Something For The Weekend (398)
I have been checking the news and so far there has been no report of the Serbs receiving an ultimatum from the Kaiser and the Tsar has not mobilised his troops, so it seems likely that this latest outrage in the Balkans, will not require anyone to report to their nearest recruiting office, any time soon.
But if the past is anything to go buy, where derisory fines have been handed out for similar offences, it would seem likely that some might be inspired to hand out white feathers to FIFA officials, for cowardice in the face of gratuitous and deliberately provocative bigotry.
It would be amazing if FIFA did anything other than wag their finger and fine the Serbian FA a few dinar, and it seems certain that they will, in the interest of a typical fudge, find something to charge England with. Obviously, Danny Rose is bound to cop it for the sin of not pretending that he was not racially abused.
The fact that Serbians felt they enjoyed sufficient impunity to indulge in such racism, surely lays the responsibility, ultimately at Herr Blatter's door. But no one can really accuse the English FA of being much better in their handling of recent cases of racism.
Protecting the brand rather than anything else, seems to have been the priority of the FA, and their punishments have been inconsistent, to say the least. Damage-limitation seems to be their main consideration.
It should come as no surprise if, in the face of the authorities' passivity and patently reluctant sanctions, black players are prepared to take their own action. Jason Roberts has already declined to wear the 'Kick It Out' shirt and it is beginning to look like, sooner or later, a black player will be prepared to make themselves the Rosa Parks of the game, by leaving the pitch.
All this, kind of spoilt what was in fact a very pleasant week of international football, the highlight of which was probably the hilarity surrounding England's washed out game in Poland, where the referee did a wonderful impression of Norman Wisdom, by insisting on trying to get a football to bounce on the shallow lake which the pitch had become. Accompanied, as it was, by some classic Black Country drollery from Adrian Chiles, I can't remember laughing so much for quite a while.
Plenty of Poles took a lot of stick for this all week and no English patriot was in a hurry to point out, that England had their own problems with a lot of rain and an unclosed roof, back in 2007, when Scott Carson had a night to forget and umbrellas were effectively outlawed for all future managers. I think it was a case of a missing roof back then, because someone had forgotten to fit it. Even the Germans had a problem during the 2005 Confederation Cup final in Frankfurt, when the roof sprang a leak, which put the game in doubt.
As ever, it was the Poles who had to take the ribbing, but it was FIFA's dithering which caused the farce.
But it wasn't a leaking roof which caused the Germans a problem this weak, it was their leaky defence, after they managed to draw 4-4 with Sweden, after leading 4-0. It seems our German friends were caught enjoying themselves rather too much, and suffered the not too unusual consequence. Obviously, the German press are trying to make a crisis out of this remarkable turn-around but if German football is in crisis, I think most England fans mighty fancy a bit of it themselves.
When England finally got to play their game against hosts Poland a day late, they were as bad as we have come to expect them to be. With the TV cameras perched high up in some eerie in the stadium, the Polish pitch looked massive, and the spaces between the players expansive, so England's passing looked worse than ever, and the soggy surface made the ball behave like a lump of pudding at too many England feet, but unaccountably looked like a different ball when in possession of the hosts.
If anyone has ever wondered why Michael Carrick is not rated very highly by the Old Trafford crowd, they only had to look at this performance to understand why. But he was not entirely alone when it came to passing the ball to the opposition, when it looked easier to pass to a colleague.
One-nil up and managing to smother most of Poland's counter-attacks, things were looking pretty good for establishing England's doubtful status as the 5th best team in the world, until Hart did something which would have invited Brian Clough to call him a clown. The only thing which was commendable, was the way England shut the game down to preserve their precious point and postpone glory for another day. Which was professional but mildly ignominious.
But, what with the hilarity of the night before and the likes of Germany and Spain drawing, let alone Scotland's bad luck (they were cheated), and the rest, the England interval turned out to be not too miserable at all.
Villans might have wondered, just like the Fink Tank team, why Darren Bent was not considered for inclusion in the England games, but mostly, the time was usefully spent by the Villa faithful in forgetting Villa's last arse-whooping, and restoring their Panglossian glow while trying to make a reasonable case why their team might get something from a difficult trip to Fulham on Saturday.
Villa definitely need to start picking up points if they are to rely less on the failings of other clubs, for their sense of security. So far, Villa have not made much of a case that they are at least capable of a mid-table finish.
If Villa don't start picking up points soon, it is going to a be winter, where the Villa fans will be calling all angels for help.
Keep the faith!
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