Tone deaf to the end, it is now being suggested this Government will make Gareth Southgate a knight for leading England to their first major final in 55 years.
Arise, Sir Gareth.
Now why would they want to do a stupid thing like that? We can guess, of course. It’s the populist call. Boris Johnson was denied his photo-op with the team following the final defeat, so this would be the next best thing.
And, if offered, no doubt Southgate would accept because he’s a patriotic soul, would feel genuinely honoured and because he would be aware of the fuss and backlash it would cause if he turned it down.
Suggestions of Gareth Southgate receiving a knighthood are tone deaf and vainglorious
Yet would Southgate feel comfortable with this? Would he hell. Would he use it? Not a chance. Should it happen? Absolutely not.
There is a time for sporting knighthoods and it is not mid-career, where Southgate is now. Alf Ramsey won the World Cup in 1966 and was knighted in 1967. It was England’s first major trophy, so the immediacy was forgivable.
The same happened to Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999 when he became the first manager to land the treble of Champions League, domestic title and FA Cup.
Southgate, by contrast, has not won a trophy. He has reached a semi-final and final, which is very good, but the journey is incomplete. He must hope his greatest achievement lies ahead.
He will be England’s manager at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and maybe after that. If he is knighted now, what happens if he actually wins something? Why is there such clamour for instant gratification?
England manager Gareth Southgate kept his medal on in the aftermath of the ceremony
It does not come from the proposed recipient, we can be sure of that. Sir Andrew Murray did not want that title when he won at Wimbledon in 2013. He thought it was too early and would be an unnecessary burden as a competing athlete.
‘Sir Andrew Murray to serve. . . Sir Andrew Murray is challenging the call.’ It could be just another weight. Maybe he also suspected it could serve as motivation for his opponents. What better scalp at Wimbledon, after all, than Sir Andrew Murray, anointed by Her Majesty the Queen?
And Murray deserved a knighthood given what he has done for British tennis. He was always going to accept, but said privately that he preferred to wait until his career had finished.
The honours system does not work like that, apparently. Turn one down, even for the most rational, sincere reasons, and there is no guarantee the offer ever comes again. And with politicians so anxious to attach sporting success to themselves and the public mood, that is why nobody has the patience to let a career end anymore.
Sir Stirling Moss retired from racing in 1962 and was knighted 38 years later, yet nobody even waited to see if Sir Lewis Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ championships before bestowing the same honour.
As for Murray, his official website suggests his opinions haven’t changed greatly since 2013. Visitors to www.andymurray.com will not even find the title awarded in 2016 used on his profile page.
‘Andy Murray is the 2012 US Open Champion, 2012 and 2016 reigning Olympic Singles Champion, the 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon Champion and was a member of the victorious Great Britain Davis Cup squad in 2015,’ it begins. The profile is 286 words long. Nowhere does it mention his knighthood.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray receives his knighthood for services to tennis
Back to Southgate, who probably wonders if anyone in Government has listened to a word he has ever said, if this is up for discussion. The whole ethos of his regime is around team spirit and the collective. He takes the responsibility of being the leader, as he did immediately after the penalty shootout defeat. How does that square with Sir Gareth, England manager?
And having spent so long shedding an erroneous image as a Football Association ‘Yes’ man, why would he wish to be shackled again to the establishment?
There have been some fine words said about the national team and their manager. It would mean a lot more, however, if those in high places started thinking beyond the headlines and reflected glory, and considered what it was that made this team special. Vainglorious stunts have no place in Southgate’s England.
Egomaniac fans ruining it for the rest of us
Most will have forgotten, given the many twists and turns that followed, but England were actually gaining a little momentum when a self-indulgent reality show boyband wannabe called Adam Harison ran on to the pitch on Sunday and held up play. It gave Italy time to regroup and recover. He must be so proud.
This year’s Tour de France was placed in jeopardy and riders injured by a shallow egomaniac, holding up a facile sign and mugging for the cameras. Modern media have wrongly encouraged these clowns who only see events through the prism of self-projection and have no talent beyond a craven need for fame.
Beware the offside malgorithm
Private Eye, the satirical magazine, runs a regular item called malgorithms, about misadventures in online advertising.
Algorithms linked to key words often decide what ads you see, leading to awkward juxtapositions.
For instance, a news story about a woman claiming to have given birth to 10 children in South Africa — she was later found to be lying and admitted into psychiatric care — triggered an ad for Durex condoms available on Amazon. So Arsene Wenger’s pledge that FIFA will have automated offsides ready for the World Cup in 2022 doesn’t entirely inspire confidence.
The artificial intelligence-based system uses automated ball detection, limb-tracking and algorithms to produce three-dimensional models of players’ positions. Wenger believes this will reduce decision times greatly. And again we ask: what could possibly go wrong?
Arsene Wenger has pledged FIFA will have automated offsides ready for the World Cup in 2022
It’ll be so hard for Kat to climb on the podium
Katarina Johnson-Thompson has revealed her injury absence was due to a ruptured achilles tendon.
She says she is now fully fit and ready to contend for a medal in Tokyo. Finishing eighth of nine in a long jump event at Gateshead this week, 82 centimetres short of her best, suggests this may be optimistic.
The marketing departments will tell us again that impossible is nothing, but injuries are very real and Johnson-Thompson’s could not have come at a worse time.
