Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Glad Our Freak Show of a Team Are Finally Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Glad Our Freak Show of a Team Are Finally Out

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW NORMAN

THE death of Frederick Sewards Trueman was announced minutes before England kicked off against Portugal, and it was that great Yorkshireman, pipe smoker, indoor league presenter and fast bowler, whose spirit informed the experience of watching the final shambles unfold.

"I joost doon't oonderstand it," the late Freddie used to splutter after pretty much every ball bowled while he was summarising on Test Match Special.

"I mean, what do they think . . . I just can't make head nor tail of it."

We all felt that way for the first hour on Saturday. The sight of Wayne Rooney distended from his nearest colleague by 30-40 yards, being targeted with aerial balls while being marked by two Portuguese twice his height . . .

has there ever been a tactic better designed to nullify a side's most potent attacking threat? This was professional suicide.

I admire Sven-Goran Eriksson for the grace with which he bore tabloid malevolence and for his humiliation of Alex Ferguson in the War of Rooney's Foot.

What it says about a coach, however, that his side only started to display the spirit, flair and aggressive intent expected of them when their best player had been sent off doesn't really need stating.

As so often with England in World Cups, what little form there was came only when accident, in the shape of the red card and David Beckham's lachrymose departure as captain, sparked the Dunkirk spirit. What minimal credit England won on Saturday came in spite of the manager rather than because of him.

Until three weeks ago, I thought Eriksson had some idea what he was doing.

Ultimately, and in so many ways - sending Jamie Carragher on to take a penalty, forsooth! - the man unveiled himself to a giggling world as the Chauncey Gardiner figure more astute observers than myself had him pegged for long ago. …

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