself, becoming more than just a knockabout comedy show. As David and Frank mourn England’s latest failure, they pick over the bones of the corpse with the same confused heartbreak of someone lamenting a former lover. They spend half an hour discussing not merely a football match, but a broken relationship. Sven-Goran Eriksson is the lover that they collectively puzzle over, as they balefully consider the state of his legacy and his imminent departure.
The podcast is effectively a time capsule that condenses the Eriksson era. Sven is the aforementioned ‘lover’, with Baddiel and Skinner musing over every last gesture, every last word, desperately trying to decipher meaning amid the chaos. The show is, from the stand-point of an England supporter, gut-wrenching, rueful, cynical, optimistic, existentialist, and plenty more besides. Above all, it is essential listening. It offered strange comfort not just in 2006, but in 2008 and 2010 too. I expect it will offer the same dark solace this summer, when I break the emergency glass for this, the best available remedy for England’s failures…
The podcast begins as the match does in Gelsenkirchen, Baddiel and Skinner audible in the foreground as they join in singing the National Anthem. The nervous optimism of the live match recordings is intercut with a more despondent post-match inquest, as joviality and hope is gradually eroded by the advancing reality of England’s elimination. The two timelines intertwine, offering a similar timeshift as if watching Memento, with Guy Pearce’s insomniac, memory-deficient cop replaced by an acerbic Brummy and a neurotic jew. This non-linear dynamic cultivates that nagging sense of ‘what if?’ that haunts you after your team has lost a crucial game. Baddiel, post-match, says that’s he’s already getting over it, and you wonder if he’s being honest. He asks himself how long he would’ve been joyful for had England won: “About…two hours?”. It seems like he’s just kidding himself, compromising the integrity of his hopes with emotional bargaining. He jokes that he would still be pissed off that the show’s producer has a bigger hotel room than him, even if England had won. Skinner disagrees, saying that an England win would be “the gift that keeps on giving”, that he’d remember it in the shower the following morning and feel great again, rather than just remembering “Ah shit, we’re out of the World Cup.”
When we cut again to the ground, the two continue joking, perhaps just to allay their nerves, but it’s akin to the early scenes in Titanic when the poor people party below decks, unaware of the disaster that awaits. Our hosts compare the two managers, with “wily old fox” Felipe Scolari likely to be on the lookout for weaknesses to exploit, while Eriksson is more likely to see “a woman with big tits in row G”. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point, until a drained post-match Skinner cites Elvis Costello: “I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused.” It is worthy advice, and Skinner embraces it with enthusiasm. Baddiel tells of how he bumped into Victoria Beckham at half-time, and heard her say “Cheryl, can you take the boys to the toilet?”, with Skinner quipping that the Cheryl in question (the nation’s favourite cuckold and forgotten racist, Ms. Cole née Tweedy) would be the worst person to do such a thing.
Even a flippant story such as this carries some weight, representing the distraction and excess of the ‘WAG’ enclave at that tournament. It seems appropriate that the players’ wives would somehow feature in this podcast, despite having no direct impact on events on the pitch. That tackily-tanned harem with long legs and longer hair extensions made for fitting symbols of the attention-grabbing sideshow that served as an unwanted footnote to England’s risible campaign.
Mining the zeitgeist further, Baddiel laments the absence of Michael Owen, whose tournament ended after a knee injury against Sweden. He talks about how England made chances against Portugal, without having anyone available to take them, opining that we “still miss that type of player”. The type of player that Gary Lineker was for England, always popping up to score when a goal was required. Six years on, and England are still missing that type of player. Such a void will stretch ever larger this summer, when Wayne Rooney sits out the first two group games of Euro 2012 through suspension.
Rooney has previous when it comes to international red cards, of course, and the response to his stamp on Ricardo Carvalho makes for riveting listening. Skinner, like most England fans would have been at the time, is apoplectic: “And fucking Rooney’s been fucking sent off for fuck all!” he spits. “I can’t fucking believe it! What did he fucking do though? We’re being cheated out of this!” Skinner is the more emotional and impulsive of the two comics, and appears to have more in common with the archetype of the England fan. The assumption that England were being cheated is something that was likely to have been echoed in pubs across the land that day, even with the benefit of TV replays. Skinner ticks off another square on the England supporter’s bingo card by defiantly declaring it “time for the courageous England performance. Ten young men of England taking on Portugal and the fucking referee.” Several clichés that come with the territory of England at a major tournament are referenced, but the show doesn’t suffer for this triteness. It is oddly comforting to hear the thoughts such as might proliferate in the head of so many England fans.
