Archive for September 8th, 2005

Le bonheur est dans le pré up the road

This armchair fan’s interest in football has dwindled quite a bit over the last few years, so I found it hard to get any way exercised about last night’s matches.

However, yesterday’s Evening Herald managed to rouse my interest, at least for one night, with an absurdly jingoistic and stereotypical set of articles on the French, e.g. we love Catherine Deneuve, but we hate garlic breath. Supposedly intended to ‘rally the troops’, it was a sort of half-hearted homage to Piers Morgan-style ‘For You Fritz Ze War Is Over’ coverage. It seemed desperately contrived, but it got me to sit down in front of the telly.

The Republic’s game had a grim sense of inevitability. Once Gary Doherty trots on to the pitch, you know it’s time for the manager to launch Plan B. Historically, Plan B for the Republic, when not also used as Plan A, has always been the same: put some snow on it and hope for the best. However, just because it works sometimes doesn’t mean it’s actually worth watching. I am no longer able to muster enthusiasm for supporting an international team playing this way. I realise that it may be the only realistic option available to the manager, but watching it over and over is a perverse punishment.

Which brings me to Northern Ireland. I caught the pre-match build up on BBC, and was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the supporters, not only for their team, but for Neil Diamond. The fact that only one rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’ was required meant, happily, that there was time for another chorus of Sweet Caroline.

Former captain Alan McDonald, in the commentary box with the evergreen Jackie Fullerton, said that it was a good thing there was glass in the windows, otherwise he’d have been somersaulting out onto the pitch and pulling on a pair of boots.

I know what to expect when it comes to Jackie Fullerton’s commentary. In particular, I know that I can’t endure a full 90 minutes of it. Particularly his lusty, full-blooded enunciations of Gillespie! and Healy! While he seems like a thoroughly decent chap, I have come to associate his voice with tens of dismal Northern Ireland defeats at the hands of fellow minnow countries.

So I turned over to watch the Republic match, because I was expecting Rooney, Lampard and co to dish out a hammering to Norn Iron (amazing how popular that name has become in recent years), and emphatic English victories are as appealing as dismal Northern Irish defeats.

What more can be said of the Republic-France match? Perhaps a gallic shrug, Herald-style. Roy Keane and Andy Reid toiled manfully, but no Irish player really revealed anything about himself that we did not already know. The supporters’ moronic booing of Zinedine Zidane was a disgrace.

Switching back to the other match, Northern Ireland 1 England 0. Holy Moses. Warren Feeney nearly scores another. Jim Magilton talks in the studio about how great it is, with no offence to Lee Dixon, to beat England. Gerry Armstrong compares it to Valencia in 1982. Lawrie Sanchez tells us that the best (sic) team won. Zut alors, as they say at the Herald.

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September 2005