Different Shades of Blue

So in the end it was heroic failure for Scotland. I suppose it has been a fair few years since the last time this predictable pattern of despair was followed; there was the European qualifiers against England, the battering in Holland, going back even further that rugby match about ten years ago when someone gave away a last minute penalty and England beat us. But that Saturday evening at Hampden hurt a lot more than all of those. When we equalised I said to my Dad we'd get one chance and had to take it. In the end we had two, the first when McFadden shot wide when he should have crossed, and then when he couldn't quite get to Miller's cross. There was a split second before he hit it where you could see it wasn't going in, I think I'll still be recalling that chance in twenty years time, possibly in a psychiatrists chair. If I had any hope left it was quickly destroyed when I glanced at my Dad, now resembling that famous Munch painting, and realised we were doomed.

However, dwelling on a failure to qualify in this instance masks the fine achievements of the side, and a rejuvenation of the national game. There is some momentum behind the side now, which can benefit all aspects of the game from grass-roots up, and renewed optimism for the World Cup campaign. It might be another one to add to the growing list of sporting disappointments, but I'd back us now, and definitely wouldn't have before. And lets not forget the two famous victories against France, which were magnificent achievements.

Any such positivity about England's performance would be more deceiving. Finally what a lot of people have thought for a long time has been conclusively proven: England aren't really that great, and nowhere near as great as everyone likes to think. Watching the royal blue Croatians outplay and outthink MacClaren's men, whilst their riotous supporters dominated vocally, was a truly chastening experience. MacClaren has gone now, in a manner befitting the rest of the campaign, but the players and the FA are receiving an equal amount of criticism, and rightly so. I'm not surprised to see that $teven Gerrard returned to form for his club yesterday, his performance as England captain notably lacked leadership and was dangerously close to disgraceful. And where was Jamie 'I'm no bottler' Carragher when his country really, really needed him? He was sulking, probably clucking some unintelligible Scouse, due to not accepting the reality of Ferdinand and Terry being better defenders than him. If I was Carragher I would be embarrassed, that game would have been his chance to prove his credentials.

A blue less noble than Scotland's, less sparkling than Croatia's, and generally more downtrodden than most in football, has also gained some embarrassing headlines in the last couple of weeks. Birmingham City's quest to replace Steve Bruce has so far been ignored by Martin Jol and no doubt laughed at Marcello Lippi (yes thats the same Lippi who has won the World Cup, Champions League and countless domestic Italian honours). Ironically, given the tone of this blog, it seems Alec McCleish is their next target. At the risk of embarrassing myself, surely he has more sense?

Back to the Villa next weekend, so no more blog-fillers.

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