Being a series of reflections from the patriotic perspective on England’s recent performances and the preceding friendlies; by the “Wing Commander”. See previous reports by scrolling down links.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

England v Ukraine (Euro 2012)


What is there to be said about the Ukraine, which sits like an unsightly, radioactive cowpat in the centre of Europe? The name, it seems, translates literally as “Our country”, which is of very little help to the postman (“Our street”? “Our house”?) and doubtless accounts for their traditional import deficit. Ironic, also, since for all but five of the hundreds of years since they slithered into being in the shadow of the Urals, it has not been “their” country at all, but the property of everyone from the Russians to the Mongols to the Germans – any passing power that fancied having a canter on the nation, essentially. They are peculiarly disposed to famine, suffering them on a once a decade basis at one point in the recent past (1922 and 1932), much of this due to their baffling refusal to take on board such English traditions as High Tea, which staves off the hunger pangs that can occur between luncheon and the evening dinner gong. But what can be said of a country which regards cabbage as a breakfast dish, rather than a comestible to be patiently awaited until the evening? Small wonder these mass outbreaks of periodic peckishness set in.

Ukraine is said to have enjoyed its Golden Age in the 11th century which represents a crass but typical error – peaking too early rather than getting going from about the 13th or 14th century onwards and steadily improving, as has been the English way. This was evident in the way this fixture panned out tonight, more of which in due course. For a long time, its history consisted of one leather-faced ethnic horde running at another across the Steppes brandishing scythes, for no other apparent reason than to make the centuries pass more quickly. And so, in a tide of blood and Borscht they did, till recent times which culminated in Chernobyl, which, I believe it is now commonly accepted, was caused by locals attempting to fire up the reactor on pig’s droppings.

There was controversy leading into the game, owing to some trifling attempt on behalf of the local
Grand Poobah to tame a troublesome shrew. No doubt this provided perfectly adequate excuse for Mr Cameron to give this benighted republic of war crime fugitives and green-glowing, two-headed crones arguing over who gets to wear the scarf a wide berth. Better a country supper in Oxfordshire than a breakfast of cabbage in an asbestos-infested hotel in which the Geiger counter functions dually as an alarm clock.

There had been debate also as to whether to rest key players for the quarter final – perhaps simply make do with Joe Hart. One could imagine him easily dealing with all that the Ukrainians lobbed at him, indeed even capping a fine, gum-chewing performance by bouncing a lofted clearance off the head of a Ukrainian in the 89th minute, then going up the other end, lofting the resulting corner high into the box than trotting into the six yard area as it descended to head home. If anyone believed he could do such a thing, Joe Hart does. This would enable the other ten players to have day off, take in the local sights and attractions such as the National Grain Barn, the Fungi Decontamination Farm  and the Kiev Otter Abbatoir.

The National Anthems were the measure of the disparity of our two nations – the English, who had the tactical sense to postion themselves discreetly behind France in order to avoid being occupied by the Soviets; the Ukrainians, who, in their bovine inertia and insensibility, did not. Our own was roared with customary exuberance, as if to stress to God that the Queen be saved – not parried over the bar, not fisted away, but saved, saved, dear Lord, with both hands. The Ukrainians, by contrast, intoned their own in a manner that reminded of the drowning throes of drunken Volga boatmen.

The game began at a cracking pelt, with the Ukrainians showing defensive naivety by leaving their own half almost entirely unoccupied for the first ten or 15 minutes. There were worries that John Terry might be embarrassed by the Ukrainian frontline but these were unfounded – it has become clear over this past year or so that John Terry is incapable of embarrassment. There were other performances that glowed harder than a fish in a Ukrainian canal – James Milner, for instance, was a much-needed credit to the Yorkshire race, occupying whatever space in which he found himself 100%. Had England chosen to play with any sort of midfield, as opposed to Scott Parker, one wonders how it might have been personified. The ultimate English player must have elements of Lampard (who made his usual contribution this evening), the similar “ard” quality of a Gerrard, and, of course, the non-stressed, syllabic “y” of a Terry or a Rooney. We have a name, then, for such a player, the epitome of England: Lardy.

