Anorak News | Toe To Toe

Toe To Toe

by | 15th, June 2006

“JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG,” intones the Sun. What’s this? A sober recapitulation of Abby Mann’s indictment of Nazi atrocities?

No, something much more important. This is “OWEN ON TRIAL”, not Eichmann. But on trial for what? Match-fixing? Impersonating an off-duty police officer? Being a tiny bit dull in interviews? No, not that kind of trial. This “trial” is the match against Trinidad & Tobago, in which he has the opportunity to “prove why he is England’s No 1 striker”.

Shaun Custis reports that Eriksson has finally admitted why he took Michael Owen off during the Paraguay game – because the team were losing the ball too much. Custis reckons this is “the closest Eriksson has ever come to criticising Owen, 26 [love that 26, Shaun] – and it is clear the Newcastle striker’s position is under scrutiny.’”

Opinions differ as to whether Owen’s substitution was a “snub” or a pragmatic decision. Similarly, it is by no means clear whether Owen is “on trial” in Sven’s eyes or simply being protected until he is fully fit and in-form.

However, today’s match could be a “trial” for Owen in the other sense of the word, ie, an ordeal to be endured. “DIRTY SANCH,” the paper splutters. “Brent: I’ll give crock Owen a hard time.” The headline appears to allude to Dirty Sanchez, the home-grown version of Jackass, in which various Welsh nut-cases staple their scrotums to surf boards, squirt sulphuric acid up each other’s rectums, and generally torture and humiliate themselves for the amusement of a jaded public.

It further appears to suggest that Brent Sancho, the brickshithousesque Trinidad & Tobago defender whose name is the excuse for the tortuous headline, is planning to give the fun-size England striker a hard time. What kind of hard time? Well, Sancho has “promised that he will take no prisoners in Nuremberg tonight”, so presumably he doesn’t have plans for anything as dignified as a proper gallows. “I won’t be pussy-footing around,” he hints. “We are a tough band of players with a tough nose and we take that onto the pitch.”

Hmm. We at Anorak don’t like the sound of this. Especially that “tough nose” they intend to take on the pitch, which must surely be in breach of some FIFA directive or other. Sancho’s assurances that he is “hard but fair” don’t allay our fears either. On reflection, perhaps this isn’t the best game in which to be risk players recovering from foot injuries.

Which brings us to the other damaged foot. Eriksson’s announced yesterday that Wayne Rooney is fit, and that he has not had a falling-out with FA boss Brian Barwick over whether to play him. But the papers sense a smokescreen, and are urging Eriksson to stand up for himself. The FA problem with this is that if Eriksson goes against medical advice and plays Rooney too soon, there could be claims for compensation and a nasty situation with Manchester United to boot.

“It all points to Rooney,” announces the Mirror, but others are more circumspect, and they are probably right. Despite intense media pressure yesterday, Eriksson wisely declined to make his decision public, and this has allowed time for various medical experts to examine Rooney again.

Their decision, whichever way it goes, could save face for Sven while also getting the FA out of a tight spot. With the prospect of a tough physical game in very hot temperatures, it could be a blessing in disguise if Rooney’s return is delayed until next week. Then Olof Mellberg can stamp all over him without risking the FA’s cash.

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink