England 1 Germany 2

My tube train had been half empty right up until Embankment. Then on came the England fans. It took a couple of minutes for the platform to clear itself into our carriage. The carriage became packed, then quickly moved past that into being rammed. The doors closed – first attempt, surprisingly – and the train moved off.

No red or white shirts: no chanting: no bullying of the weak. Not silent, just quiet; the odd, briefly composed comment about the size of the crowd, the good things about the new Wembley, how long it would take to make Victoria.

I’d been apprehensive for a moment. Too many such trips in the company of the Famous Chelsea or the less famous A.F.C. Wimbledon; I’d learned how to cringe in the presence of the greatest fans in the world. These guys weren’t like that. They reminded me of George Orwell’s 1940s Englishmen:

The gentleness of the English civilization is perhaps its most marked characteristic. You notice it the instant you set foot on English soil. It is a land where the bus conductors are good-tempered and the policemen carry no revolvers. In no country inhabited by white men is it easier to shove people off the pavement. (The Lion and the Unicorn)

It was just as well. I wasn’t on a journey that I wanted to make in the slightest. On that train, it was my temper that lay on a hair-trigger. I was the one looking for a fight. So it was just as well.

Just as well, too, that… that was a bit more like it, wasn’t it? Watching the highlights again this grey, god-awful morning confirmed my suspicion of the night before that on another day England would have won that one big.

Perhaps an all-too refurbished barstool in the all-too refurbished Spread Eagle in Camden is not quite the same as being there, but it looked to me that only Robinson for England had a bad game, and who is this Lampard fellow? I’ve not really heard much about him, but his was the best England goal since Joe Cole’s against Sweden, beautifully taken when it would have been easier to get the ball trapped under his feet.

Lampard had had to run the midfield all evening, and it would have helped his nerves to have the more established faces, especially that of Micah Richards, around him. If he can keep his place – and he deserves to after last night – one can only drool at the prospect of both Lampard and Steven Gerrard in the centre of the park.

So I’m being tongue in cheek, but were Frank really just breaking through, you’d be thinking that too.

Impressive performances from Owen – hugely unlucky not to score – Shaun Wright-Phillips (it feels fine to type his name in that context), Richards, Joe Cole and Kieran Dyer (also unfortunate), amongst others, mean that this was a hugely promising defeat.

Injuries and suspensions to key players – Rooney, Crouch, et al – mean that England haven’t turned the corner yet. But after last night, we now know that there is a corner to turn.

4 Replies to “England 1 Germany 2”

  1. I’m still not convinced about Dyer. I completely understand the desire to have players in the team who can run at people with the ball at feet, but he never seems to do anything with it. Especially the idea of playing him as a second striker: I just don’t believe that he’s a goal scorer. He’s certainly not an out-and-out striker, but he’s not even one of those midfielders with an eye for goal.

  2. If you want to watch televised sport, the Liberties a bit further up the high street is the least worst option.

  3. Pretty good performance from England. If I was an England fan, I’d take that over a bad winning performance any day.

    I wonder if any of you watched the BBC News? The sports report began with England, a brief summary and a clip of Lampard’s goal. Then Northern Ireland, a briefer summary, and Healy’s goal. Then…? On to a report about eating vegetables or whatever.

    Just as well there weren’t any other football games on that night, otherwise they might have had no space for that vegetable story (or was the “vegetable” a reference to Barry Ferguson’s midfield performances?)

  4. I don’t think it was that good, Mathew, in fact it was the usual mixture, starting brightly with a lot of energy then gradually losing shape. Moving Richards into the middle ought to be good eventually but on this occasion it removed a threat down the right and Beckham was clearly unfit and heavy legged, and while he was never fast he could time his crosses. That will probably be all right soon, it just wasn’t this time.

    Not that the result mattered, except psychologically, but psychology – don’t you think, James? – has been, is, and will continue to be a problem for England. There is no carefree play, even in a friendly: there is little pleasure. And now having lost to a German reserve team with an average , first exuberant, then tight, then finally fraying performance the psychological pressure is greater still. There are and always have been good, intelligent, skilful players in the team, but pleasure is thought to be wrong, somehow irresponsible. A little irresponsibility would be a great load off some of the players’ shoulders. It’s part of confidence, after all. Wright-Philips is the obvious example. He actually looked joyful, and, I would say, therefore, dangerous.

    Or is this pure rot, James? You are the psychologist. Say more about this – the irresponsibility-pleasure-confidence relationship – if you have a mind to. I don’t, of course, mean total irresponsibility, I mean ‘just enough’. It is what boy-racers have. I expect Ronaldo and Leo Messi have it.

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