There had been concerns about racialism in the Ukraine and so it proved – the racialism of the worst sort, that directed against the white English, we, who as Kipling put it, carry the Burden and are therefore the least deserving of pillory. Hence, every time English players like Rooney, Gerrard and Milner retained possession of the ball, boos rang out – though for some reason, they never lasted long. Hoardings around the ground called for “RESPECT”, and this, as English victims of racialism is all we ask – respect for our achievements in home plumbing, current-based cake recipes and for teaching a large, dusky portion of the world how to play cricket, asking nothing in return, save for  sole rights to their mineral deposits in perpetuity. Cameras at the game selectively picked out Ukrainians who looked almost human – smiling, comely women, excited small boys, family groups – but we know that the vast, unseen majority in the stands were a seething mass of vile, hirsute trolls and wolf mutants, forest dwellers and fire-fearers who feast on the blood of travelling English bible salesmen. England did well to keep their composure.

Come the second half, and England were swiftly into the lead, as Rooney made good advantage of his hairpiece to head home the winning goal. A lesser man would have settled for a draw, for male pattern baldness – not Mr Rooney. Theo Walcott entered the field, and England players indulged in the game of “Let’s Not Pass To Theo”, uncannily similar to that played by myself and a few other fellows at boarding school in the 1870s, at the expense of one Theo Charmleigh-Watts, when playing footer in the quad. There is always one such boy. Unfortunately, the character- building tendencies our game instilled in him were never realised, as he hanged himself by his own evening shirt in 1899. Ashley Young and Danny Wellbeck certainly contributed a great deal more than “Fuck” and “All” between them. Two years ago, a clear goal for Frank Lampard unspotted by the referee made for the unarguable case for goalline technology. Tonight, a similar incident involving John Terry convinced that such technology would represent a gross breach of ancient footballing traditions which have abided, unmolested since international football began in 1872.

Tonight’s victory should make Roy Hodgson feel proud – proud, as kitman and “down to earth” “bloke” to have the privilege of washing and handwringing the shorts and undershorts of men like John Terry and Ashley Cole. One has the strange feeling that, like Paul the Octopus, he is beginning to take on the properties of a lucky talisman, that in some way he is making some sort of difference. No doubt, in due course, the feeling will pass . . .

Friday, June 15th, 2012

England v Sweden (Euro 2012)


It was a Eurovision Song Contest that provided the cue for the Portuguese, unwisely, to overthrow their paternalistic leader, a Mr Salazar. It could be remarked of Portugal that they were born, that night, as a modern nation. The same also can be said of the Swedes – same year, same competition. They won, with a piece of phonetic nonsense entitled “Wadalu”, thereby making their very first mark on history. Prior to that, little or nothing is known of Sweden (mistakenly spelled as “Sverige” by the locals), though some settlements and stone dwellings there can be traced back as far as the 1950s. Even today, there is uncertainty as to where, precisely Sweden is located on the map.

Today, the Swedes are noted for a handful of things. The first is their national dish. Fond of their meat but fonder, it seems, of their cattle, they cannot bring themselves to commit their livestock to the abbatoir, and so instead, snip from them what they regard as the tastiest part of their anatomy, the testicles. It makes for quite the tableau to envisage them, of an evening at their smallholdings, chewing away on their meatballs as their eunuch bulls look on.

The murder rates of Sweden are low, never an impressive measure of a country’s virility. Indeed, there has only been one murder in the country’s history, that of their Prime Minister, Olaf Palme. Unfortunately, lacking as they do the detective skills that are the sole redeeming feature of their near-neighbours the Danes, the case has never been solved.

A nation of gonad-chomping, bungling Watsons, then, we can thus far deduce. At least, however, their numbers are relatively low. They are kept so by the government, who, in a state-sponsored scheme have fostered a cinematic style, practised by the likes of Mr Ingmar Bergman, so bleak and abysmally despondent as to encourage a healthy rate of suicide among the adult populace on an annual basis. This “self-culling” scheme has worked well; what a shame that the French, who instead, keep their people excessively alive and numerous with the jolly capers of M. Jacques Tati, do not adopt something similar.

