Uh oh, it’s England friendly time, moans Tom Mallows.
Witness the usual of procession of conveniently timed injuries to key players – who then miraculously recover in time for their next league game.
These friendlies are supposed to be a chance for the manager to experiment. But for us spectators it’s a ticket to dullsville. The first half usually involves England’s first choice team (well, those who avoided \’injury’) who, surely under instructions from their club bosses, proceed to spend 45 minutes avoiding tackles before their inevitable half time substitution.
In their place often come the ever-willing newbies, eager to impress and establish themselves in the squad. But sadly for them, each side makes another change every five minutes meaning the match becomes so disjointed it turns into nothing more than a round-robin run around.
Things may have improved under Fabio. But don’t bet on England making less than six changes during the Spain game.
For our friends at Sky, with nothing else to talk about, we are treated to hours of coverage of their chief football reporter Nick Collins (who comes into his own at England time) live at England training.
What a bonus it is for us to witness first hand Sammy Lee putting cones out and the players running round and round in circles looking dis-interested. The players are then carefully selected and farmed out to speak to the press, telling them how important this game is, and how happy there are to be there.
Sometimes the match is nothing more than a PR exercise, with the players used as a political pawn in order for the FA to gain influences across the globe. This is again with total disregard to us punters, who have to endure utter drivel in the name of politics.
Here are a few examples of the rubbishness we have seen in the noughties:
Trinidad and Tobago 0-3 England
The FA didn’t even hide the reasons behind this one. It was to impress influential FIFA vice- president Jack Warner so he would back our 2018 World Cup bid.
Did it work? Well in 2007 Warner said:
“Nobody in Europe likes England. They invented the sport but have never made any impact on world football.”
Two days after the England friendly he said:
“They were the most helpful, kind, considerate people, who fell over themselves to help anyone they could. I don’t believe any country of England’s football pedigree should not have a world cup for almost 50 years,”
France 1-0 England
Slap bang in the middle of a Premier League title race the only thing of note in this dull encounter was that Beckham FINALLY got his 100th cap, meaning the press had to find something else to talk about.
Austria 0-1 England
Days before a crucial qualifying match against Croatia (which McClaren mucked up royally anyway) we were forced to tootle off to Europe to play an equally dis-interested and limited Austrian team. Great preparation Steve.
Colombia 2-3 England (played in New Jersey)
This game wasn’t even the main attraction for the fans in the stadium; it was an undercard – for a MLS game! The ultimate humiliation.
Sweden 1-0 England
A match was so pointless Alan Thompson and Anthony Gardner played. Nuff said.
South Africa 1-2 England
This one seems so politically motivated it stinks. We travelled to the 2010 World Cup hosts for a pointless end of season friendly surely designed for mutual back slapping and hand shaking. Even Heskey scored.
England 1-3 Australia
Sven had a stroke of genius on this one; replace the whole team at half time. Well neither of them were any good because we lost both halves, convincingly.
I think I would rather watch a Tic Tac advert…………….