The subsequent conspiratorial wink from Cristiano Ronaldo is addressed by Baddiel after the game, suggesting that he “Can’t see how [Ronaldo and Rooney] can go on playing together for Manchester United ever again.” The fact that they would, winning three Premiership titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup, makes for an effective reminder that sometimes things are rarely as melodramatic as they might seem immediately after a game, especially when that game is a World Cup quarter-final (Recently the Carlos Tevez situation at Manchester City has further proven that no bridge is every truly burnt). Baddiel goes on to discuss ethics in the game, and suggests that “Any chance of [young players] ever thinking in terms of something [being] okay to do ethically on the pitch is completely gone now.” Since then we’ve seen such incidents as the Luis Suarez handball against Ghana, Thierry Henry costing the Republic of Ireland a place at the World Cup, and countless other high-profile instances of cheating that suggest that Baddiel, sadly, may well be right.
The reign of Sven is summarised by Skinner, who complains that the Swede only ever picked the players that the papers demanded, as if the squad was decided by a press vote. Rather than concentrating on finding the right blend of players, Skinner continues, he stuffed the team with Galacticos that never looked like a proper team. I remember when he picked unheralded Charlton Athletic defender Chris Powell in his very first squad. This singular thinking was rarely to be seen throughout the rest of a tenure which can perhaps be surmised by the albatross that was the Steven Gerrard/Frank Lampard conundrum. Warming to his theme, Skinner extemporises by comparing the England team to a greatest hits CD. He says that he prefers proper albums as they represent the band’s creativity over a specific period of time, and that, while there may be a few fillers, it works better as an overall product. The England team of 2006, as through Sven’s entire reign, was England’s greatest hits album, without the unity, focus or vision required to transcend the sum of its parts. Baddiel agrees, saying that no-one ever picks a greatest hits collection as their best album, and by that same logic, few will ever hold Sven’s perennial losing quarter-finalists in any great esteem.
As Baddiel and Skinner prepare for the shoot-out, they adopt the “penalty stance” – arms around each other, heads bowed in grim anticipation. There is still time for some gallows humour, as the two men embrace with faces smeared red with melting face paint. “Since our face paint has made us look red,” Skinner says, “People are looking at us saying ‘Look at those two blokes from the dermatitis clinic showing a bit of unity.’”
I have seen the key moments of that penalty shoot-out several times since, but no amount of repeat views can recreate the sinking feeling of imminent collapse as well as Skinner’s guttural reaction to Lampard’s missed penalty. “Oh…he’s….Oh no, not again. Please not again. Please not again.” It’s a reaction that is almost lewd in its rawness, and it perfectly captures the horrors of a penalty shoot-out. In some ways, Skinner’s reaction to the first Portugal penalty miss makes for even more distressing listening. The optimism and elation of the moment is retrospectively recast as the cruelty of false hope. Portugal’s second miss is even more vindictive. Skinner doesn’t say as much, but you can read his thoughts clearly: nobody misses penalties against England, but for a team to miss two? England are going to win, this is our time. When I listen to this moment again, I ask myself whether I could’ve ever felt that myself at the time, watching at home. I’m certain that perhaps I did, but it seems impossible.
Skinner takes a turn for the maudlin when he tells how he had tears in his eyes at the thought that he doesn’t think he’ll ever see England win a major tournament in his lifetime. “I’m 50 next year and I honestly think time is running out, I just can’t see it happening.” Baddiel reminds him that he said the same thing after leaving the Stade De France after the 1998 World Cup final, before suggesting with all sincerity that a healthier lifestyle could be the way forward – “If you live a bit longer you might have more of a chance.”, he says, with no hint of irony or sarcasm. Unwittingly, Baddiel sums up the desperation of the England fan with some genuine, wholesome advice. Rather than hoping for a more tactically astute manager, or a brighter crop of young players to emerge, it seems that yoga and a macrobiotic diet offer a more likely route to triumph (Possibly heeding this advice, hydrophobe Skinner completed a swimming challenge for Sport Relief earlier this year).
As Owen Hargreaves successfully puts his penalty away – the only England player to do so – Baddiel and Skinner talk afterwards about how their perceptions of him had changed after the tournament. It has long been my contention that, had England beaten Portugal, that his performance in this match would have deserved the same canonisation as David Beckham’s against Greece in 2001. If anything, it would’ve warranted additional merit – England were expected to beat Greece in front of home support, whereas a team of ten men in a World Cup knockout match had far more to do. Beckham’s performance against Greece, full of apparently selfless running, may have provided a problem of its own that day. By seeking involvement in order to grab the game by its scruff, Beckham dispensed with positional sense in a way that may well have made it harder for England to form cohesive attacks on goal. Hargreaves would have covered similar ground against Portugal, but it was absolutely essential with ten men on the field, in a match where survival was paramount.
