It is said that victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. In the world of English football, though, a father can often be located for a defeat. "Green wrecks dream start" howled one newspaper yesterday in response to the unfortunate handling error by the England goalkeeper, Robert Green, in the team's opening game in the World Cup against the USA, which gifted the opposition with a goal.
This urge to scapegoat individuals for national sporting disappointments is as unappealing as it is nonsensical. One could just as easily argue that Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Frank Lampard and all of England's other outfield players wrecked the "dream start" because they failed to score more than one goal.
As for Green, the reality is that even the best prepared top-level professionals sometimes make inexplicable gaffes. And as the goalkeeper rightly said after the game, the key is how you deal with this sort of setback. But could not the England team have handled the blow rather better? Could not the England captain, Steven Gerrard, have shown a bit more solidarity with Green in the immediate aftermath of his howler? Football is a team game, but England's goalkeeper was left looking like a very isolated figure on Saturday night.