Which brings us to our next point. We have established scientifically in previous dispatches that the French smell far too much. The Swedes, by contrast, smell far too little. They smell of beechwood and neutrality. They are practically odourless. One ought to smell a little, of something; as ever, the English have found the happy medium. There is about us a tangible but pleasing mustiness, typically a redolence of oak, tweed, decanted sherry, boiled carrots, baking soda, spotted dick, faithful hound, teak, silverware polishing agent and a subtle hint of dried discharge.

With the fixture delayed, the Lord God Almighty having chosen earlier to rain down bolts of lightning and thunder on the Ukrainians and the French for daring to pit themselves against England in the same group, The National Anthems were struck up, a further measure of the disparity between our two nations – we who have built up an Empire through thrift, global commerce and an uncanny ability to kick a day’s work out of the backside of distant, lazy natives, they, the Swedes, who have somehow found a way whereby we pay them for us to construct our own furniture. Our own anthem was brayed with customary insistence; every man jack of the England team bellowing as if to convey to God that when we bid him to save the Queen, this is not so much a suggestion as an order, directly from the FA. The Swedish national anthem . . . well, in a disgusting oversight, there is, technically, no such thing as a Swedish National Anthem according to their constitution. Something along the lines of “Can you hear the drums, Fernando?” would, therefore, have easily fitted the bill. Instead, they opted for this bilge, doubtless composed by a chinless little man with a droopy moustache after a trip to the cinema.

Despite the fixture being essentially over and decided at this point, many spectators chose to stay and witness the concluding formality of the game, which began at a cracking pelt – an especially cracking pelt, in fact. None of this “settling on the ball and thinking about what you’re going to do with it” balderdash favoured by some of our more morbidly cerebral opponents. Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young looked on as the action unfolded. Even in the midst of the fray, captain Steven Gerrard still thought to fire a few balls into the crowd as a gesture of goodwill to the locals, for them to take home and keep, sell or eat. Gary Neville, former England right back, has travelled with the team in an immobile but advisory capacity to the younger players; John Terry is also performing the same function. With typical tactical English sophistication, Joe Hart was given a free role in the England six yard box. He in no way exuded the air of a cocky “everyone-look-at-this-bit-of-gum-I’m-chewing” twat who is karmically building towards the most colossal goalkeeping gaffe of all time, possibly involving dropped shorts as well as a dropped ball.

England’s efforts were inevitably rewarded with a goal, Andy Carroll leaping with the aplomb that has served him so well in the past at Liverpool, at Becher’s Brook, to nod home. He had every right to look pleased with himself, sliding genitals first camera-ward – there would be an extra sugarlump in his nosebag at half time.

Come the second half and Glen Johnson added to England’s tally with a second goal, though, owing to some blunder with the electronic scoreboard, this was mistakenly awarded to the Swedes. They themselves added to the confusion, appearing to think that this was the net they themselves should be scoring into, as Mellberg, a fellow who apparently uses his own chin as a doormat, headed in what was counted as a second for the Swedes. A farcical misunderstanding but England were unruffled. One only had to witness Scott Parker, the way he would gather up the ball in the centre circle in a promising position, dribble around two or three imaginary plastic cones, then pass back to his full-back. He vindicated the decision to travel to this tournament and play without any sort of functioning fucking midfield (the “Lampard Manoeuvre”).

Kitman and groundskeeper Roy Hodgson looked on from the touchline with concern, as if to say, “’Ooever did these markings wants shooting, proper botch job.” It is an amusing fact, like one of those head waiters who can do all kinds of whistling tricks, that the fellow Hodgson is fluent in several languages. This must be of assistance as he scoots about town looking for pots of dubbin and detergent for the dressing room!

Naturally, England prevailed; full list of scorers, Carroll, Walcott, Wellbeck. For obvious reasons that is only partially ideal but no matter – this was every inch an English victory and just as well. For if UEFA had seen fit to award Sweden the tie on the basis of those two mis-awarded goals, the youth of England, on fire, would have risen up and ransacked every IKEA store in the Kingdom, breaking in and dismantling the items on sale, reducing them to piles of plywood and screws, to be reassembled from scratch by some luckless blighter or blighters. One can only imagine the misery.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

England v France (Euro 2012)


The renegade nation of France is said to lie just 26 miles away, across the Channel. And, certainly, it is a tribute to the self-purifying properties of English chalk that the White Cliffs of Dover are not  slightly off-white, given their proximity to the rancid pungency that is the Gallic wont. However, this is only the unhappy state of affairs if you set your face East. Set it West, towards the Atlantic and beyond, and France is a much more congenial 24,875 miles away. We have been frequent foes, we and the garlic-chomping Dracula-repellers the French, and have all but invariably come out on top. Indeed, had King Harold learned to duck back in the 11th century, we would have a 100% record against them.

They say that the only good Frenchman is a dead Frenchman but even this is untrue. Given their hygienic tendencies in life, in death their stench would be even more frightful. Unless I had a pet budgerigar with a terminal heart ailment in dire need of a transplant, I would have no use whatsoever for a dead Frenchman. One does not wish to resort to the commonplace newspaper cliché of referring to the Second World War when writing football match reports – the ease with which we won that campaign makes for an insulting comparison with the altogether hardier, warrior-like efforts of John Terry and his men. However, it is appropriate to say that when all that it took for France to fall was for their border sentries to spot through their binoculars what turned out to be half a dozen leathered trousered tourists from Cologne on a mountain hike advancing in their direction, whereupon they lay down their arms en masse and put their hands on their heads, it is small wonder we made such mincemeat of them tonight.

Touching further on the topic of the French and their odour; this is no casual insult but a fact, rooted in solid, scientific research. In 1948, as a senior member of the Diplomatic Corps, I had the misfortune to reside for a week at a Parisian hotel. By way of an experiment, I sent out my man Seppings for a bar of soap, a precious commodity in those days of rationing – to procure it, he was forced to sell his body. Knowing the French aversion to detergents, I left it on a coffee table in the lobby, in plain sight, wondering if it would attract any interest, with a view to returning to the table later that afternoon to see if it was still there. Sure enough, I had only been back in my room ten minutes when a hotel clerk knocked at my door, soap in hand and said, “Excuse me monsieur – ah believe you ‘ave left zis downstairs.” Experiment completed, case proven. Filthy, filthy people.

The case was further reinforced by the clothback book of my nursery days, entitled Timmy And Pierre (A Guide To Deportment And Breeding For Very Young Gentlemen Of The Empire). On the left hand page was the rosy-cheeked, eight years old Timmy, who, the embroidered text properly told us was a) Polite b) Punctual c) Kind to his spaniel d) Scrubbed his face well e) Patriotic f) Did not associate with the knives and boots boy g) Attentive to his governess. On the right hand page was eight years old Pierre, who, we learned was a) Rude b) Uncouth c) French d) Oversexed e) Rank f) Drunk g) A collaborator.

The question was, what French team would turn up this evening? The one prone to strut and blunder about the pitch before losing 1-0 to The Christmas Islands, as has so often been the case, or the one that doesn’t turn up at all because the team got into a heated argument on the coach about the best route out of Paris, inadvertently ending up in the aptly named Toulouse (twinned with the small Welsh town of Alwys-Cochytup). Certainly, given their solitary post-war military exploit, it is clear that they would have rather have been facing a team from New Zealand, playing in recyclable sandals.

The National Anthems were the measure of our two nations; we, who when we see an onion, pickle it, rather than base our entire national identity around it, they who only remove their socks to tread grapes. Our own was bellowed with sub patriotic verve that upon hearing it, Prince Phillip’s bladder infection would most certainly have cleared up instantaneously, allowing him to urinate as merrily and painlessly as a small Belgian boy. The French’s puffed up Marseillaise, meanwhile, had one pining for a giant cartoon English foot to descend and squelch it.

The game began at a cracking pelt; England glowing with the perspiration of honest effort, the French coated in beads of anxiety sweat. The Republicans represented a risible force; Ribery, raising the question of who was manning the bells at Notre Dame in his absence, looking as ever like some early, botched French laboratory attempt to create a facsimile Gary Neville; Debuchy (what, Erik Shatie wasn’t available for selection?) woefully ineffectual. That is all that can be said about the French.

England, by contrast, surged goalward like cocks thrust. James Milner certainly wasn’t as extraneous as a new branch of Greggs in a Yorkshire shopping precinct, as an early, near-miss proved. Joe Hart’s Mancunian self-confidence certainly wasn’t the equivalent of Liam Gallagher being loudly convinced that his latest album was the finest release since Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Inevitably, we scored first, Lescott overcoming both the French centre back and being named after a Dolly Parton song to head home.

As is the current trend, there was much “tweeting” about England’s performance tonight. I had no idea what this meant, until I heard Mr Jamie Carragher’s half-time talk, in which he tweeted in a high Scouse register, unintelligibly but enthusiastically for several minutes.

From hereon after, we controlled the game. The sheer extent of our presence in midfield was epitomised by Frank Lampard; what a pity his natural partner Scott Parker was absent. As for Gerrard, there has been flippant talk of his Hollywood passes; tonight, as one corner symbolised, which sailed nervously into the relieved hands of the French goalkeeper, his were Pinewood passes – straightforward, untroubling, quintessentially English. The French character, humiliatingly, is symbolised by that doyen of the silver “flickers” Gerard Depardieu; our own, by contrast, is epitomised by our redoubtable, longstanding midfield, Gerrard/Lampardieu, so to speak.

And so, the game ended, marred only by the performance of the referee, whose bias towards the French was palpable. In England, when we foul, we kick honest clumps out of our opponents, which can be measured on the old Imperial scale – a half pound of calf here, a pound of thigh there. Not so the French, masters of the niggly, pinchy, cowardly little infractions, measurable only in foreign grams. There was also the small matter of the ball landing in the England net on one occasion, although goalkeeper Hart was clearly not ready for the shot; doubtless this will be overturned without protest from the French. The alternative is that Harfleur be put under siege by our own, latterday Prince Harry, in which case, even the womenfolk will not be safe, for the difference between Frenchmen and women is indistinguishable to the English eye. When we breach the ramparts, anything with a moustache will be considered fair game.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

England v Belgium (friendly, 2012)


Regarding Belgium, which sits across the water beneath the hindquarters of the United Kingdom as if having recently been excreted by the British Isles, it is extraordinary to think that such a thunderously ignominious nation is allowed to sit in such impertinent proximity to our own. Belgium is what happens when The Netherlands takes France to a seedy hotel in Luxembourg for the weekend and they fornicate; Belgium is the bastard, mongrel offspring of the encounter. It is only thanks to footballing fixtures such as this that we are reminded that Belgium exists at all (see also: Uruguay). Indeed, the Belgians recently held a referendum in which they were asked to decide whether the still wanted to carry on as a country. A narrow vote in favour resulted in the present Prime Minister one Elio Di Rupo, an ardent socialist, committed homosexualist and suspected Italian. It is, therefore, the present, stated policy of Brussels to sodomise young Englishmen in the European Zone, pay them an obscenely fair wage for their services and possibly attempt to sell them ice cream. Small wonder that for this fixture we laid a strong emphasis on a tight back four.

Belgium was not always quite so pernicious; one looks back fondly on the days of the kindly King Leopold, whose policies of benevolent annihilation did so much to drag a backward and recalcitrant Africa into the 20th century, though its natives were not always aware of the medicinal benefit of his methods. One also remembers, from more innocent times, the animated cartoon adventures of that young boy and his small dog, chasing hook-nosed, Hebrew arch villains across the Congo with the aid of Oogawooga, a larged-lipped, amusingly dusky local they befriended during an elephant slaughter. Belgium has also functioned as a convenient, midway location for our periodic, cousinly skirmishes with the Germans, in which the ground is somewhat liable to cut up when the going is good to soft. Better it do so over there, I believe we are all agreed, than over here.

The National Anthems determined the difference, however, between our nations as presently constituted, evoking our disparities. When we erect our statues, they do not pass water – Pissing Baden Powell would be no way to remember the author of Scouting For Boys. We paint, rather than eat our horses. Our own anthem was bellowed with particularly gusto and engorgement, this being the weekend in which we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. Each of us “did our bit” to pay tribute to the Monarchy. I, for example, had Seppings dress up as Oliver Cromwell, whereupon I beat him to near death with a shovel. The Belgian dirge, by contrast, sounded as if it was composed for some quaint, tinpot city square Flemish military ceremony in which, on the orders of a Lieutenant-Commander, a costumed goat is fired from a cannon.

