Apocalypse Sven

 by Martin Belam, 8 September 2005

I haven't seen the papers this morning (no BBC News Online front pages to look at either) but I'm sure they will make for grim reading for one particular Swede after last night's England defeat by Northern Ireland. In the interests of balance and fairness I thought I'd point out a couple of slightly more cheering facts:

  • Between Healy's goal in Belfast and Zurawski's goal in Chorzow, England played 566 minutes of World Cup football without conceding a goal
  • The worst England can do is reach the play-offs, even if they lose their remaining two games
  • In the whole of the European qualifying competition only five teams have conceded less goals (Holland, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Spain and France)

Of course some people, like Jimmy Greaves in The Sun (managerial record P0 W0 D0 L0), were calling for Sven's head before the match. And some took it a bit literally during the match, when one fan behind me tried to get the pub going with a chant of "Die, Sven, Die". I keep wondering who is this great experienced English manager they want to replace him with. One of the managers of the English teams in the Champions League? Erm, Portuguese, Scottish, French and Spanish by my reckoning. (I also seem to recall some fuss from a Scots bloke about the Champions League draw, but I don't see him in the group stages.). Or what about the managers of teams who have recently been in the Champions League? O'Leary? Too Irish. Souness? Too Scottish. So the plan would be to replace a manager who with two quarter final appearances has taken England to their best successive tournament finishes in my lifetime, with someone who'd managed a couple of UEFA Cup matches at best (McClaren, Allardyce after the next couple of weeks) or had no European managerial experience at all (Curbishly, Pardew, Bruce, Pearce et al). Hmm, great plan.

The hyperbole that deems everything has to be 'best ever' or 'worst ever' (Last Ashes Test the biggest sporting event since '66? Does nobody in England remember winning the Rugby World Cup?) was in full swing on Radio Five Live last night, where Terry Butcher continued his war of words with the England camp, describing the match on air as the 'most embarrassing' moment for England that he could remember. He must have a short memory. If you are looking for embarrassing moments how about conceding after 8 seconds against San Marino, failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, having a friendly match in the republic of Ireland abandoned due to crowd trouble, losing to the Republic at Euro88? Or here's one Terry should remember, he was playing, how about England 0 Morocco 0 in Mexico 86, with stand-in captain Ray Wilkins sent off for throwing the ball at the referee. All of which seem a damn sight more embarrassing to me than losing your first qualification match for 5 years in a group in which none of the teams below you can overtake you and you must finish at least second.

Mind you, having said all that, it was a bloody shambles wasn't it?

1 Comment

Peter Taylor?

Keep up to date on my new blog