Anorak News | Fair Play To Him

Fair Play To Him

by | 22nd, June 2006

“THERE’S no awful pain, but you can feel the crunch.”

Right, hands up anyone who knows the source of that quote. Yes, you at the back in the bath chair… Oh, sorry, didn’t recognise you for a moment, sir. (Old Mr Anorak sometimes gets his nurse to wheel him into the news room for a surprise visit.) No, sir – good guess, though. (Old Mr Anorak thinks it’s taken from the fondly remembered advertisement for Super Wernets denture fixative – the one where the man in the pub says that he would love to have try a ploughman’s lunch, but can’t risk it because of his loose gnashers.)

Here’s a clue. He’s a famous footballer. One of the elite few known by a single name, like Pele and Maradona. That’s right, it’s “Michael”, the only Englishman ever to be afforded the one-word treatment by Alan Hansen and his fellow pundits.

The quote is used as the headline for The Times’ exclusive interview with the crocked England striker, who has returned to England holding a pair of crutches in each hand instead of a Golden Boot and a winners’ medal. As you would expect, he isn’t too happy about it. More surprisingly, he insists that his mood is not one of self-pity, but of guilt.

“I feel really guilty when I think of the people at Newcastle United. I think of the chairman, Freddie Shepherd, who has invested all that money, and Glenn Roeder, the manager, who has kept in touch through the tournament and been very supportive. And those great fans who have only seen me for 11 matches.”

But he’s philosophical, and reminds us that “worse things happen to people every day. When I told my daughter that Daddy had hurt his knee, she just asked me to put on Postman Pat.” You’re right, Michael, even worse things than that happen to parents every day – we suggest you avoid CBeebies during your recuperation. But we take your point: you are not going to sit around feeling sorry for yourself; you are going to sit around feeling sorry for the lads in Germany, as they stumble on without their top goalscorer.

Michael sums things up with admirable fortitude, referring to himself in the third person, as great players do, but using his full name, as befits the Paper of Record. “My World Cup is over,” he announces, “but there will be more big tournaments for Michael Owen.”

In the meantime, the people he thanked are responding in their own different ways. The Star reports that Newcastle United are getting ready to “sue FIFA for £25 million”. Glenn Roeder tells the Sun that people will now understand “why Sir Alex Ferguson was jumping up and down about the Wayne Rooney situation”, although he insists that “my first thoughts were for Michael”.

The players, on the other hand, are taking their lead from the Boys of ’70, who promised to “give all we’ve got to give for the folks back home” – especially folk on crutches. The question is how they are going to give all they’ve got to give.

There is a growing feeling that it would be better if David Beckham gave a bit less, as all he’s got to give is long balls into the box. “GERRO BECKS BUST-UP,” claims the Sun: “Stars in training clash over too many long balls. Apparently "Gerro” complained to Becks, who then “had a pop back and the pair had a frank exchange over tactics in front of the other squad members”. The paper reports that the coaching staff were “not overly concerned” – and why would they be, given that they are employed by Eriksson as part of his sinister plot to get England eliminated from the tournament?

Meanwhile, the defenders are taking a long hard look at themselves after the set-piece shambles against Sweden. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry hold their hands up in the Star, and Terry promises that “the manager will go through it with us”. That, of course, is exactly what we were afraid of.

“I am not worried about the goalscoring situation at all,” Sven tells the Star, which seems to confirm our fears. With the front-line and midfield now in chaos, he can now devote his energy to ruining the one part of the team that has – until Tuesday, at least – been working properly.

Michael Owen has vowed to be back in Germany on 9 July to collect his medal. Unfortunately, it looks likely to be another Fifa Fair Play gong to add to the collection.

Posted: 22nd, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink