The BBC or not the BBC, that is the question. They invoked the spirit of "Harry, England and St George" to crush the Slovenian hordes. Now the game's afoot again, big time, so what can we expect this afternoon as we take on the Germans? Brian Blessed – and most blessed is he – shouted his Shakespeare loud enough to drown out the vuvuzela drone against Slovenia (BBC1, Wednesday) but today we might need to try a different approach. After all, Prince Harry shuffled off to meet his ex-girlfriend after the dreadful Algeria match, St George was probably Turkish anyway, and if we delve too far back into our history we might find that we actually are the Germans.
Before the midweek game we were also regaled by Harry Redknapp, at his patriotic best doing a decent impersonation of Winston Churchill in the Spurs dressing-room, if not Harry Hotspur himself. But evoking the war years is not to be recommended, no matter how loud the Kaiser screams. And besides, the Germans have moved the goalposts. They are now a young team of diverse ethnic origin who might not even know what "teutonic efficiency" is.
So this is a chance not only for the national broadcaster to cast aside the media tendency towards nationalist jingoism just as much as it's time for the England team to forget about all their failures since 1966.
The BBC seem less prone than ITV to stick the boot in, probably because England have performed reasonably well when they have been on the channel. Here are patriots: Alan Shearer epitomises the little Englander creosoting his fence, and Lee Dixon is an even smaller Englishman, a boy whose enthusiasm is unquenchable. Alan Hansen may be Scottish but he is all too aware of his homeland's shortcomings so the defensive obsessive tends to be a little backward in coming forward to criticise England.
Then there's Roy Hodgson, who might even come into the Cape Town studio now that he no longer feels the need to stand pitchside, ready to clamber into the dug-out as soon as England had been eliminated at the group stage.
At least on the Beeb we don't have to listen to Gareth Southgate reliving his penalty. He's as self-deprecating as a monk flaggelating himself with a birch branch. All around Saint Gareth are the martyrs of past failures: Venables (1996) and Keegan (2000), with Hoddle adding a frisson of Argentina pain (1998).
Adrian Chiles is too much of a fan himself, so he can't rise above the tension like a true pro and help us relax. Gary Lineker's bland smile is just what you need in a "tricky situation" like this, as Hoddle would say. The fearful Chiles actually wants England to get knocked out as soon as possible so he can get back home and on the sofa with Christine Bleakley. The only problem is, when England go home so does Frank Lampard.Reuse content