Anorak News | Owen’s Goal

Owen’s Goal

by | 14th, June 2006

“AT times in Frankfurt I felt proud to be English,” reflects Stephen Thomas, in conversation with the Mirror’s Oliver Holt (“SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR – AGAIN”).

Stephen Thomas is over in Germany with a bunch of mates whose idea of a good time is to visit another country, dress up in uniforms and tell people what to do. Thomas is Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and for the duration of the World Cup, his jurisdiction extends beyond Salford and Stockport and takes in whichever city the England fans happen to be occupying at the time.

The idea, of course, was to work with German police to control England supporters, but so far there has been little sign of trouble. Indeed, in a strange turn of events, it is the England fans that are being held up by the authorities as “role models” for other nations.

The Telegraph takes up the story, explaining that Fifa has noticed the increasing numbers of black and Asian fans following the England team, and has been working with the organisers of the Kick It Out campaign.

There could be another reason for the unthreatening nature of modern England fans. Most seem to be too busy booing Owen Hargreaves to worry about the opposition, and it has got to the stage where David Beckham feels obliged to comment about it during his press conferences (he’s against it, by the way).

Hargreaves himself has spoken to several papers, and the Star reports that the “boo-boys’ target” has pledged to “turn the jeers into cheers”. By retiring? No, by winning the World Cup, “I’m not there to spray balls with the outside of my boot and do step-overs,” he explains, for the benefit of anyone labouring under that particular misapprehension. So what is he there for? “I’m in there to win tackles, lay it off and make the game easier for the team.”

The Mirror’s headline sums up Hargreaves’ position: “I’d rather be a World Cup winner than Mr Popular.” The truth is, it’s not a case of one or the other, but of both or nothing. Help England win it, Owen, and you’ll soon be forgiven. If not, you’re in line to be the scapegoat for Eriksson’s shortcomings.

Yesterday’s matches included the unexpected sight of Ronaldo being taken off during the second half of Brazil’s opening match, Unexpected, that is, until he walked onto the pitch looking as though he was expecting to film a Carlsberg ad for the greatest pub team in the world.

During the pre-match team talk, captain Cafu had told his players that winning the World Cup was like walking up a set of stairs. At this point, the great Rotundo must have been feeling worried indeed. Fortunately, there were no stairs on the pitch, so he waddled about for 69 minutes until he was substituted.

“We have just walked up the first step,” continued Cafu after the match. “There are now six left.” Don’t expect to see Ronaldo again, unless he receives special dispensation to use a stair lift.

From now on, our thoughts will be on England’s own chunky striker, who is looking lively, but is also unlikely to play in the near future. “Team England” is apparently worried that their insurance might not cover Wayne Rooney in the event of an injury during the group matches, and the Daily Mail says that FA chief Brian Barwick is putting pressure on Sven to keep him out until the knock-out stages.

With Owen still no properly fit, and Owen Hargreaves cemented in the holding role, expect to see Michael Carrick to make his tournament debut – up front next to Peter Crouch.

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink