Dead Rubber: England’s Ground Zero

 

The lads

The lads

England have failed once more. In a novel variation on a theme, they’ve done it as quickly as they possibly could this time. Costa Rica provided a merciful bolt to the head, putting them down completely by beating Italy, meaning the English have nothing to play for against Costa Ricans who have nothing left to do. England will contest a pointless match, nothing more than a perfunctory act of clerical necessity. The ignominy of ignominies. The stark rubble of ground zero. They will try to win. We must accept with pained grace that they try. Some things just need to fail.

What team will Roy Hodgson play? There is clamour to unleash youth, a desperate torrent of subdued promise to flush away the filth. Offer opportunity, such as it is, to Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A sweetly-fragranced unguent to apply gingerly to the gaping exit wound. Players will need to make way for the cause, and one of them may well be Steven Gerrard, likely to retire from international football after the tournament, leaving him on 113 England appearances. Frank Lampard, so far an unused substitute, has made 105. The owners of a combined 218 caps could end up sitting on the bench together as their international careers come to an end. it would make for a sad end if it wouldn’t be so devastatingly appropriate.

Behold, two international careers that have dovetailed with such pointless synchronicity, petering out with trademark frustration. The final vestiges of a Golden Generation for which no amount of inverted commas will ever contain the requisite irony. While so many peers to have won 100+ caps for their countries have been around long enough to grasp triumph – Thuram, Buffon, Cafu, Xavi, Pirlo – England’s raft of recent centurions have departed only with regrets. David Beckham, Ashley Cole, now Gerrard and Lampard – all will remain tainted by the cumbersome label that earmarked them for greatness, but only weighed them down.

Let them die as they lived. Sit Gerrard and Lampard together on the same bench, competing over the same space for one last time, a tragic final encore of their greatest hit. If it sounds harsh, it’s because it needs to be, for the perverse benefit of the generation to follow.

Let the youngsters witness what it’s like to flounder completely, make them see what failure truly looks like. Two indisputably fine players reduced to ash. Monoliths of their domestic game: an internecine duopoly on the world stage. Then, only then, might a generation of England players emerge, blinking in the harshness that only fresh light can bring, and realise what it means to be a part of this team. Only then might they seek not to play for England, and everything that has now come to mean, but to play for playing’s sake. To play for the lost and pure pursuit of fun. Because no matter what Frankie and Stevie will insist, the first dozen memories of England they will ever have on any given day won’t be ones of fun. They will carry this burden, and this will be their true legacy.

218 wasted caps. Don’t let that be you, boys. Don’t let that be you.

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The Incomplete Panini Album World Cup Preview

The 2014 World Cup is advancing menacingly, like a drunken tramp approaching to bellow songs into a traffic cone in exchange for money. There is only one place that can deliver the sort of preview that can justify the hype, and you’re looking right at it, mister. If you thought you were already excited about the mere prospect of Brazil, then think again. Only after reading this will you be correctly prepared for what’s to come, you absolute moron.

"There are three names in this envelope…"

“There are three names in this envelope…”

Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed prides itself on the depth and quality of its research. With that in mind, our groundbreaking preview of the forthcoming World Cup has been compiled using the finest factual resource available to man – a half-complete Panini sticker album. Gasp in sickening wonder as we look at the dramatis personae that look set to make this summer one of the World Cuppiest of the modern age.

photo 1

Here is just some of the high-flying action we can expect to see in Rio. In this scintillating picture, we can see the legendary Panini Man failing to make contact with a rudimentary overhead kick. This lack of accuracy is why he currently finds himself without a club.

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Best get a move on, lads.

When journalists began to circulate rumours that some of the World Cup stadia were only half-finished, they weren’t joking. Panini have not produced the left-sided stickers for these two grounds as they will not be built in time for the tournament. As it became apparent to FIFA that construction workers would not have enough time to build complete stadia, they were instructed to build only one half, in order for Panini to circulate at least half of the stadium stickers. Numbers 8 and 12 simply do not exist, as the Estadio Mineirao and Arena Pantanal have only had their right-sides built. FIFA plans on keeping up the ruse throughout the tournament with a combination of green-screen technology and having players swap the partings in their hair to the opposite side for the second-half of matches, to create the illusion that the teams have swapped ends when they haven’t, because their is only one end. Sure to cause discussion in the pubs this summer!

BRAZIL

Old bastards,

Old bastards

Host nation Brazil has a lot to live up to, as they look to overcome the handicap of having several players named after very old men. This follows an earlier controversy when fans angrily protested the inclusion of Oscar, Bernard and Fred in the squad, at the expense of erstwhile seleção favourites such as Compo, Clegg and Nora Batty.

CROATIA

"AAAAGGGGHHHH!!"

“AAAAGGGGHHHH!!”

OGNJEN VUKOJEVIC HAS ARRIVED TO EAT YOUR FAMILY WHOLE. Possible dark horses?

CAMEROON

Not seeing eye-to-eye.

Not seeing eye-to-eye.

No World Cup is complete without one team falling apart because they’re all twats and can’t get a long for a few weeks. That team is likely to be Cameroon. Observe how Joel Matip looks with barely-concealed scorn at the crazed hair of Benoit Assou-Ekotto. A certain sign that trouble is a-brewin’.

SPAIN

GBOL

GBOL

By contrast, Spain’s team spirit is at an all-time high, touching each other’s knees in their team photograph. Every relationship needs its moments of tenderness in order to thrive. Expect Spain to do well, if not by winning the tournament, then perhaps by getting matching tattoos or buying each other eternity rings.

HOLLAND

The Dutch will be at a notable handicap, after harsh sanctions handed down from FIFA. Oranje hardman Nigel De Jong has been told quite specifically that he is not allowed to boot people in the chest like an angry bailiff kicking in some slag’s door. Elsewhere in the squad, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is a major injury doubt, as the lower half of his face continues to taper off dangerously. It is expected that his entire mouth may disappear prior to Holland’s opening game against Spain.

Tiny gob.

Tiny gob.

URUGUAY

For Uruguay, much depends on the happiness of mercurial gobshite Luis Suarez. Here we can see that he is deeply unhappy at being told by the Panini photographer that his ears somehow look even more stupid for being pinned back. A dark omen perhaps?

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U R GAY

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica’s preparations have been hit by the unwelcome drama surrounding key player Roy Miller, who was recently told by FIFA that he needs to return his name to the name shop, as it “doesn’t sound Costa Rican enough”. Here we see the beleaguered chap just moments before being nabbed by the authorities.

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Lookin’ tense

ENGLAND

There have been concerns that England’s pasty-white players will wilt in the Brazilian heat, and it would appear these fears, much like your nan’s dead face at her funeral, are not without foundation. Frank Lampard’s sticker depicts the Chelsea semi-orphan melting like a crap ice cream. A Mini-Milk or some such.

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Picture of a pile of Lampard-shaped goop.

ECUADOR

The team affectionately known as ‘The Norwich City of South America’ will struggle, after the squad staged a training camp walk-out in protest after Panini announced they had run out of glue, and couldn’t be bothered ordering any more in to print off any more Ecuadorian stickers. The five stickers pictured are the only ones in circulation – the rest do not exist.

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HONDURAS

The Honduran Football Association caused a stir at the official unveiling of the team’s new kit, where it was announced that they would compete in the World Cup playing by the rules of baseball. All other teams in their group will observe the rules of football. In each match, the winner will be the team to score the most home runs.

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NIGERIA

Will this finally prove to be Shola Ameobi’s World Cup? No.

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Of course not.

GHANA

Ghana will expect to struggle in a tough group containing Germany, Portugal, USA and a truck full of bombs being driven by a man with no legs. However, they’re widely expected to have the Happiest Player award sewn up, thanks to Christian Atsu, whose face is absolutely delighted. What a lovely guy.

"Just really happy to be here, lads."

“Just really happy to be here, lads.”

 

USA

YOO-ESS-AY. YOO-ESS-AY, YOO-ESS-AY.

YOO-ESS-AY. YOO-ESS-AY, YOO-ESS-AY.

Team America’s hopes rest on goalkeeper Tim Howard’s attempts to confuse opposition strikers by wearing the same shirt as his outfield team-mates. Known as the ‘Anti-Campos’, this pioneering technique has already been derided by many of the game’s top pundits as total jobbies.

PREDICTIONS, EXPECTATIONS, DEMANDS

  • There will be a selection of light and dark horses.
  • World Cup history video montages must include the following footage: Marco Tardelli’s gaping maw, Gazza’s tears and that much-loved clip of Jurgen Klinsmann doing a jobby on a glass table while Lothar Matthaus lies beneath, pounding his parson.
  • Everyone will have a really good time.
  • Diana Ross to slam home a redemption penalty in the opening ceremony, with the Ex-Supreme’s celebration to be choreographed by Stuart Pearce.
  • Grown men crying.
  • England’s Raheem Sterling will be one of the stars of the tournament: one year from now he will join the Army.
  • ITV anchorgit Adrian Chiles will horrify a nation by buttering his guts prior to ad breaks.
  • FOOTBALL! (I will not budge on this)

RGSOAS GOLD

For further adventures in Panini, check out the Euro 2012 Ruud Gullit Drinking Game.

Expecting England to fail? Why not play England Bingo with your mates or parole officer? Or cheer yourself up with Baddiel and Skinner.

England Euro 2012 Bingo – Sweden

Introduction

England Euro 2012 Bingo – France

England Euro 2012 Bingo continued yesterday, with Sweden the latest team to face the increasingly obdurate yet limited resistance of Roy Hodgson’s men. Would they be able to do so without falling asleep? Would we be able to take notice of them trying not to fall asleep without falling asleep ourselves?  The answer to both questions was no, as a fairly sedate game veered wildly into a screwball clusterfuck that unexpectedly gave cause for some optimism, which many English fans had previously thought was the name of some sort of dietary supplement.

Find out how this affected the latest round of the nation’s new favourite game, as I continue to monitor the England experience with the Englishest thing in all of Christendom – a bingo pen in the image of Stephen Fry wearing a bowler hat and making the sort of expression that signifies the late delivery of a bad crumpet. Also, it’s raining outside and Heartbeat is on telly.

The Gerrard/Lampard axis has been given a merciful reprieve this summer, due to the latter’s withdrawal due to injury. This old chestnut remains clogging up unwanted space on the bingo card in totemistic remembrance of two dovetailing international careers that kept cancelling each other out. Like a Tron race in perpetual re-start, Stevie and Frankie were like two jostling Light Cycles, dangerously accelerating in ignorance of their inevitably doomed plight. But in 2012, finally, Frankie say relax, as now we need only fret about one box-to-box midfield general failing to cut the mustard, as opposed to two. As it is, Gerrard is thriving, providing two assists in as many games. Lampard’s absence could prove to be to Gerrard – and England’s – benefit, so now seems as good a time as any to finally banish this most tedious of conundra.

Something else to be offered a reprieve is the creatively bereft brass band, or, to give corporate credit where it’s due, the Pukka Pies England Band. After facing UEFA censure prior to the England/France game, the band failed to make their first England game at a major tournament for 16 years, only to find out (and subsequently ignore) that England fans are apathetic to their plight at best. At worst, YouTube comments have made it perfectly clear what instruments can be shoved in which orifice, rousing a perversely vitriolic sense of unity amongst supporters, who have grown tired of their somnambulant soundtrack to so many feats of sporting misadventure. They returned against Sweden, their sense of self-reverence still intact despite this drubbing of their spirits, and it was fitting to see that they didn’t use the week off to learn any new songs, or to develop their dubious musical talents beyond the level of drugged apes.

The self-destruct button was tentatively fingered, if not smashed repeatedly with sweaty palms of ham as is usually England’s way. A one goal half-time lead was turned inside out before there was time for the neon blue spittle of the English Powerade drinkers to return to a normal colour. Glen Johnson favoured his right foot in an awkward attempt at a clearance, when getting the full weight of his weaker left behind the ball could’ve proven more worthwhile. Olof Mellberg nodded in Sweden’s second goal as he was completely unmarked, and it seemed as if capitulation was on the cards. The introduction of Theo Walcott changed the game, but only because Mellberg’s second wordlessly ushered in a frantic period of shapeless buffoonery, with a lack of tactical structure and discipline opening gaps in both defences, which were spread thinner than wartime margarine.