Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Feel That Narrative

After watching England's dreary but 'got-the-job-done' performance last night, I'm rubbing my eyes at some of the newspaper reports this morning (and not just because I've got hay fever).

Much of the focus in today's papers is on Ukraine's goal that wasn't - the ball clearly crossed the line and would have meant that Ukraine equalised if given. That it wasn't, apparently meant that England could progress to the next round. As a consequence many reports are lauding England's 'Lady Luck and 'rub-of-the-green' - just some of the clichés bandied about this morning. James Lawton in the Independent has this:
Lucky devil Hodgson must have done a deal with fate. He escaped what should always be known as the siege of Donetsk. England conceded a goal that was as authentic as the one they were denied in the World Cup two years ago...
This fits in with the narrative that England have always previously exited major tournaments because they've been unlucky or robbed; Maradona 1986, Sol Campball 1998 and 2004 and Frank Lampard in 2010, to give just a couple of examples. The facts though belies another story.

One of the favourite footballers' clichés is that luck, and referees' decisions, even themselves out over a season. Well if that's the case imagine what luck does over 46 years (the last time we won a major international tournament). It's hard then not to conclude that we don't win stuff because we're not good enough. Take 1986, yes Maradona cheated but then he scored an amazing second goal and we were poor until the last 15 minutes during which England striker Lineker missed an open goal to equalise. In the 1996 Euro (Football's coming home) tournament; we were poor against Switzerland and Scotland until Gazza's famous effort. And yes he was unlucky to miss against Germany in the semi-final to send us through to the final, but England shouldn't have been there anyway because Spain scored two legitimate goals in the previous round against us that were wrongly ruled out.

Then there's Lampard's goal against Germany that wasn't in 2010. Germany didn't thrash us 4-1 one because that goal was disallowed, they did so because England were utterly woeful in the second half and had an abysmal tournament all round

Yet it's Lampard's effort that fills today's papers, not only to argue that it's atonement for 'luck' we've always been denied for so long but also use it to campaign for 'goal-line' technology - which tries to justify our exit in 2010 and is also used as a convenient stick with which to hit the less-than-candid-English-hating FIFA President Sepp Fatter with, who is opposed to the idea

Therefore the narrative becomes England's luck. Or, instead, another way of looking at it:
  • Ukraine outplayed us but despite numerous scoring opportunities, they had a strike force that couldn't hit a cow's bottom with a banjo.

  • England had a number of decisions go against them, notably a clear foul on England striker Andy Carroll in the penalty box.
  • Even if the goal had been allowed a draw would have still meant we qualified and would be top
  • That the 'goal' Ukraine allegedly scored was in fact offside
And it's the last point that's most important. Right across our media it has been comprehensively ignored - despite the game being watched by an average of 12.69 million with a peak of 18 million, that ITV pointed it out several times last night and that the clips are available on YouTube, the dead tree press have decided on a different agenda regardless of the facts (my emphasis):
England conceded a goal that was as authentic as the one they were denied in the World Cup two years ago
No it wasn't authentic, it was offside. Two human errors - failing to flag that as well as not spotting the 'goal' led to the right outcome. Even the usually erudite and award winning Telegraph journalist Henry Winter underplays the significance:
So [Rooney] is back and so is Lady Luck, fluttering her eyelashes at the grateful English. When Terry stretched out a leg to hook Marko Devic’s shot clear the ball had crossed the line.

The Hungarian officials failed to notice it. Oleg Blokhin did. Ukraine’s coach was understandably enraged, even if there had been a hint of offside.
It wasn't a 'hint', it was. Indeed readers' comments under the articles have pointed out, in droves, the omission, But no matter, sod the facts, feel the narrative and put your fingers in your ears saying 'la la la I can't hear you'.


  1. Actually if you watch, the Ukrainian 'goal' should never have been in the first place. Their player was offside.
    As for luck, well it happens, England were lucky, after all they only managed to beat a desperate to win host nation in their backyard and finished top of their group.

  2. @Quiet Man Yep I mentioned the offside bit in the piece...

  3. "I mentioned the offside bit in the piece.." I must have missed that. Obviously I also missed my true vocation as a referee.