Thursday, 10 May 2012


Too many men
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can’t you see?
This is a land of confusion
Genesis, ‘Land of Confusion

And so the finale to another Premier League campaign is upon us, the race just 90 minutes from being run. As we know from fable and cliché, the end of the season is the time by which the settling dusts of the season’s controversies will have evened themselves out on the scales of Justice.

For QPR and Bolton, for Spurs, Arsenal and Newcastle, there are still teeth to be gnashed, hair to be pulled, heart rates to spiral and stress balls to be chucked across living rooms, knocking ornaments from the mantelpiece (no parachute payments). And you can bet that before the season’s final curtain falls there will be one last explosion of outrage and indignation, one last ruckus, regardless of what’s gone before – for each year the list of iffy decisions and litany of managerial grievances appears to get longer and longer. And if that ire is an illusion created by Sky’s prompt and pushy microphone thrusters, then it is undeniable that each year the hot and acrid splutterings on the web ratchet up ever closer to a lunacy commensurate with the overall helium-balloon sanity of the game.

That Wigan have avoided their traditional final day escapology and thus some of this snorting, vein popping, wall-punching rage is something of a surprise, not least because they were so cruelly denied a point or three at Stamford Bridge last month by not one but two offside goals. But survive they have – thanks to a series of incredible results rather than luck evening itself out.

Nevertheless – and despite what the reckoners reckon – there are certainly teams across all divisions nursing legitimate complaints that cannot simply be appeased with platitudes about the sum of decisions affecting them attaining some sort of Taoist balance. They’ve got the rough end of the stick, and there’s no smooth end to take the rough with. It might be just as much of a dog-eared and trite-sounding cliché to say this – which is not to say it’s any less apposite for that – but these decisions change the course of seasons, of careers, of entire lives. They matter. Perhaps, then, it is time for football to think about, y’know, maybe helping its officials with disambiguated rules and modern technology, and not just for the line decision that hurt Tottenham so badly at Wembley. The stakes are ever higher. Magnanimity is in short supply. Someone is going to flip. 

* * *

Danish fan attacks the referee, 2007

Modern football: a great hiss and rumble and throb of barely stifled fury, of bottlenecked fervour, of displaced political anger trained on the poor old bastard in the black. With so much money (and personal self-worth) invested in an archaically administered and intrinsically chaotic enterprise, one in which the bounce of the ball and the interpretations of one inherently limited man and his two (or four) confreres determine the outcome – hardly the place for shoving half-a-billion quid, you’d imagine – it becomes more and more plausible (certainly if Twitter is an accurate barometer of the zeitgeist) that these overworked officials will one day soon be targeted by an overheated, deranged supporter. After all, football has already sparked at least one war elsewhere in the world.

This is not scaremongering. It is the simple recognition of a possible outcome borne of the confluence of financial and passional forces coursing through each and every match and slowly warming up football’s bubbling pot. Possible, not inevitable.

It is this conflict, this contradiction between the ever higher stakes and emotional investment on the one hand, and, on the other, the ambiguity and uncertainty that pervade the game, that effectively fans the flames of footballing frustration and foments the fans’ fury. I mean, the heavy-hitters in other multibillion pound industries at least have the good sense to get governments onside (or offside, but passive) and in their pockets, thus ensuring that their investments are protected from the vicissitudes of the markets. And yet football – notwithstanding the Trades Descriptions Act-challenging expansion of the “Champions” League in 1992 – has the destiny of its protagonists at the mercy of referees’ eminently human limitations, our inescapably restricted capacity to perceive and process a flux of sensory data, regardless of best intentions and general competence. 


As for those most affected by the decisions, the fact that so much of football derives from the interpretation of perpetually tweaked laws, it’s inevitable that one-eyed, partial viewpoints will hold sway (partial in the sense of limited rather than biased). Check more or less any after-match interview and you’ll find both coaches holding steadfast to vehement and diametrically opposed positions, views that they would defend unto the grave: “It’s a clear penalty”. “Bit soft, Geoff”. “Definite red card”. “I think he played the ball”.

Even among a punditariat paid to deliver neutral verdicts and afforded multiple TV replays from innumerable angles and at all speeds to do so, there’s rarely consensus as to the ‘facts’ of what happened – all of which is amply expressed in the commonplace idioms of punditry: “I’ve seen ‘em given”; “Not for me, Geoff”; “Six-of-one, half-a-dozen of the other”; “If that’d been outside the area…”

Grey areas.

Of course, the notion that there is an objectively perceivable reality, any objectivity, is extremely dubious – Nietzsche’s “perspectivism” is precisely this idea that our unconscious investment in reality, our desire, affects perceptions of that ‘same’ reality (and this includes a football referee before a large crowd with an assessor in the stand). But surely football’s Laws can clarify matters, right? In theory, yes. In practice, you have all this dissent and discombobulated disputation (among the crowd, mainly, since the modern player is increasingly cocooned from it all by their defence budget pay packets). 

Now, I’m no expert, and nor do I profess to be, but then neither are the majority of the crowd. Sport is not nuclear physics. Or rugby union. You’re not supposed to need to be an expert in order to appreciate it, to get it. What’s going on (or off) – the ‘meaning’ – should be fairly transparent at all times. (Of course, what rugby lacks in clarity, it makes up for in discipline, countervailing its haziness through a strict behavioural code, unlike football in which barely a decision is made without being greeted by a rasped “fuck off!”). But the Laws contain so much vagueness – some of which was shoehorned into the game so as to produce a more ‘entertaining’ spectacle rather than the old-fashioned notion of a just reward for honest endeavour – that it is little surprise there’s barely any consensus among pundits or any magnanimity from coaches when asked to comment on the game (be that in the heat of the moment or at a press conference a week later).

* * *

That football is a vast grey area and does little to help itself is evident if we run through a few of the principal bones of contention.

First, Law 12. A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits the offences of kicking, tripping or striking an opponent (or attempting to do so), or jumping, charging, pushing or tackling said opponent “in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless, or using excessive force”. Considered by the referee. Instantly, the pundits will be looking for “consistency” in application (the managers, for favour, even though they plead for that consistency). It goes without saying that they’ve more chance of plaiting snot. 

unambiguous excessive force

Indeed, the whole question of “excessive force” is notoriously difficult to interpret: does that include when a player wins – or feathers – the ball on the way into a tackle, and yet makes sure he ‘clears out’ the opponent at the latter part of the action (often unnecessary, often pleasurable, and usually either intimidatory or vengeful)?

Then there’s the problem of actually having to perceive the initial point of contact in these comings-together, especially in the penalty box: the multiple surfaces and flailing, entangled appendages render the referee’s task akin to watching two felled trees colliding and trying to work out which branch touched which first. Cue the slo-mo. No, the other one. No, the first, but slower…

Direct free kicks are also given for holding or spitting at an opponent (one endemic, the other taboo), or if a player “handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)”. The interpretation of this last rule seems to have become draconian to the point of requiring arm amputation. The penalty and yellow card against Bayern Munich’s David Alaba in the Champions League semi-final second leg in Madrid was nothing short of insane, scandalously depriving him of a ‘home’ final in club football’s biggest game. And anyway, while we’re contemplating our last-day relegation or eleventh-hour failure to make the Champions League (leading to the break-up of a promising group), we might ask: where, precisely, does the chest end and the arm begin? “Can you take this magic marker and draw on the volunteer, please?” Do we need ultra-motion to see the compression of the ball and whether a wee bit of leather stroked the arm of the defender?

Grey areas. 

Then there’s offside, “not an offence in itself,” but worthy of a free kick “if, at the moment the ball touches, or is played by one of his team, [a player] is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by: interfering with play or; interfering with an opponent, or; gaining an advantage by being in that position”. In the opinion of the referee… It is surely not helpful that a defender has to base his actions on second-guessing the ref: does he think this is second phase? And as for being level, yes, we know that it means any part of the body with which a goal can be scored, but is this actually perceivable by the officials? Does it include hair, for instance?

Let us not even bother with obstruction [bête noir alert], particularly defenders shepherding out the ball for a goal kick, shielding it without actually being able to reach it. The foregoing is enough to illustrate how the cash-bloated football edifice is still run according to antiquated Victorian regulations, and how the grey men in Zurich and Nyon, the bureaucrats of FIFA and UEFA, are happy for these grey areas to persist. “Forget the Ferrari, Wilhelm, let’s take my horse and cart”.

Of course, it all fans the fans’ outrage. By confusing respect for the figure of authority with respect for authority per se, by venerating the flesh-and-blood error machines with their sluggish perceptual-cognitive apparatus, their eyes-in-the-front-of-the-head limitations, FIFA is implicitly advocating a kind of wilful blindness and submission to the capricious, circumscribed judgement of He whose authority ought not be questioned. Little wonder players in Spain (in particular) are constantly surrounding and haranguing the referee. Thus, too, Mourinho’s habitually paranoid outbursts about referees and favouritism, his memory of their misdemeanours, his oblique attempts to pressurise the árbitro – a job for masochists and the certifiable. Less a case of arbitration than of being arbitrary. Influencing the árbitro macht frei

Mourinho and the higher power

What’s more, the Luddite refusal to introduce technology on the basis that it’s not foolproof is just plain bizarre. If the overriding commercial rationale of the sport in Zurich is to be able to punt it at ever greater cost to TV – the very means to demonstrate that justice has not been served (although not in all cases, of course) – then not having that selfsame technology avail the course of justice is plain perverse.

If technology is going to be introduced to assist more than just line decisions, then we should be aware that absolute answers in all cases aren’t needed and should not be the criterion applied to its implementation or otherwise. We don’t need perfect, just better.

Sepp Blatter has previously stated that the game’s administration needs to be the same at the grass roots as at the top level, but it is patently not the same game at park level. OK, the rules are identical and the players may invest just as much of their hopes and dreams in the outcome, but the stakes are objectively, inarguably lower. And when the fate of a club depends on a snap decision here or there, then so too does the wellbeing of the community around it. Thus it would only seem a matter of time before the Premier League witnesses its first instance of an official being attacked or worse for costing a team a title, a Champions League position, a place in the elite.

Yes, football’s truly a land of confusion. No, there’s not much love to go round. But what can be done? Me, I’m going to swallow 100mg of Phlegmatorol and acquiesce in the lunacy.

This article was first published by The FCF 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012



We are somewhere in the bowels of a large football stadium. Several staff and 23 players – three lions on all their shirts – sit around looking nervy, or nervously applying ‘product’ to hair (hair shaped like one of those asymmetrical postmodernist sculptures named after abstract nouns – Courage, Trust, Camaraderie – and habitually found outside civic buildings, which, within a generation, have become discoloured, unloved, and appropriated by skateboarders).

We are with England, 30 minutes before the Euro 2012 final. Spain is the opponent.

Vice-Gaffer Stuart PEARCE checks the pocket-watch in his FA standard issue blazer – Gafferísimo, ’ARRY Redknapp, is late.

There’s an urgent knock on the door. It’s an F.A. BIGWIG.

PEARCE: Any sign?
BIGWIG: No. Must be in the air still. Let’s give it 10, then you’re gonna have to get Guvved up.

PEARCE paces nervously, those massive, lute-shaped thighs bulging from short shorts – an homage to Owen Coyle, recently OD’d on a cocktail of self-improvement manuals, sports psychology and Catholicism. ‘Psycho’ has only just finished his stint as interim coach – as in “Get fuckin’ inter ’im, Coley!!” – and the consensus is that he’s pretty “chuffed” about that.

To break the tension, PEARCE considers playing to type and giving it a bit of hairdryer, but that’s being monopolized by HENDERSON (whose 82% pass completion rate, 0.37 semi-difficult assist rating, and 4.2 box-to-boxery had impressed the England gafferarchy, the Cockneyocracy). He has just moussed his hair and needs to look good when stepping out on the biggest stage (“doesn’t get much bigger than the bench at the Euros”) with image rights at Beijing Kerching at stake.

Sounds: only squeaking bums and shallow, anxious breathing. Oh, and the seepage of JLS power ballads from THEO Walcott’s Sennheiser HD 800 headphones.

Smells: passion. And passion fruit moisturising cream. PEARCE has just sprayed Deep Heat on his glans, just to keep him on his toes. He runs fingers through his Nazi-chic hair and visibly decides to take charge of the moment.

First, he hands out ‘passionatronically engineered’ latex bulldog heads. Then he opens a box, out of which jumps Barry FRY. We may not have ’ARRY, but two cockney voices should suffice to invoke the spirit of Blitz-era music hall and rouse the Boys to victory. ‘Knees up, Michael Brown’…

THEO flicks through his mp3s and settles on Rhiddian. No Coldplay. No N-Dubz. No Jay-Z. By the time he decides, his opportunity to be Jah Selecta has passed. GERRARD slips on the Phil Collins. PEARCE faux-grimaces and suggests his Best of Oi! compilation, but there’s no cassette player. The boys put their bulldog heads on…



CLOSE-UP: PEP Guardiola’s inscrutable face (he has replaced Vicente del Bosque as head coach on the insistence of FIFA’s marketing team).

The Spain pre-match ritual consists of the midfield contenders, all blindfolded, throwing eggs to each other in a 6m x 6m square, PEP monitoring on a neuromapping device while simultaneously playing online chess with Marcelo Bielsa. Basically, it’s a knockout: the final six left from Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Busquets, Fàbregas, Silva, Mata, Cazorla, Javi Martínez, Muniain and Navas getting picked for their fluid 3-6-1-0 formation…



PEARCE stands in front of a flipchart, drawing out the crosses of a 4-4-2 formation over a diagram of a pitch, fully aware that, statistically, one of the team is ogling his arse. Saliva pours from FRY’s mouth; he looks like he needs a dogchew.

PEARCE: Right, we reckon the Spaniards are gonna play two banks o’ four, basically look to get down the sides and whip balls into the mixer.
FRY: Long diagonals from full-backs, in be’ind.
PEARCE: One of the two front men might drop off into pockets, link up, pop off passes. We need to be aware of that, yeah? Focus.

He looks at his watch again. The hour is approaching…



’ARRY gets into a taxi, clutching a large suitcase.

’ARRY (on phone): Barry? It’s ’Arry. I’m on me way, mucker… No, no. I had to catch a plane, ditn’t I. There was a bit of traffic on the Bournemouth ring road. Bloody triffic! Got stuck behind a tractor coming through the Ardennes. By the time I reached Berlin I had no choice but to catch a plane on to Kiev. This little wally from Wizzair wouldn’t let me take the suitcase as hand-luggage. Summink about dimensions or summink… What’s that? Yeah, the suitcase. Anyway, I fort I’d been given Wizzair as part of the Lewandowski deal? … Yeah, yeah. Half an hour or so.

He hangs up. A call comes in from BIGWIG. While the opening questions are being asked, we stay on ’ARRY’s twitching, puffy face, then cut between the two.

’ARRY: Look, Geoff, it’s important to feel at home during tournaments. Rosey and me like our walks in the mornings along Sandbanks. They’ve been a big part of my season with Spurs, you know, and I did tell you lot: I stay in Poole or you get someone else in. Simple as that.
BIGWIG: Didn’t you consider changing your routine, just this once?
’ARRY: Yeah, I did. I was considering Odessa, to be fair, but was given a dodgy file. Jamie’s suggestion over dinner wasn’t exactly table talk: “Dnipropetrovsk?” he said. I said, “Yeah, chuck us 15 gallon in there, it’s a bloody long drive!” “Kharkiv?” “I gave ‘em ya”. We thought about Poznań, Geoff, but the place turned its back on me when I left the West Ham job. Joe Jordan suggested Warsaw, but they’ve not been great since Merse left ‘em… It’s a brutal commute, for sure, but you can’t say it’s not been for the best. We’re in the final. Look where we were when I come on board compared to where we are now. We were in the doldrums really, Geoff, you know. Anyway, there in about 20 minutes.


They are playing backgammon, reading broadsheets, meditating, writing Catalan nationalist pamphlets…


They are playing snap, bantering on Twitter, trying to learn the words of the national anthem, getting PASSION neck tattoos…

FRY is stirring the bulldog spirit – repeatedly saying “Oh Yesssss” in an unconvincing generic Northern accent. Churchillian stuff. ‘In the morning we’ll all still be drunk’, he hopes.

WELBZ and MICAH are loving FRY’s banter. ADAM JOHNSON is playing Wedding Present cover versions on his guitar. Jordan HENDERSON is being implored “hard-ah!” by Andy CARROLL, who he’s stabbing in the neck muscles with a biro as a warm-up. The symmetrical luminosity of Gary CAHILL’s Beverley Hills 90210 teeth reflect the light from WAZZA’s Camel Lights, but all’s not well in the Chelsea corner: TERRY has that ubiquitous expression of shamelessly fronting something out (but nobody knows what, exactly); COLE’s lips are curled into a sneer; LAMPS peruses a statistical breakdown of his shots and prays Uncle ’ARRY gets there soon, otherwise he’ll nail them to the flipchart à la Martin Luther at Wittenberg. STURRIDGE, oblivious, is playing ‘Kumbaya’ on a tambourine, pupils occasionally disappearing behind tremulous eyelids.

PEARCE: Right lads…

Silence. All eyes turn to the Vice-Gaffer. The moment of truth.

