Belfast Telegraph

Why so many can't resist smirking when England lose

Arrogant pundits get their comeuppance, and oh how we chuckled on this side of 'sheugh'

Gary Cahill shows his dejection after England’s humiliating defeat by Iceland
Gary Cahill shows his dejection after England’s humiliating defeat by Iceland
Iceland celebrate
Roy Hodgson after his resignation

By Steven Beacom

It was the knowing look, then the smile. Leaving a petrol station in Banbridge yesterday morning, a middle-aged gentleman turned to me and said: "Pity about the result last night, Steven." It was followed quickly by a grin and a wink.

He was, of course, referring to England's humiliating 2-1 defeat to Iceland (population 330,000) in the Euro 2016 finals on Monday night.

The jokes at England's expense started even before coach Roy Hodgson had tendered his resignation just minutes after the final whistle.

My favourite: "If they can't beat Iceland, what would Asda or Tesco do to them?"

How the people of Northern Ireland chuckled.

Already beaming with pride at the performances of their country's football team in France, here was another reason to enjoy this year's European Championships.

It's a strange scenario when you think about it.

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In the England side are players from clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City, who are all well supported in this part of the world.

Men like Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Gary Cahill, Jack Wilshere, Harry Kane and Joe Hart may be heroes to us during the course of a Premier League season, yet once they put on an England shirt there seems to be zero love for these guys.

They become guilty by association of what is seen as the whole arrogant England thing.

It's the television commentators and pundits that really get your goat. Former Arsenal star Ian Wright is one of the worst. For starters, his contributions are limited and he has history, going into a strop and refusing to talk after Northern Ireland famously defeated England in 2005 at Windsor Park when he was being paid good money to do so. Wright, working for ITV in France, is one of many ex-players who believe that England should win every competition they enter. Doesn't he realise they have not lifted a trophy since 1966? They haven't even reached a final in the 50 years that have followed.

Clive Tyldesley is normally a fine commentator, but put him in front of a microphone at an England match and he tends to lose all sense of perspective.

On Monday night it was all about England. At times with Clive and his summariser Glenn Hoddle wittering away you wouldn't have known another team was on the pitch.

The BBC lot, led by Gary Lineker, can be just as bad when commenting on England with "we" this and "we" that when they are supposed to be representing all of the UK.

It's not just people in England who pay the licence fee, guys.

When England lose in a tournament Gary acts like the world has come to an end.

You would think he would be used to early exits by now.

Bottom line: England aren't good enough to compete with nations like Germany, Italy and France, who are well used to triumphing on the big stage.

I would have fancied Northern Ireland and the Republic to beat England in Euro 2016 had Michael or Martin O'Neill been lucky enough to have had Hodgson's side in their sights.

The sniffy attitude from some ex-England stars to Northern Ireland pre-tournament was another reason to cheer on Iceland. Michael Owen predicted Steven Davis and co would finish bottom of their group, while Ray Wilkins insisted Northern Ireland wouldn't even get a point.

For your information, Northern Ireland - and the Republic for that matter - went as far as England in the competition... into the last 16, and with a little more luck of the Irish would both have reached the quarter-finals.

The teams from either side of the border returned home to nations filled with pride.

For England there was only embarrassment - and a lot of knowing looks and smiles all over Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Republic, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal...

Believe me, it wasn't just Northern Ireland folk who enjoyed Iceland's success.

Belfast Telegraph


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