Photo: Daily Mirror
After England’s defeat to Iceland I couldnt sleep. I wasn’t upset or delusional about losing – I simply couldn’t work out why what I can see on TV is not apparent to those directly involved. This ‘sketch‘ is are my imaginings in the middle of the night after Britain has voted ourselves out of Europe and almost as unimaginably (OK, there’s the delusion) been beaten by footballing ‘minnows’ Iceland.
It’s Monday, four hours before England take on Iceland in Nice for a place in the quarter finals and Manager Roy Hodgson has a plan…
‘OK squad we’ve had a week off and it’s probably time we looked at tonight’s match. As you will have seen from the referendum we older types have long memories. We don’t need to add any new knowledge when we already know the facts, eh, guys?…
‘I remember that last time we played these chaps, we won 6-1… Quite recently, in 2004, was it Ray? It was a friendly and we took it quite seriously. It was June and it was the first game we’d won that year, so we must have done.
‘For our next game it was the Euros and we lost to France, so this time all we have to do is reverse one of those scores. It’s simple… and I suggest we keep the first score and change the second one, OK. Got that? Win the Iceland game as before and then WIN the next game against France.
‘OK, OK, settle down, I know that’s bit of a surprise. I know we normally only take one game at a time but hey, what can go wrong with that?
‘Now, I think this long rest since the last game has done us all a power of good. They were hard work eh, Slovakia… not letting us go near the goal… Wouldn’t want to be playing them again too soon! Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all been enjoying the banter and playing lots of head tennis and won’t have lost any sharpness or focus in a week, like the French did… until those plucky Irish woke them up, eh, Gary?
‘So, talking of Gary there, he was saying he’s never had afternoon tea at the Negresco here in Nice. Imagine that? We’re certainly going to change that today! And Ray… Ray had never been on a boat trip on the river in Paris so we had to change that didn’t we? Seems we missed going to Iceland’s last game against Austria at the time but not to worry, I asked a few of the backroom boys to pop along and check that they just defend like they did last time in 2004… Gotta respect that, eh?
‘I was just wondering… why aren’t the Dutch at this tournament? Maybe you can look that up on your phone Gary while we’re at the Negresco… Anyway, don’t want to be late for our high tea. Ready Gary?… Ray?… Oh yes, one other thing… I’ve got someone to have a chat with you all, to inspire you for tonight’s game! I’ve only got Boris Johnson on Skype to get you ready for tonight! He knows a thing or two, doesn’t he?! Right I see Boris is on the line so over to you Boris… Will I need a brolly, do you think Ray?’
Boris’ face lights up the room as the squad sit entranced. He’s witty and charming but is surprised to discover that there’s more to this task than he realised…
‘What, you don’t have a gameplan for the match?’ He bellows ‘Not my thing but hey-ho let’s see what we can do… Rooney, our captain, illuminate!…’
‘Well, I’m a bit slow now and have to hang around the centre circle but I can take penalties’
‘OK, that’s decided’ says Boris. ‘Sterling, how about you?’
‘I like running with the ball, I’m right footed but if someone gets in the way I fall down’
‘Right footed eh? So that means you go on the left wing. Do some falling down in the box and Rooney can score a penalty. Yes? great.
‘Hart, our number one keeper, all OK there?’
‘No problem’ says Hart ‘There’s some great keepers at this tournament, if only I could have a few shots at me to prove I’m one of them’
‘Let’s hope so then, good luck with that… Sturridge, what do you make of this?’
‘Well, whatever God tells me is good enough for me’
‘Right then, take the other wing. You’re left footed so that means you should go on the right, no? We can’t have you upfront as Kane will be banging them in from there, so please don’t play like you are out of position or something’
‘Lalana, how about you?’
‘Well if Glenn Hoddle was picking the team I’d be in every position but he isn’t so… dunno’
‘Oh er… right, Kane, you should be up front… and set pieces… you know the kind of service you need so I suggest you take all the free kicks and so on’
‘Vardy, Rashford, you be ready to come on and change the game in an emergency. You should get plenty of time to do that’
‘Jack… oh Jack… Great goal you scored for the team, when was that again?’
‘Only a year ago now’ said Jack ‘I’m back from injury, should be ready for next season and the Manager says I’m ready to make things happen here. Stop laughing guys, it’s not my fault!’
‘OK, OK, whatever the Manager says then, I’m sure he knows something we don’t… Wingers Rose and Walker I’m sure you’re ready after two weeks rest. Must make a nice change from playing twice in a week! Mr Cahill and Mr Smalling, are you ready?
‘As ready as I’ll ever be, haha’ says Cahill
‘I played for the Manager at Fulham and learned so much so I’ll say the same’ replies Smalling
‘Right, right, and that lion thing you guys have been wearing on your backs, your lucky charm I guess. Don’t go losing that as he’s worked so far… yes, no, OK we don’t know. Well trust that furry Lion. He’ll bring you luck against a team that have succeeded playing the same way for two years now.’
‘So, Gentlemen, I’ll leave you with this thought… We may be leaving Europe in the political sense, but there’s no reason we can’t show these Johnny Europeans a thing or two about English work rate, long term planning, leadership and open-minded thinking. About working together etc, etc… And, you know, if the unthinkable happens and we lose then I recommend you just ignore the result and it might just go away. Hey-ho!’
A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one thing is offered. Because a person may refuse to accept what is offered, the two options are taking it or taking nothing. In other words, one may “take it or leave it.”