Stan Hey: Was it coincidence that 'Arry and Gabby were sporting funereal black?
View from the sofa
Monday 28 June 2010
It was billed as the day the nation took to its sofas but we ended up on the psychiatrist's couch instead.
No football game against Germany can be taken as a mere sporting occasion. But when a crushing World Cup defeat is involved, we become emotional wrecks. English football hit a new low: Joachim Löw, the masterful German coach who tasked a core of young players to dismantle an experienced England side. Not even the bizarre disallowal of a blatant England goal – the stuff of recurring nightmares – could compensate for the damage to the national psyche.
The BBC's build-up had been ominously dominated by anxiety, bad memories, and tormenting German demons like Boris Becker and Jürgen Klinsmann, and there was a Dr Who-style interlude about a dangerous spread of "England fever".
We duly time-travelled back to 1966 (good, apart from their late equaliser in normal time); then to 1970, when John Motson's sheepskin coat was still on a sheep and he was a cub reporter ready to file on England's 2-0 victory, only to gasp as Germany bagged three late goals; 1990 belonged to host Gary Lineker, who could still feel his "total desolation" at the defeat in Turin. Alan Shearer was still scarred by Gazza's near miss in 1996's Euro semi-final. And all this was before they started talking about penalty shoot-outs.
Lineker observed that so much was "in the head", with Shearer confirming "it's a mental thing". Enter a Scotsman, in the form of Alan Hansen, to offer some unemotional analysis: the Germans, he said, were "an average side, eminently beatable".
This prediction lasted fully for 20 minutes of the match, when his former defensive partner at Liverpool Mark Lawrenson, aka "'The Prince of Gloom", was able to pronounce that England had fallen victim to a "pub goal, route one" in his role as co-commentator/reader of the last rites.
Twelve minutes later, the funeral bell was tolling. "Could be 4-0, this," Lawrenson intoned.
But suddenly the corpse twitched – the hapless Matthew Upson redeemed himself with a goal headed in off his face before Frank Lampard's shot bounced in off the bar for England's equaliser. But this one was only two feet over the line. Fabio Capello celebrated but there was no Russian linesman to signal the goal, just a Uruguayan who, despite obsevations made up and down the land, was not actually accompanied by a guide dog.
"We were dead and buried but not now," Lawro announced as if on the Derren Brown show, before launching a broadside at Sepp Blatter, the Fifa chief who doesn't believe in goal-line technology (wait till he gets 62 million letters and emails tomorrow).
The panel had, by now, caught "Lawro Fever" – "should be five down, really," Shearer mused gloomily, quite rightly. "Defence is all over the place," mourned Lee Dixon, just as accurately. Was it coincidence that Harry Redknapp and Gabby Logan were now in funerial black?
England resumed in the manner of men reprieved from a death sentence, relieved but dripping with grudges. The "Gazza's tears" close-up from 1990 wasn't quite matched by Rooney's Scouse glare at the referee, which seemed to say, "We know where you live." Lampard hit the bar again, from a free-kick, giving a chance for the referee to award a compensatory goal but this time he spotted it hadn't gone in.
Almost unbelievably, Lawro and England cheered up for a while as the flow of the game went against Germany. But two breakaway German goals threatened a precise revenge for the 5-1 defeat in Munich in 2001.
The nation slumped, Lawro climbed back into his coffin, and England called on their rusty knight "Ivanhoe" Heskey to claw back three goals. "The whole team has to take responsibility, not just the defence," Lawro's muffled voice said from inside the casket of English football. "There'll be an inquiry," he guessed, before falling asleep for another thousand years.
The television panel ruthlessly butchered team and manager. By the time 2018 comes around maybe the panel will also feature Lampard, Steven Gerrard, or perhaps even Wayne Rooney – greying, balding and reminiscing grimly about the fateful day when Germany once again turned the lights off on England.
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