The game began at a brisk pelt, with Frank Lampard as conspicuous as ever in midfield. The defence was ably marshalled; how Ashley Cole and Glenn Johnson must have enjoyed being bellowed at across the field of play by John Terry, whose instructions were especially clear as he went to the trouble of telling them what he was not saying to them as well as what he was saying to them. Once or twice, the Belgians, like tourists who have accidentally strayed into Cornwall, not realising it is the property of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, found themselves trespassing cluelessly in the English half. They were quickly seen off, however, and it is a measure of the understanding between Joe Hart and the men in front of him that he and Gary Cahill only collided once, and at the mere expense of a broken jaw. Like Seppings, however, who suffered similarly after I set about him with that shovel, but who an hour later was serving me High Tea, Mr Cahill will, no doubt, be back in harness for the next game. We are not crying Belgian homosexuals, for whom oral pleasure is paramount.

England were swiftly a goal to the good, thanks to one Danny Wellbeck, who showed the sort of discipline and composure that made one realise that all of King Leopold’s work had not been in vain as he slipped it past Maigret, or Camus, or whomsoever was keeping goal for the Belgians.
Come the second half and England continued to dominate possession. Granted, it was Belgium who were in possession of the ball, but it was England who were in possession of Wembley Stadium. The opposing team knew that were they to encroach in the vicinity of the goal, England groundsman Mr Roy Hodgson would come striding onto the pitch brandishing a trowel and shouting, “Hoy! Keep orf. I’ve only just reseeded that perishin’ six yard box!” Steven Gerrard rolled back the years with his indefatigable play, passing and hoofing the ball like a twelve year old. James Milner once again showed that when a shirt has the name “MILNER” on it, he is the man to step up and fill that shirt. I can think of no higher tribute to pay to the man. An actual Ox might have been of more practical use on the pitch than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but not much more, such was his contribution. Theo Walcott, watching the game from afar, and doubtless “tweeting” as he did so, must have wished he had been out there and actually involved in the game.

Another famous victory, then, a Jubilee reminder that Hereditary Privilege is the just and sensible way to run a country, the sole alternative being Chairman Skinner. As I asked Seppings repeatedly several times as I thrashed him, “Is that what you want? Is that you want? This is just a bit of ruddy fun and is that what you want?” There was no querying that the ball for England’s decisive goal was over the line, but had there been any doubt, the expedient of video-tronic evidence was at hand, an experiment introduced for this fixture. Really, there was no need for this – the ultimate goal-line technology, as we know, is the word of an Englishman. The referee and linesman understood this well enough in 1966, it should be understood today.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

England v Norway (friendly, 2012)


It is the custom, each Christmas (as we are no longer allowed to call it, thanks to a certain Mr Livingstone) for the country of Norway to present England with a tree, which takes its place in Trafalgar Square. This is in gratitude for what they refer to, with revolting Scandinavian understatement, as the “assistance” provided by English forces towards their country in World War II. A single tree. Some countries might express their gratitude for saving them from utter oblivion and life beneath the grinding heel of an oppressor with, let us say, the profits of 75% of their country’s oil deposits granted in perpetuity to the crown, but no; a single, paltry tree. Certainly, this is an improvement on some other nations; take Jamaica, for example, to whom we English brought order, stability and the good habits of civil society but who do not give us so much as an annual hedge. All the same, however; a tree. How the statue of Lord Nelson must gaze in petrified fury each year upon that tree, wishing it had the capacity for urination.

Fortunately, the Norwegian back four were a great deal more generous in their dealings with England but then defence has never been their forte. Needless to say, their wartime performances in the major campaigns have been atrocious; as the country’s single painting depicts, their posture in times of invasion is to stand on a bridge and scream like a woman. (It is the work of one Edvard Munch, though to look upon it, one could as easily expect it to bear the signature, “Joshua, 6 1/2”). They have a monarch of sorts; he goes by the name of Harald. Unlike our own Queen, who offers pivotal leadership on the world stage, theirs merely cycles about near the harbour front, waving to tourists or assisting them in finding their way to the nearest herring cannery or suicide farm.