Skinner damns him with faint praise by lauding the typically English decision to name him man of the match “for basically just running out of his skin”, and not for anything technically cultured. “It’s alright, but it’s not going to win us the World Cup”. One might well adopt this maxim for Scott Parker this summer. Parker has made “running out of his skin” the bedrock of his game, and is the long-awaited successor to Hargreaves, but Skinner is right – more is required to win tournaments. This is not to downplay the importance of Parker in 2012, nor the importance of Hargreaves in 2006, but the point is valid. Either way, it is staggering to consider that, in all likelihood, this was the last a major international tournament would ever see of Owen Hargreaves.
Skinner offers another theory concerning English football, by suggesting that the national game was irreparably damaged by Brazil winning the World Cup in 1970. Prior to this, England were a major power by playing English football, with “big stopper centre-halves, big, strong centre-forwards, some skill, but a lot of hard work, sweat and guts”. Then, after seeing Brazil in ’70, England underwent a shift in ideology. “We basically turned our back on our inheritance to try and play like continentals or South-Americans. You have to keep true to what your football self is.” Roy Hodgson, with his penchant for pragmatism, may well agree with such a philosophy.
There is further tactical insight from Baddiel, who says that, after five years, he couldn’t say what Eriksson’s style of play was. They discuss the misperception that England endeavoured to play defensive football when, in Skinner’s view, really it was just “failed attacking football.” Baddiel is angered by Eriksson’s assertion that he wouldn’t mind if England won playing ‘bad football’, arguing that teams never win playing ‘bad football’. “Greece played tight, dull defensive football in Euro 2004, but it wasn’t ‘bad’.” Take Chelsea’s Champions League elimination of Barcelona this season; some derided Roberto Di Matteo’s allegedly anti-football tactics, ignoring the fact that defensive football is a tactical discipline with its own intrinsic qualities and nuances. England could only dream of such accomplishment in Germany. Baddiel provides a fitting epitaph for the 2006 campaign: “We gave the ball away, we constantly looked frightened at the back.” ’twas ever thus.
Skinner closes the podcast with an almost apologetic tone, confessing “We couldn’t be bothered sitting here trying to be funny, I’m pissed off.” This is something that the ubiquitous ‘Toby Jug full of hot piss‘ Adrian Chiles would do well to take note of. Sometimes it’s right to be morose if it captures the moment. In the wake of a defeat, you don’t want to be laughing and joking about it. You can’t force yourself to stop agonising over it. It might not be the right thing to do, like picking at the scab of a grazed knee, but even if it is painful, you just want to feel that something is being done to heal the wound.
To my mind, the appropriate tone at such a time is the one captured in this podcast – unashamedly dejected, bleakly conciliatorial, strangely cathartic. I’ll listen to this again at some point this summer, seeking consolation by reminding myself that this is just the way it has to be. The FA should make this available on their website as dejected England fans nurse their grief. If you’re an England fan, I suggest you do the same, using the links below.
Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed is the sort of site that never shies away from the big games. In the past, we’ve bought you detailed minute-by-minute reports of the Old Firm derby from the perspective of the match ball, as well as coverage of the Merseyside derby via ScouseBot 3000. Tonight saw Manchester United and Manchester City fight it out for the Premiership crown they both crave, like right greedy bastards. Naturally, we were all over it, and anyone that says we weren’t is lying.
Our latest minute-by-minute report comes to you from my Dad, fresh from an argument, who politely points out that he hates my Mum for her relentless mind games and the spiteful venom that emanates from her very soul. While I listen to my Mum crying in the bath as I worry that this is somehow all my fault and the other children will bully me for not having a proper family, I hand over the reigns to my Dad, who needs to CALM DOWN. Dad, seriously. Cool it. (You can use my laptop if you want, but just do a half-decent write-up on the game, I can’t really be bothered now. I’ve already written an intro for you, but obviously delete this bit in brackets first.)
Hello! Clive here. This is good, isn’t it? I will let you know what happened in the match tonight if you just bear with me as I am new to this, and I’ve been a bit emotional lately.
1 minute – Kick-off. AND IT’S GO, GO, GO! (Murray Walker joke there! Shame he’s dead.)
4 minutes – United will fancy their chances here. They’ve got a good away record, which certainly doesn’t surprise me. It’s not like I’m one to be shocked by the prospect of someone playing away with 11 other men. Isn’t that right Janet, you WHORE?
10 minutes – United are looking very comfortable here. I’m sure they’d feel as tense and anxious as I always do if their wives were all medicated up to the eyeballs every waking hour. I’ve told you a million times, depression isn’t an illness, it’s a type of sadness, Jan!
17 minutes - Great tackle from Gareth Barry there. He has his critics, but he always works so hard. Is trying so bad really? At least it shows that he’s interested. That can really mean a lot to some people. Or apparently not enough, like when I drove for four bloody hours to go visit your family, only to find they weren’t in because YOU got the dates wrong, you silly old moo, and all you did was moan as if it was my fault somehow.
30 minutes – Nice shot of the Manchester City banner to Sheikh Mansour there. I have my own one in my house. It says : “YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER THANKS YOU, JANET SHED!”.
45 minutes – GOALS! Vincent Kompany smacks in the ball with his enormous head. By the look on his face, that goal was better than sex. I’ll have to take his cum-face for it, since I’ve forgotten how that feels due to my non-existent sham of a sex life. A man has needs! (Sex needs)
Half-time – Can’t believe it’s half-time all ready. Where does the time go? In my case, it goes into the crushing duopoly of a loveless marriage and a hateful existence. Off for a pie.
46 minutes – United will have to improve in this half if they want to keep their grip on the Premiership trophy. They lack that extra bit of quality in the final third, and it’s something they might need to address in the summer. They’ve got some good youngsters coming through, but I do worry about their futures. Just like my own kids, they leave me feeling disappointed and hollow. Maybe some experience in the Carling Cup next year might help? If we do get divorced, I guess the equivalent for me and my kids will be taking them to parents evenings. No-one likes going to those. The League Cup of parental responsibility.
52 minutes – Wayne Rooney’s struggling tonight, which is surprising as he’s scored more goals this season than I’ve had hot dinners. And I mean that literally, as my wife is a terrible cook. Isn’t that right, dear? Cooked for Cliff Richard when you were at college, did you? BOLLOCKS.
65 minutes – Ryan Giggs is 37-years-old and is still vital to Manchester United. I’m 52 and I’m made to feel absolutely useless, day in and day out. If Giggs proves anything, it’s that age can bring it’s own intrinsic qualities, and it’s not just about the youngest swinging dick in town, even if he does run his own business and is called Pablo and has a holiday villa in Portugal and is better than me and this is rubbed in my face every day by my own wife. It also proves the preserving quality of pilates.
75 minutes – It’s all kicking off on the touchline between Ferguson and Mancini. Not sure what triggered it, but sometimes an argument can be a healthy thing. Maybe they’ll feel better for it in the morning? It never works for me, but whatever. Perhaps they’re just more caring than most.
82 minutes – An ambitious effort from Yaya Toure goes wide there, but still, it’s nice to see someone with a bit of ambition around here isn’t it? Not like when a certain someone gave up her night classes in French.
88 minutes - City are minutes away from buying their first title! No doubt they’ll be looking for more new players in the summer, but I’m afraid these fans just don’t realise the value of money. No one does these days. Piles of debt and for what? More misery and despair, with the added anxiety of bills to pay at the end of it. This applies to both my life and the point I was just making about the game there. FUCK YOU, JANET!
Full time – City win, and surely the title is now theirs! It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. I remember when I had dreams. It was bloody ages ago.
Lovers of irony, sarcasm or cynicism, let this headline not fool you. For all the brickbats hurled at the newly hirsute Mr. Rooney since his petulant red card against Montenegro, RGSOAS arrives in time to hurl itself bravely before the salvo of abuse, and selflessly take said brickbats in the balls on Wayne’s behalf. But why?
Yes, it was a deserved red card. Yes, it now creates problems that extend to the rest of the England team as a whole. Yes, it was another episode of dark shame for the bootiful game, which England is the best at.
But. The response immediately after the foul was committed should rightly impress us, if only a little. He didn’t contest the red card, he didn’t malign Montenegrin play-acting, he didn’t swear at the referee.
Well, of course, you might say. It’s the least he can do in the wake of such an undignified act. We shouldn’t be thanking him for not digging the hole any deeper. As one of England’s more experienced players, he shouldn’t be acting like this in the first place, much less inciting further trouble.
The stock defence for Rooney’s hot head has always been that, if you remove that fiery temperament, you neuter the essence of the man, the player that can win games single-handedly. If the price to pay for such a talent is the odd misdemeanour, then so be it. It’s the way of the single-minded maverick, and separates the Maradona’s, the Zidane’s and the Cantona’s from the rest.
There are those that will look at the red card as a portentous lapse back into old habits, but there was a refreshing nature to this misdeed. He knew the jig was up, and instantly got on with the business of accepting responsibility. This time, you feel that there might not necessarily be a next time.
And anyway, the biggest scandal of the game was this fucking monstrosity….