Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Royle pain in the arse

If it’s possible to drone hysterically, Joe Royle managed to demonstrate the art form in all its glory on Monday night. England were in full control throughout their Euro 2004 4-2 win against Croatia. It might not have gone exactly to the game plan, but they carefully eroded the Croatian resistance with superior passing, technique and a variety of attacking opportunities. They never really looked like losing.

OK, so the Croatian’s one-dimensional approach was rewarded with a scrappy goal, and dominant teams do lose from conceding scrappy goals. But playing percentages, teams with better technique win more games than teams with poor technique. Fact.

When the Croats took the lead, Royle lost his head. England were flat, without spark or flair, he said. He ignored the fact there was eighty-five minutes still to play and England were pressing constantly for a goal. Why Royle, an experienced manager, started panicking I don’t know. If Royle had been the manager he’d have had England engaging in operation Alamo before ten minutes had elapsed.

He ignored wholly that Michael Owen was unlucky not to latch onto a couple of probing through balls, or that Scholes had a chance to break his three year duck long before he actually did.

Rooney added the second and Royle was suddenly beside himself “He could well go on and score a hat-trick” he said turning arse about face in spectacular fashion. Of course, his jitters returned when Croatia pulled it back to 3-2, but it was never as panicky as his sweaty palms would have us believe.

Mind you, I was getting the heebee jeebees, we’re off to see Orbital in Brixton on Friday and whilst Switzerland and France were drawing, England topped the group. This meant a quarter final with Greece. On Friday. Thankfully Thierry Henry pinged in a couple of goals and our attentions turned instead to Thursday and Portugal.

Mind you, Russ and Sam must be wondering whether to hire a big screen TV for evening of their wedding. That’s when the final is.


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