…As I said, I don’t really know what to say.
90 minutes, the biggest game of our careers,
all boils down to today.
Either we put our bodies on the line
and show pride in the shirt, you know,
or these lot’ll literally murder us…
Every last-ditch tackle,
every selfless run off the ball,
minute by minute,
half-yard by half-yard,
till we’re out on our feet,
dead in the water.
To be fair,
we’ve been a bit of a joke in past tournaments.
Obviously we can let the occasion get to us
and drown out there,
or we can climb out of – you know – a watery grave,
and literally breathe the air.
But we’ve got to work our socks off for it,
one half-yard at a time.

We pan across the players’ faces. WAZZA looks like Henry II prior to Agincourt.

Now, I can’t make you do it,
even though I’m still tasty,
cos’ my legs have gone.
I look around and see these young faces
and think: ‘I wish I’d’ve played now,
when even Mikey Muppet gets £40 grand a week’,
but I pissed away all my money, believe it or not.
I’ve gone through the back of everyone who’s ever loved me,
and I can’t stand the mush I see in the mirror.
You know, when you get old in life,
things get taken from you.
As I say, that’s part of life, you know.
Obviously, you only learn when you start losing stuff, as I say.
Basically, you find out that life’s about little half-yards here and there.
So is football.
Because in either game,
life or football,
it’s a very fine line between winning and losing.
I mean, not emptying early enough, you play the lad onside;
one half-second too slow, too fast, and you miss that chance at the back stick. 
These half-yards we need are in the channels,
between the lines,
in the final third,
our box, their box,
they’re in every bounce of the ball,
every minute, every second.

TERRY and GERRARD nod their heads, as does THEO, trance-like. 

On this team, we close down that half-yard!
On this team, we stay compact and stop them getting a half-yard!
We work the channels for that half-yard
because we know when we add up all those half-yards,
that’s going to make the FUCKING DIFFERENCE between winning those key individual battles or losing them. Yeah?
And I’ll tell you this: in any game of football,
it’s the guy who’s willing to get it down
and knock it about in the right part of the pitch
who will find the half-yard.
And I know that if I’m going to keep this job, moving forwards,
it’s because I’ll run through brick walls to deny them that half-yard.
That’s what living is: that half-yard you operate in.

FRY looks like he’s on the point of an aneurysm. CARROLL pats him on the back, as you would a fat, immobile old dog still with a sprightly puppy’s glint in its eyes.

Now, I can give you the hairdryer,
but that ain’t gonna make you do it.
You’ve gotta look at the guy next to you
Rio, JT; Wazza, Theo…Theo, headphones!! –
look into his eyes.
Now, I think you’re going to see a guy who will run all day
and close down that half-yard,
a guy who will show for the ball when he’s only got a half-yard to work with, 
because he knows, when it comes down to it,
you’re gonna show and close down for him.

RIO and TERRY share a wordless mutual gaze of reconciliation.

That’s the Bulldog Spirit, lads.
That’s our advantage over these fuckers.
And, basically, we either heal – now! – as a team,
or we will die as superrich individuals,
laughed at in the tabloids for a week or two
before everyone forgets.
At the end of the day, that’s what football is, guys.

PEARCE looks into the eyes of his key men.

So – moving forward – what are we gonna do?

The players are frothing at the mouth by now. They scream and holler and run around the dressing room as though in Brownian motion. Then, like the blind molecules obeying thermodynamic laws (PASSION for their country) that they essentially are, they seek out the dissipative possibilities of the stadium, barrelling down the tunnel and onto the pitch. We track them with hand-held camera.


…The equilibrium state they achieve is still quite precarious, however, and the anthems and handshake are like double history for people with ADHD.


PEARCE has stayed in the dressing room to gather his thoughts. Eventually, he gets up, strides down the tunnel and then, just as he’s about to emerge into the low evening light, apropos of nothing, head-butts a concrete wall, causing blood to gush down his face in a narrow yet fast-flowing stream of red. With a team to oversee, he simply smears a horizontal band across his face – making a bloody Cross of St George – and heads for the bench, looking like he means business. In his short shorts.

From a low-angle shot, we track behind this gladiator as he walks up and out into the arena.


The game gets underway. Barely a quarter of an hour in, England find themselves 3-0 down and in deep trouble. At this point ’ARRY saunters over to the bench, a little weather-beaten (not so much Al Pacino weather-beaten as turnip-sat-absorbing-rain-in-the-gutter weather-beaten, swollen and soapy) but pretty relaxed. He sits down next to PEARCE. They look like Arthur Daley and Terry from Minder.

