Oh, we can talk about and bemoan the fact that England don’t (yet) have the cohesion and precision in the final third or a defence that doesn’t cough up at least a few good chances against decent opposition. But if there’s one player we needed last night, who I’m sure would have made himself available if asked, it was the inestimable Eddie Youds. I could be wrong, but I very much doubt that Suarez would have enjoyed such a pain-free and ultimately rewarding evening if Eddie had been out there.
If the game is ultimately about playing to your strengths and doing your best to nullify the opposition’s strengths, there was surely a case (albeit one that doesn’t stand the test of the Corinthian spirit) for testing out that knee and the temperament early in the game, take a card for the team just to put in Soares’ head that when he gets the ball there might be more pain coming. But who in the England team was ready and willing to take the responsibility? I don’t care if Gerrard and Suarez are best buddies, a bit of roughing up in an unthreatening area might have helped the cause.
My favourite memory of Eddie (aside from the stories I was told by a mate who frequented a watering hole graced by his presence) was a home game against Arsenal at The Valley. Now I think most people would accept that Bergkamp could play a bit and that evening for the first 20 minutes or so of the game he led us a merry dance. Perhaps Eddie was a bit jaded, the bones creaking a bit, and nobody was cutting off the supply to Bergkamp. So it was time to put a stop to the nonsense. Stayed on his feet but a raking tackle from behind with what looked like a side order of studs down the back of the leg, followed by a shrug of indifference (that may be poetic license). Eddie got the appropriate lecture from the ref. Bergkamp lasted another five minutes or so before deciding this was a contest he didn’t have the appetite for and hobbled off. I don’t even remember the final score, but job done.
My French partner Suzanne will have none of this. She will still hear no criticism of Zidane for his head-butting of Materazzi, viewing his act as a noble response to unacceptable provocation rather than him having been conned into doing exactly what Materazzi wanted him to. Me? I don’t think I’m amoral but actually love the mental side of sport, the sledging in cricket, the way that Brian Moore used to wind up the French in every scrum. If an opponent has mental weaknesses they are there to be exploited in the same way as physical/technical deficiencies. It’s then up to the ref to decide whether the rules of the game have been breached (and if so to what extent).
All I can say in response to Suzanne’s moral outrage is let nobody pretend that the great Bobby Moore didn’t know about this side of the game and could take care of himself (and others when necessary). The facts that he also looked angelic and was a world-class defender helped his cause. Jack Charlton was just a little more obvious with his little book of names. Nobby Stiles I don’t think bothered to write them down as everyone was a legitimate target.
Meanwhile, we continue to wait. For (hopefully positive) outcomes regarding Morrison and Poyet and confirmation of new signings. And to the best of my knowledge we still wait for the board to deliver on its pledge to hold meetings with supporters groups. I hope that we won’t be informed (or just left to conclude) that ‘with pre-season coming up and so much to be done regarding player ins and outs there still just isn’t the time, even though we want to, even though we want to communicate, even though we so value the wonderful supporters of this great club …..’