Not bad for ‘one of leanest England squads in living memory’

Lean machine
Remember when ‘the World Cup, yet another World Cup’ was ‘about to pass England by’?

Remember when this was ‘one of leanest England squads in living memory, light on genuine world-class footballers and well short of the quality needed to go deep into a World Cup’?

Remember when England were ‘arranging all these prestige games one after the other’ so Harry Maguire could ‘collect England caps’?

Mediawatch remembers. Both Neil Ashton and The Sun appear to have forgotten. For it is they who once claimed all of the above, and yet they who run with a back page of ’23 LIONS’ after England’s World Cup semi-final defeat on Wednesday. What changed?

Ashton sympathises with ‘this vibrant group of young players’, who ‘made us believe it was all possible’. Again, this was ‘one of the leanest England squads in living memory’.

The chief football reporter then tells us that ‘so much was at stake and they were close to pulling it off’. Not bad for a World Cup that was ‘about to pass England by’.

And if you thought Ashton penned that scathing critique many moons ago, think again. He was telling us how England had no chance of emulating their World Cup 1998 last-16-reaching counterparts in March.

Don’t Kidd yourself
Perhaps there is something in the water at Britain’s favourite newspaper. Ashton’s Sun colleague has caught the U-turn bug. Here’s Dave Kidd:

‘England didn’t quite deserve to win this, chiefly because they could and should have killed off Croatia in the first half.

‘But over the past 3½ weeks, Southgate’s men have illuminated this World Cup and shone a torch for English football’s future.’

Yep, fair enough. Oh, you’re not done?

‘Humble lads who achieved great things due to an uncommon sense of togetherness and the clear vision of their under-estimated manager.’

Would that be the same ‘under-estimated manager’ who was overseeing ‘crushingly predictable and mind-alteringly dull’ games back in October? When did the ‘slow, turgid, soulless football served up by Southgate’s team’ become so ‘illuminating’?

Ruud boy
Ruud Gullit thinks he has identified why England were beaten in The Times:

‘England’s tough domestic season may finally have caught up with them.’

He might have a point. Germany certainly benefited from a kinder domestic season with a winter break.

Fryer up
The news pages of the Daily Mail sure is a strange place to be. Jane Fryer watched the game at Boxpark Croydon, along with thousands of other supporters.

‘One man with a broken leg wearing an English flag as a sarong is dancing like a mad thing,’ she explains, leaving Mediawatch with an awfully confusing image in our head. ‘Most have been drinking for hours. All are beside themselves with joy to be here.’

Then comes the bombshell.

‘They’re not all men. There’s also a smattering of girls in very short shorts with neat St George’s flags painted on their flushed cheeks who, like me, are every so often hoisted high into the air by overexcited men in England shirts.’

Well alright.

Cops and Robbies
Writes Robbie Savage in the Daily Mirror:

‘Now I fancy France to win the final – and not just because Croatia have been taken to extra-time in all three of their knockout ties.

‘False modesty aside, France were my tip before a ball was kicked last month, so from a pundit’s point of view, I am not going to desert them now.’

Judging by this, ‘false modesty’ really isn’t your bag anyway, Robbie…

Sterling work
The FA was fined £50,000 by FIFA after three England players continued to wear unauthorised socks at the World Cup despite warnings not to.

Do The Sun choose to illustrate the story with a picture of Eric Dier, who has been wearing the socks?

Do The Sun choose to illustrate the story with a picture of Dele Alli, who has been wearing the socks?

Do The Sun choose to illustrate the story with a caption of ‘ILLEGAL SOCKS’ and a picture of Raheem Sterling, who has been wearing them?

You know the answer.

Unnecessary first paragraph of the day
‘Paul Pogba has been reunited with his first love – and no, that is not himself’ – The Sun.

Bore off.


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