Why England are succeeding
It has been a long while since professional Controversial Opinion-Haver Adrian Durham has featured in Mediawatch. You may remember Talksport stalwart Durham claiming that Jack Colback wasn’t being picked for England because he was ginger. Coincidentally, his Mail Sport column ended soon afterwards.
Now Durham is back on these pages, because he has said something equally ludicrous – England are doing well because Arsene Wenger left Arsenal:
“Let me give you a little history lesson here. In the summer of 1996 England, with Gareth Southgate in the team, hit amazing heights. They got to the semi-finals of a major tournament, Euro ’96.
“We all remember it, Three Lions was being sung everywhere, the nation fell in love with the England team, everything was wonderful. People of a certain age will remember it very, very well, it was a beautiful, beautiful time to be an England fan.
“Now, a few months after that, Arsene Wenger arrived in English football. Since then, the English national team has been useless.
“Scraping their way to quarter-finals at best, or not even qualifying for tournaments, or when they got to tournaments, they embarrassed themselves and humiliated the fans as well.
“So 22 years later, Arsene Wenger decides to disappear from English football and what do you know? All of a sudden, England hit the glorious heights again. We’re in the semi-finals of another major tournament, we’re in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
“So you do the maths. England hit glorious heights in ’96, then nothing in 22 years with Wenger in the vicinity. He goes, and all of a sudden England are glorious again.
“Here’s my message to Wenger: That my friends, my talkSPORT friends, is the Wenger effect. So, Arsene Wenger, stay away from English football. Merci Arsene, but stay away from English football. We don’t need you, England are better off without you.”
And here’s another history lesson for you, Adrian.
In July 1994, Sam Allardyce was employed by an English club for the first time, but was out of work by May 1996.
In the summer of 1996 England, with Gareth Southgate in the team, hit amazing heights. They got to the semi-finals of a major tournament, Euro ’96.
We all remember it, Three Lions was being sung everywhere, the nation fell in love with the England team, everything was wonderful. People of a certain age will remember it very, very well, it was a beautiful, beautiful time to be an England fan.
Now, a few months after that, Sam Allardyce got another job, and Allardyce has been in employment during every England World Cup campaign since.
Since then, the English national team has been useless. Scraping their way to quarter-finals at best, or not even qualifying for tournaments, or when they got to tournaments, they embarrassed themselves and humiliated the fans as well.
So 22 years later, Allardyce is finally out of work during a World Cup campaign again. All of a sudden, England hit the glorious heights again. We’re in the semi-finals of another major tournament, we’re in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
So you do the maths. England hit glorious heights in ’96, then nothing in 22 years with Allardyce in a job. He goes, and all of a sudden England are glorious again.
Here’s our message to Allardyce: That our friends, our Mediawatch friends, is the Big Sam effect. So, Sam Allardyce, stay away from English football.
And here’s our message to Adrian Durham: Correlation does not prove causation. So stop being such a monstrous idiot.
There has been a great deal written about England’s supposed ‘easy’ route to the World Cup semi-final, but nothing as nonsensical as The Times’ dubious numerical reasoning on Tuesday morning. It truly is a thing of beauty.
(It’s at this stage that Mediawatch should state that going on about easy draws at all is a nonsense: 1) Find an England fan who cares about who we’ve played; 2) This is literally how tournaments work.)
‘Since 1974, when routes to the final were increased to six games, by our metric three teams have had an “easier” path to get there than England would have if they get there,’ the piece begins.
Unfortunately, that ‘metric’ is merely historical performance. Four points for a win, three for second, two for third and one for fourth. Rather wonderfully, that therefore gives a team who reached a World Cup final via an ‘easy’ route the same points as one who got there via a hard route, thus undermining the whole point of the Times’ piece.
The nonsense doesn’t end there, though. Spain are awarded four points for their World Cup win in 2010, which is fair. But quite why that 2010 win made a sodding difference to Italy playing them in 1994 isn’t clear. The same applies to the USA being given two points for their semi-final appearance in 1930. Why did that make one iota of difference in 2014, when Germany played them in the group stage?
