Belfast Telegraph

Alex cuts finer figure than faltering England

By Lindy McDowell

Well done to Graeme McDowell (sadly no relation) on his truly remarkable achievement on becoming the first European in 40 years to win the American Open.



It’s the sort of fairytale success which should be enough to send the national sports media into hysteria if only (A) McDowell came from Portsmouth not Portrush and (B) England weren’t in the World Cup.

Right now, the cross-water commentators only have eyes for South Africa and the (granted) riveting soap opera that is Rooney, Terry, Fabio and the booing fans.

It’s been a whole different ball game since Team Ingerland were rattled by Algeria.

For a start Capello is no longer wearing the shirt of the heroic no-nonsense manager of the team.

He’s now the Italian Basil Fawlty who won’t let the boys play with their Playstations and sends them to bed at 11.

A sort of Nanny McFifa.

John Terry has impressively acquired the Machiavelli shirt after a burst of backroom plotting that would do Peter Mandelson proud.

And Wayne Rooney is now Big Wean Rooney after his display of post-match petulance snapping at working class fans who saved for years, took precious time off work, flew all the way to South Africa and then had the temerity to boo the poor performance of the millionaire divas who make up the team.

The fans have been hitting the headlines for other reasons too.

One found himself arrested (arrested!) after he sauntered into the changing room to share his full-time analysis with the players.

Also helping local police with their inquiries have been Team Bavaria — the reigning ladies’ champions of ambush marketing. Bearing in mind that the girls were lifted and taken in for questioning for the crime of wearing orange dresses, you get the distinct impression that the most authoritarian regime represented in the tournament is no longer North Korean.

But the Democratic People’s Republic of FIFA.

For once interestingly, the WAGS have been off the hook.

This year the England bosses have not been able to offload their angst — and the blame for defeat — on to the slender Fake-Baked shoulders of the likes of Ms Curran and Mrs Rooney.

The girls weren’t even at the meeting.

Which, when you think about it, is what the fans were also saying about the team after the match against Algeria.

So can England pull it all back after today’s match with Slovenia?

Much as I’d like to see them hammered, in one way I almost hope they can.

If only for an extension of the current commentary circus of breast-beating and recrimination.

And yet

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are real people under what must seem like intolerable pressure.

You don’t have to be a big fan of England or even of Wayne Rooney’s to recall those pics of him in training with the plastic crucifix bobbing around his neck.

A visible symbol there surely of a man desperately grasping for all the back-up — earthly and divine — he can muster.

The comments of the media critics must bite hard on players like Rooney.

But the vuvuzela of vitriol now poring from the internet has to be much, much more difficult to handle.

Even if they win the World Cup some of those players (on pitch and off) will continue to be cyber-savaged by their critics for years to come.

And they call this the beautiful game.

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