By half-time it’s four. The midfield battle is like Man versus Mosquito – and unfortunately the game is neither living by superstition and prejudice nor mindless violence (as opposed to killing humans, at which they, um, slaughter us), but agility and poise (a game at which they’re also much better, obviously). Scotty PARKER is in there on his own – and being swamped by passing as crisp and precise as his parting – principally so as to allow PEARCE’s controversial tactic of playing CARROLL and three left-backs (no doubt a similar logic at work here as to when ’ARRY selected the breed of his pooch).

In marked contrast to the aftermath of his famous, cathartic penalty against these opponents in 1996, ‘Psycho’ PEARCE shows not a flicker of emotion when INIESTA slots in the fourth after a 719-pass move lasting 18 minutes, a reaction that’s akin to … well, that of a psychopath. FRY has a pop about his lack of passion. They nearly have a ruckus. 

Getting up from the dugout at half-time to make his way to the dressing room, ’ARRY gashes his head, his cheeky chappie persona slipping as he looks angrily round about for some “fackin’ dugout designer” to blame. He instructs FRY to take a couple of the left-backs off and get Bale a passport sorted, sharpish. He’s soon feeling dizzy, discombobulated. 


Back in the sanctuary of the rooms, away from the catcalls of their passionate travelling support, the players know they are halfway to abject humiliation. Passionately, they promptly reach for their smartphones to check a live graphic representing their net worth on the Nikkei. They aren’t happy.

ADAM JOHNSON scribbles something on a pad: “Idea for an indie ballad: We once ruled the world because of stiff upper-lip stoicism. Now we accuse the foreigners of not having enough passion. Paradox? Class basis for differing ‘British’ mentalities?”

’ARRY pulls a sheet from his pocket. The room falls silent. THEO slides back one of his headphones to check out the Gaffer’s ‘chat’.

’ARRY: Lads, you can turn this round. Just keep passing it. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe how the airline has tried to mug me off. Listen. Here we go: Article 9.1.2. Conditions of Carriage: Cabin Baggage. Der-de-der-de-der… Here we are: “Items which exceed our cabin baggage dimensions may be carried in the cabin if a seat for it has been reserved and an appropriate fare paid.” Blah blah blah. “To book an extra seat for an item the word ITEM SEAT must be entered as the surname and EXTRA must be entered as the forename. EXTRA ITEM SEAT will then be entered on the carriage reservation and on the boarding pass”. So far, so good. “You must also fully comply with Article 7 of our terms and conditions of carriage.” You look in there and it doesn’t say nothing about not taking a suitcase full of dosh on the plane, only that it is at your own risk or summink. I ask you…

The players look bewildered. ’ARRY, bleeding, screws the sheet of paper up and drop-kicks it into the bin, like Romario in a Nike ad. He then breaks out into song: 

The Grand Old Duke of York / He had ten thousand men / He marched them up to the top of the hill / And he marched them down again / And when they were up, they were up / And when they were down, they were down / And when they were only halfway up, they were neither up nor down.


With PEP ever keen to see the sport evolve, Spain decide to play a game of chicken – ‘Chicken Kiev’, The Sun will call it, inevitably – in which they don’t allow themselves to travel more than 20 steps in a single run, and must wait for 10 seconds before each new run. England take advantage to nick a couple, making it 4-2. FRY, chained up by the dugout, barks ferociously at FÀBREGAS, who is attempting to warm up.

As England wait for Spain to kick off, we cut from an imploring, snarling TERRY to a close-up of ’ARRY’s distracted, oasis-foam visage. BBC summariser and man with loyalty to his hairstyle, LAWRO, spots a ‘merment’ to impart wisdom to his 24.4 million audience:

LAWRO: I don’t know what the manager said at half-time, but it has obviously worked.
MOTTY: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
LAWRO: …As they say in Barcelona.

The goals are a false dawn. PEP shouts something in a mixture of Finnish and Tagalog (a means of communication devised in case England had brought along Becks to interpretate what they was saying and everyfink), and after a quick re-jig Spain roar away to a 7-3 win: an appropriately symbolic scoreline.



We are with FRY, standing atop a skyscraper, bulldog costume burning behind him. As the Interim Deputy Vice-Gaffer, stood a half-yard from the ledge, contemplates the final display – and final extinguishing – of his PASSION, we pan up from his face – St George’s Cross face paint smudged by tears of melancholy – to a blue, blue sky…


This was originally published at The Run of Play