It will be desperately hard for her to get on the podium.
Police failed Wembley test
It must be wonderful to be a senior policeman in this modern age: every day is full of surprises.
After the widespread disorder outside and inside Wembley, in the centre of London and across many major cities on Sunday, Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: ‘You just couldn’t plan for this. There are 10 times more people than we anticipated would be the case.’
In other words, there was a plan — because that’s what anticipation involves — but it was a totally inadequate one, lacking competence and intelligence.
Who could have predicted the scenes we saw at the final? Anybody who was paying attention at the Denmark game four days earlier. Literally, anybody. My brother. His teenage daughter. Those who read the back page of this newspaper, with its story about ticketless fans gaining entry.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, wasn’t expecting thousands of ticketless fans to storm Wembley during the Euro 2020 final
This was the most easily foreseeable disturbance since Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott wrote the words to Jailbreak. ‘Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak / Somewhere in this town.’ Well, I’m no Sherlock Holmes but I’m guessing most likely at the jail. Although Marsh, Cressida Dick and the lads will no doubt have all the Post Offices covered.
There were seven of us at the semi-final. I was working, two sons and two nephews on the other side of the stadium, my brother and his daughter in the most expensive seats.
Yet when we all met back at the car, the immediate consensus of the six paying customers was: not again. No-one was hunting for final tickets. My brother described the worst match-going experience of his life, sat next to a little crew he described as unplayable.
Spitting provocatively near to those around them, making gestures designed to incite. And then what? They were looking for a reaction as an excuse to really kick off. So nobody was going to confront them, and the stewards and volunteers were powerless.
Everyone just sat there and had their night ruined. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. There were many, many stories like that. People who foresaw how this would end as far out as the last 16 against Germany.
My brother isn’t a shrinking violet, either. He’s a West Ham season-ticket holder. He’s followed England in Europe and at tournaments. When he says he’d rather be on the sofa, it must be bad.
Football fans storm through security barriers as stewards desperately try to hold them back
Fil, our electrician, is a true England loyalist. Home and away. Pops up in the most obscure places, like Montenegro. He ended up on the pages of the Daily Mirror with his son, among the many genuine England fans who couldn’t believe what they had been pitched into. The tales are too numerous to detail here.
Harry Maguire’s dad with his broken ribs; Alan Smith, Gareth Southgate’s mentor at Crystal Palace, had his sunglasses ripped off his face and a small bag with thank-you presents for the Southgate family stolen; Dominic Matteo, the former Leeds and Liverpool defender, walked away from the ground because the violent chaos was overwhelming.
The testimonies from disabled fans and their carers are heartbreaking.
So if UEFA close Wembley, if the 2030 World Cup bid is dead, how can we complain? It will be a great pity for the many peaceful England supporters, but there was little evidence to suggest this country can handle host status.
Not a sizable number of its people, and certainly not those charged with protecting the rest.
Mings was right to stick the boot in
There is a reason Tyrone Mings identified Priti Patel, in particular, when he called out the political hypocrisy over racism and football. She’s an enabler.
As a prominent person of colour, when Patel dismisses taking the knee as ‘gesture politics’, when she supports those who shout it down, she is giving credence to false and racist stances.
Those who oppose a simple gesture of anti-racism can point to the Home Secretary to justify their position. See, even she’s against it and she’s a — well, let’s say person of colour. But that might not be the word used. And that’s why footballers kneel.
England’s achievements are none of your business
A small clarification for those offended that some England players took their runners-up medals off after receiving them on Sunday: it’s not about you. They reached a final, not you. They lost, not you. It is their medal and their right to wear it or not.
Some will still take pride in getting to the final, others do not want a ready reminder of defeat. Either way, it isn’t your business.
Several of England’s players took their runners-up medals straight off after receiving them
UEFA turn a blind eye during Euro final
Now that the final whistle has blown, the trophy awarded and carried to Rome, it is widely reported that as many as 5,000 fans entered Wembley without tickets on Sunday.
On the night, apparently, none. That was the official UEFA statement.
Why? Well, if the authorities confirmed encroachment in the thousands, the game would have had to be called off because that would be a clear and serious breach of Covid protocols. Now, there is nothing anyone can do. The show is over. It’s called expediency; or, to the layman, reckless endangerment.
Sterling is no cheater
Roberto Rosetti, head of referees at the Euros, says Danny Makkelie made the correct call over the Raheem Sterling penalty against Denmark. He’s right, he did.
What remains puzzling is the rush to acclaim Sterling as streetwise in the aftermath. If you think he’s streetwise, that implies he dived; and if he dived, then he cheated. We shouldn’t laud cheating. Sterling’s actions are only defensible if you believe he was fouled.
From the first time I saw it, I thought he was.
Raheem Sterling was accused of diving to win England’s decisive penalty against Denmark
No common sense at the EFL
The pandemic resulted in a rare outbreak of reason at the EFL last season when it was decided Carabao Cup semi-finals should be played over a single leg. Every other round of the tournament is, including the final. Yet for some reason, the last four meet home and away.
Pressures of the 2020-21 schedule saw that change and it was hoped common sense might prevail going forward. This is the EFL, however, so no chance. Back to two legs it is for this season. There is no logic here, but when has that ever applied to anything the EFL does?