I HAD to chuckle when I came into the office and asked who’d watched the dramas of England and Colombia in their earth-shattering – well, nerve-shattering at least – World Cup match on Tuesday night.
Zoe Shackleton, our sports-mad newshound, didn’t so much as blink from first to last it seemed. Attagirl.
The editor, David Bentley, who has done a magnificent job of looking like he’s been working for the past two weeks while surreptitiously watching every kick of the tournament on his phone, said nope, he hadn’t.
What, a death in the family? The wife run away to sea, or to join the circus? A sudden case of appendicitis maybe?
Nope. Too nerve-jangling by half. Had a meltdown when Colombia equalised, peeked from behind the sofa all the way through extra time, then switched off. Couldn’t handle the penalty shoot-out, and only put the telly back on when mass cheering from outside carried the patriotic joy into the Bentley living room.
The big jessie.
Hands up, I only switched on at half time at the behest of – get this, really! – Mrs L, who’d got caught up in the social media frenzy.
It was in time to see first half ‘highlights’ of the Colombian paramilitaries dressed up in footy shirts trying to goad England into a mass brawl.
It looked like representatives of the cocaine producing capital of the world were trying to strong-arm their debts out of England’s multi-millionaire show ponies.
Presumably Colombia thought they’d have a better chance at five-a-side, and given that half the England team have a combined IQ of this week’s average temperatures (in Celsius) they almost succeeded.
That Jordan Henderson character was desperate to get stuck in and exchange blows from what I saw.
I played with some blokes in the old Heavy Woollen, Spen Valley and Gate Leagues who would have relished that sort of literal kick-about. My old Thornhill teammates, centre-back brothers Mick and John Scott, would have loved that.
Mind you, the great Fearnsides pub team of the 1970s and early 80s played better football than I saw from England in that second half and extra time. They were scared of their own shadows – yet people are talking about them as World Cup winners.
Hope springs eternal I suppose, although I’d venture there’s only Harry Kane who would get in the Belgium or Brazil teams.
As for that little whingeing diver Jesse Lingard – he’s exactly why I can’t stand the game these days (apparently that Neymar chap could give Tom Daley a somersault for his money too).
If things had kicked off, maybe Henderson could have swung Lingard by his feet to batter a few of the opposition thugs.
And so to penalties, where I actually fancied England believe it or not.
I like Kane and that kid Rashford. Natural born goalscorers. Unlike some England penalty-takers in the past, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the box, with a gun against their family’s heads for good measure, you could see they fancied it. You can’t beat that.
And such as you can, after Henderson somehow ended up playing a back pass to the keeper, came a couple of defenders in Kieran Trippier and Eric Dier.
Their manager Gareth Southgate was probably just a bit too clever for his own clogs when he cost England their Euro 96 semi; he tried to ‘pass’ his way past the goalie, like other famous pen-missers David Batty and Paul Ince, whose favoured pass was always sideways anyway, hopefully but not always to a teammate. They certainly found a man that day. The goalie.
As Trippier said afterwards, the gaffer had them practising continually, picking one spot and blasting the flaming ball at it, time and again. Which, removed of the need to focus on the keeper, the crowd or anything else, both duly did. Boom!
Well done lads and I truly hope you finish the job and ‘bring it home’ as everyone is saying. I might even watch the full 90 on Saturday.
PS: I hope Sweden weren’t listening to Trippier, or their keeper will know exactly where to dive – time for a Plan B Gareth!
I TRIED to read the wonderful letter we received from our reader Mr Donald Hirst to a friend this week.
I couldn’t finish it. I was choked. My pal’s a grumpy, grizzly, hard-nosed so-and-so, yet he was choked too (it must have been all the pollen making our eyes water).
It’s quite unusual of Mr Hirst’s generation to make even modest public statements of affection in this manner, but it is all the more profound and welcome for it.
It’s also a touching if somewhat daunting reminder of the challenges that face all of us in our golden years.
Everyone should be so blessed as to share what Mr and Mrs Hirst so clearly have, for so long, but so few do.
This is not the time or the place to get worked up about our failing elderly social care system, rather it’s an opportunity to recognise a heartwarming milestone for a loving couple.
So thank you Mr Hirst, for sharing with us your beautifully articulated tale of simple pleasures, human challenges, and unyielding love. A happy anniversary from all of us.
IT’S not personal Paula, really it isn’t. And I’m aware this shouldn’t be the place for petty, playground toilet humour, but really we need to get to the bottom of things. Ahem.
Having touched on Ms Sherriff’s smalls – so to speak – a couple of weeks ago, this week the hard-working MP was up on her feet in the House of Commons pleading for better public WC facilities for disabled people.
A noble cause, well championed. Good luck to the Hon Member for Dewsbury and Mirfield in her worthy campaign.
I felt a certain relief in that her plea was not watered down with blame on ‘austerity’ and Tory cuts – but then again her call was aimed at new buildings and facilities, generally but not exclusively in the private sector.
I should have known better because immediately flushing through The Press system (as opposed to cistern) came Paula’s defence of local mental health services that had been subjected to a downgraded rating.
As surely as Delhi belly follows a bad curry, it was all down to Tory cuts. Sigh.
I don’t know how robustly Ms Sherriff has examined Trust management practices or dozens of other variables that could factor in a poorer service for patients.
Why bother, when it’s easier just to trot out the old ‘Tory cuts’ nutmeg, accurate or not?
It is now so predictable, so trite, that it demeans proper debate. I doubt we’ll ever hear the MP blaming a case of Parliamentary constipation on Tory cuts, but her fixation with them is sure giving me the trots.
Because here’s the thing. Her Labour friends at Kirklees Council in Huddersfield, where Tory cuts are blamed for everything from a blocked Civic Centre bog to school crossing ladies being metaphorically thrown under a bus, have been revealed as not only hitting their spending cuts target – well done with that by the way folks – but squirreling £8m away for a rainy day, AND having £1.6m cash left in the piggy bank.
At a time when real pressure is on public spending and services, Labour saying the £1.6m can now be frittered on vanity projects shows not just their lack of financial acumen, but the reality of their brazen politicking.
I’m sure Ms Sherriff’s PR missive condemning her cynical Kirklees colleagues has just got stuck in the u-bend.