But then you get the individual comparisons, and here’s where the statistical nonsense really kicks in. In 2018, by the Times’ ‘metric’, playing Bulgaria (one point) would be the same as playing Belgium (one point), while playing Hungary would be six times harder than playing Belgium. It’s at that point you begin to doubt this metric a little.
The headline nonsense is this: By the Times’ reckoning, beating Belgium, Croatia and England in the group followed by Spain, Portugal and France in the knockout stages of World Cup 2018 would be exactly the same difficulty as beating Uruguay, Tonga and Somalia in the groups followed by Argentina, Cayman Islands and Montserrat in the knockouts.
That ‘metric’ might need a tweak.
A bit rich
‘Croatian fans [it was actually a tabloid newspaper] made a pathetic attempt to take the pace out of England’s march to World Cup glory yesterday – by branding Harry Kane “slower than a snail”’ – The Sun, July 10.
‘As 3 Lions face nation that gave world Shakira, great coffee and er, other stuff, we say … GO KANE!’ – The Sun, July 3.
Criticising a footballer (for his performance for England Under-21s four years ago) is ‘a pathetic attempt to take the pace out of England’s march to World Cup glory’ – as if the role of the Croatian tabloid media is to back England anyway – but demeaning an entire nation on your front page is good banter. Sure.
It’s coming home
‘The World Cup, yet another World Cup, is about to pass England by’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun, March 2018.
‘England’s smiling happy players, preparing for the biggest game of their careers, are taking a World Cup semi-final against Croatia in their stride’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun, July 2018.
If only you hadn’t written off this tournament as a nonentity before it had even begun, Neil.
When the going gets tough
Elsewhere in The Sun, Dave Kidd proffers the perfectly reasonable point that Croatia will be the hardest team England have faced in this competition. Still, we can’t help but think that he’s being a little negative:
‘Despite the glory of the nation’s greatest journey in 28 years, Croatia will represent a serious step up in class from anything they have faced in Russia.
‘This lot are dripping with Champions League winners, not least Luka Modric.’
Number of Champions League winners in Croatia’s squad: Four. And that includes Mateo Kovacic, who has started two knockout matches in Real Madrid’s three recent Champions League wins combined. Dripping?
Also, Spain and Germany’s squads contained 18 Champions League winners, while France and Belgium share only two between them. This probably isn’t the best time to be using that as a measure of strength.
Let it go
‘Contrast the new-look England players’ interaction with the media on Monday with old-school Joe ‘I’m not talking about the darts’ Hart.
‘Dele Alli was relaxed and confident enough in a friendly environment to talk freely about his pre-match superstitions that include an eight-minute ice bath and a prayer.
‘Meanwhile, discarded goalkeeper Hart was playing Birmingham League cricket for Shrewsbury against Knowle & Dorridge on the afternoon of England’s quarter-final against Sweden’ – Charlie Sale, Daily Mail.
Is there anyone in the entire country (other than Sale) that still cares about Joe Hart not talking about a sodding darts contest two years ago? And incidentally, we think Hart likes playing cricket.
Slight difference of opinion
‘Why ref Cakir is a good omen’ – Daily Mail.
‘Referee who has sent off three England players will officiate World Cup semi-final’ – Daily Telegraph.
If you can sell both extremes, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.
‘Exclusive’ of the day
‘Gran Gwen Moran is convinced England will lift the cup – and so are her 40EE boobs.
‘The 57-year-old casino worker said they have plumped for England in every game so far.
‘She jokingly span a world globe in front of them with pals ahead of the opener against Tunisia and saw England land in front of her cleavage. The same happened a second time’ – The Sun ‘exclusive’.
We do have one question: If it was the globe that stopped in front of the breasts, isn’t it the globe that has predicted England to win rather than those breasts? Surely England was lined up with her body and face too? Behold the mystic nose.
By the last line, even The Sun have given up pretending:
‘For tomorrow’s match, the globe stopped in the Atlantic – far closer to England than Croatia.’
Exclusive. Exclusive b*llocks.
Recommended reading of the day
Rory Smith on chaos and order.
Nick Miller on Luka Modric.
Oliver Kay with Gary Neville.