The National Anthems told the story of the disparity between geographically sensibly central England and the ludicrously northernmost Norway, whose frightfulness I encapsulated in a couplet worked up in my Varsity smoker days in the 1880s – “What the devil are you doing all the way up there?/Catching your death of cold, not that we care.” Our own is so utterly arousing that one is moved to walk briskly to the edge of one’s grounds, make a small hole in the soil and proceed to make love to one’s own country. The Norwegian effort, by contrast sounded like nothing so much as a succession of brass and stringed instruments falling off the back of a cart. Still worse, its verses exhibited a morbidly exclusive obsession with the fortunes of its own country, which is ill-becoming, to say the least.

The game began, and before you could say the full name of the country’s current Prime Minister, just nine minutes in, England were one up, the goal scored by Ashley Young, who is black, but it was allowed to stand. A Mr Roy Hodgson looked on. Much has been made of his appointment as England janitor-cum-kitman; it is his job, among others, to see that the players’ shirts are folded and laid out to a razor crispness and their boots dubbined to a high shine. There has been some controversy that a fellow of his low, coarse pedigree should be deemed fit to screw in the studs of English noblemen like Stewart Downing but time will tell whether he is competent for his chores. The controversy over the job of England manager, meanwhile, still simmers; I am of the view that so perfectly organised, so able to adapt and shift formation regardless of the opposition are our eleven men that such a post is superfluous. On team listings as they appear on our television screens, where, for example, in the case of the Italian team it reads MANAGER: LUIGI SPAGHETTI, for England, that space should be occupied by the words MONARCH: ELIZABETH II.

A goal to the good, England pressed on, with great verve and aplomb, despite playing on a surface that looked like it had recently been the site of an oat harvest. Leighton Baines reminded us that he is no obscure stop on the London Central line somewhere between Epping and Ongar but a formidable stopper of impertinent foreign forwards. Scott Parker made the sort of impact he always seems to make for England – in this respect, he deputised perfectly for Frank Lampard. Andy Carroll has been reproved in the past for his behaviour – assaults, common or otherwise, drunkenness, and so forth. He displayed here that he is a reformed character, quietly minding his own business, a threat to nobody. James Milner’s performance conjured up, as ever, those two words “James Milner”. As for Phil Jones, he charges forward time and again with the air of a hulking farmhand, who, overcome with homebrewed scrumpy, has attempted to ignite his own flatulence, inadvertently set fire to his trousers and is now frantically searching the countryside for a pond, or large puddle into which to thrust his burning hindquarters. However, it was the performance of Captain Steven Gerrard which caught the eye. Mindful that it was Janitor Roy’s first match in charge of equipment and wishing not to create excess scuffing, he launched himself into a tackle on a Norwegian defender in which neither his boot nor any other part of his kit made contact with the ground. Some might say that this was typical of a fucking player with a bucket of fucking blood for a fucking brain and all the fucking positional sense of a fucking Scud missile launched by a drunken fucking Mexican on fucking fiesta night but his consideration for his Cockney underling is commendable.

A word, too, for Theo Walcott; what fear he must have struck into Norwegian hearts as he ran up and down the far touchline alone, in preparation for entering the field of play. I shared this cheering thought with Seppings, only for him to observe, diffidently, that in fact this was Theo Walcott actually on the field of play, for which he received the sting of my riding crop.

An excellent and most absorbing contest then; a masterclass to the foreigner in deportment, skill, superiority, beef, both of the corned and prime variety, all marinated in the finest spunk. Had the Norwegians any grace, they would send an extra tree annually to stand in the lobby of the English FA, for the assistance with which we provided them this evening in showing them how to play the game. But then, there is as little chance of that happening as there is of their returning to us the North Pole, swiped from under our noses by their fellow Amundsen, rightfully the property of our own Mr Scott, almost as effective a Captain as Mr Gerrard.