Rich begins his latest post over at CCN by mentioning that he leaves his luxurious Wembley seat five minutes early. Ever since being dragged away from watching Fulham by my mother as a youngster, this is a peculiar phenomenon that has always puzzled me. Why on earth would you leave a ground early having paid £40 or so for your ticket? It’s like leaving the cinema with 20 minutes to go in the film or walking out of a job interview before they get round to those crucial closing questions.
I can understand the irritation at being stuck in traffic after a big game but, quite frequently, those who leave early also come late or nip out before half-time for a cuppa and a bite to eat. Visitors to the Cottage who leave their seats before the end would often being rueing their departure given Fulham’s ability to score or concede late goals. Those who left in disgust with more than a quarter of hour to play last Saturday would have arrived home gutted only to discover they’d missed a comeback almost as thrilling as the one that overhauled Spurs at Loftus Road a few years back. It’s difficult to rub someone else’s nose in it, when you’re still kicking yourself for missing the action.
Anyway, onto the football and finally England pieced together a performance that the situation demanded. True, Israel were both poor and unambitious, but I was impressed with the way that the English boys stuck at it. Special praise for the two unlikely picks that made their most of others misfortune to force their way into McClaren’s line-up. Gareth Barry looked at home in central midfield and, as a left-footer, provided the sort of balance alongside Steven Gerrard that England’s midfield needed. Plenty of eyebrows were raised at Emile Heskey’s recall, but the physicality of the Wigan forward caused plenty of problems for Israel’s defence. If I was picking the team, they’d be no changes for Russia on Wednesday. I don’t boo players representing my team, but I’d have been tempted to hurl some abuse at David Bentley (promising player though he is) for deciding he was available for England having dropped out of the European U21 Championships because he was ‘too tired’.
And sadly our much-maligned full-back and stand-in captain Chris Baird has scored the decisive own goal as Northern Ireland lost in Latvia. Unfortunately, that might just scupper their hopes of reaching the European Championships for the very first time.