By Guy Bailey
Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish writer but his text on schizophrenia – the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – was acted pitch perfectly by an England team in the space of 96 hours. Firstly, they dismantled an admitedly limited Bulgarian team in their own house on Friday with a virtuoso performance from Wayne Rooney, who this writer suspects was simply trying to draw attention away from the large tyremark posing as a haircut across his cromagnon style head. We were then treated to the unedifying spectacle of an obscene, football-themed version of ‘The Sing Off’ when Bulgarian fans did their best impression of an English terrace in the 1970s when a Black player got the ball, monkey chants and all; and Englands mentally limited followers returned the favour with a medley of their own racist greatest hits featuring a romany and gypsy flavor. Two wrongs don’t make a right – let alone 5000.
The only thing worse than this display was the one England put out against neighbours Wales on Tuesday. They won 1-0 which was the most positive thing I could say about it. Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw cemented a place in England hearts by spurning an open goal from three yards out late in the game which would have given Wales an earned 1-1 draw. Only earned because they were as bad and negative as the hosts. The result means that England only need draw in Montengro next month to secure passage to the finals in Poland and the Ukraine next year.
The other results saw Germany continuing to cruise to the finals, crushing little brothers Austria 6-2; The Republic of Ireland nipping and tucking 0-0 behind leaders Russia in a four horse race in group B; Italy sleepwalking through in C; France and Bosnia setting up a winner-take-all playoff before the playoffs in Paris in October. The Netherlands can expect a call from the UN as part of a torture inquiry after giving San Marino an 11-0 lesson and sealing their passage in group E; Croatia and Greece will add to the serene and peaceful atmosphere in Athens in October with their loser-go-home duel in Group F; Group G could see a Christiano Ronaldo-less Euro 2012 as Portugal, Denmark and Norway are all locked on 13 points with two games to go and the Danes welcoming Portugal to a hostile Copenhagen next month while Spain administered some discipline to tiny Lichtenstein while keeping their 100% record. The tiny principality, smaller than most US metro cities in size held out against the World Champions for 33 minutes.
The other big news in the motherland is the list of suitors jostling for the attentions of Mr. Beckham when his LA Galaxy contract runs out in November. So far the only two declarations are from North and West London where Spurs and newly-minted QPR are waving handkerchiefs in his general direction.
Watch this space as the English version of “The Decision” gets underway. Thankfully we’re back to league duty this weekend with Arsenal finally meeting a more well-matched opponent as Swansea arrive at the Emirates; Man City look to beat up on the piemen of Wigan; Liverpool face a much improved but still physical Stoke; Chelsea go to a hiccuping Sunderland and Man Utd. will travel the short distance to Bolton to continue their inevitable stroll to the title. Prove me wrong, cockneys, prove me wrong.
Meanwhile, under the surface in the Championship, Middlesbrough and Brighton remain the only two undeafeated teams this season. Brighton, the San Francisco of England in so many ways, splash out on ex-Valencia winger Vincente following their promising start, although what he makes of the English riviera I’m not sure there will be a translation for.
Guy Bailey is a Senior Writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He’s also a footballer of sorts, a writer, a Middlesbrough man for life, and a fine father. You can follow him on Twitter at @guyrbailey.