Monday, 15 October 2007

Pitch battle

JJ here,

The last time I remember a plastic pitch being a big issue was the week after Kenny Dalglish resigned his position as Liverpool manager in February 1991. Ronnie Moran – the number two at the time and the man who should have got the top job over Graeme bloody Souness – took his side to play Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

The Hatters’ plastic pitch, which has since been dug up with pieces being sold off in the club shop, was said to have been the last thing the players wanted to face after the traumatic week and the Pool went down three-one. As history testifies since, they would continue that downward spiral for some time.

Now, I’m not blaming the plastic pitch for sixteen years of hurt (punctuated by some damn decent cup wins) but it was just one of the first things that came to mind when thinking about Wednesday’s do-or-die game between England and Russia. The game has everything already – winner pretty much takes all, one manager starting to look competent, one manager saying he could have had the other one’s job but he didn’t fancy it, injuries to key players, Michael Owen bound to break a leg and Fat Frank being shot down by his own fans.

But let’s not forget the key element. Not the plastic pitch itself. But the excuse it gives England – and particularly its media outlets – to point to for generations. I’ll make no secret of it, I want Russia to win this game and want England nowhere near next year’s tournament. If they lose, they’ll have “that damned plastic monstrosity” to pin defeat on when, of course, they will only have themselves to blame. Steve McClaren may say the pitch is “no excuse for failure” now, but that could change come Thursday morning.

In the past it’s been Rooney’s red card; or a bobble on the penalty spot; a Ronaldhino free kick that wasn’t meant to go in; a disallowed goal against the Argies; the Hand of God and much more. Examine any of these excuses carefully though and whether you come up with Alan Shearer’s elbow or Gary Lineker missing an open goal, there’s generally a far more sane explanation as to why England haven’t won a tournament in over forty years. Should they lose on Wednesday, in ten years will people point to a dire display against Macedonia as the reason they didn’t qualify? Nah, “it were the plastic pitch mate”.

I know, I know, not all English fans are like that. Of course I realise that lads, but Tommy Lee Jones summed things up well in that, on reflection, atrocious movie ‘Men in Black’ while talking to Will Smith’s character, Jay.

Jay: People are smart, they can handle it.
TLJ: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

That’s kinda how I feel about England fans en masse, and while this most likely holds true for Irish people too (what with the whole alcoholism malarkey and that), we’re talking about England’s problems here, Ireland’s problems deserve a few books and a short movie entitled: F.A.I. – W.H.Y.

I’d like to go to next year’s finals and I think I’d enjoy it a lot more with the bulk of England’s support staying back in blighty without a team to support… plus getting to see John Terry cry so early in the season would be a real bonus. Go Rooskies!


Mark said...

john terry crying is always good, but i'd liek to see them at the euros.

see what garry o'connior has to say about plastic pitches;jsessionid=AKYPGH4EL5WHTQFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/sport/2007/10/14/sfncon114.xml

tyduffy said...

Does John Terry have any redeemable qualities as a human being?

JJ said...

He's not Ashley Cole. That's it.

Cathal O'Brien said...

Your either pretty old or you know far too much about football if thats the first think that comes to mind :-)

JJ said...

I'm old and I know waaaaaaay too much about football. I know that the day of Luton game in question I went to the movies and only saw the score in the evening paper (when the results used to come out hot off the press in the evenings). The fact that I can't remember which movie it was annoys me though. Yes, I'm that sad.

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