It didn't take long for the pundits to set England's caretaker manager an impossible task for the so-called "impossible job". Before Stuart Pearce's first game in charge (ITV1, Wednesday), Gareth Southgate told the team to "express themselves, play with freedom". You mean they shouldn't just turn up and play as if they've never met before, never even played football before?
Roy Keane hissed through clenched teeth: "He wants the players to come out and enjoy it and be relaxed." No doubt he was recalling the many team talks in which Sir Alex Ferguson encouraged him to have fun. The fact that Keane didn't always play with a smile on his face must have been because he was concentrating so ferociously on trying to enjoy himself.
Strange advice, then, from one psycho to another. Keane and Pearce are old buddies from Nottingham Forest, and Southgate and Paul Ince were old international mates and, like Pearce, both missed crucial penalties for their country. Rarely has so much accumulated England failure and misery been brought together in one place – and it wasn't even a pizza advert. It was like getting a guarantee that the future cannot possibly be as bad as the past. Keane and Ince were like a couple of bouncers guarding the international trophy cabinet.
At the start of the second half, Clive Tyldesley echoed the words of Keane: "Part of it is educating your supporters to be patient with you." As if the fans hadn't been quite patient since 1966. And then within 90 seconds Holland were two goals up. It happened so fast, the one thing that wasn't required was patience.
What the Football Association really want the fans to do is to enjoy it and be relaxed and buy more replica shirts. There was a brand new, all-white strip in midweek, just 11 games after the last one rolled off the production line. For the first time there was not a stitch of blue in evidence – just the red of sendings-off and the white of surrender.
Tyldesley said how exasperating this was for hard-up parents, and if there's one thing the fans really hope for, it's that England might progress further at major tournaments, not to justify our supposed status in the world game but so they can get some more wear out of those shirts before it's time to buy a new one.
* Are you sitting comfortably? You may as well be seated in the electric chair, according to Michael Mosley on Horizon: The Truth About Exercise (BBC2, Tuesday). He calls the humble household object "a killer". We are sitting on a time bomb. Two thirds of us don't meet Government guidelines for leading an active life, but he has found a regime that takes just three minutes per week – three one-minute sessions on an exercise bike, split into 20-second intervals – which is the equivalent of two to three hours in the gym. It sounds like a good reason to do even more sitting down – and not just on the bike.
We are also told that even if we do keep active, one in five of us will see no change in our bodies. Yet another good reason not to bother.
The tendency was to sink deeper into your chair when the good doctor came up with lines such as: "If I can improve my VO2 max and my insulin sensitivity, I'll probably live longer." But just as the guilt factor started to make you a little restless, he showed us his "fidget pants", surely the new accessory for all fitness freaks. These garments have sensors which record your activity 20 times per second. There are even appropriate holes, which are no doubt monitored as well. However, sitting on the toilet probably doesn't count as an activity.
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