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Footy failures spare us final indignities.

Byline: Brian Reade

EVERY journalist has written stories they wished had seen the bin instead of the light of day.

One of the many I've penned came during Euro '96 hysteria. England were playing Spain and I was told to ask Andrew Sachs if he would dress up as Manuel from Fawlty Towers, make a cackhanded attempt to save penalties and give thick responses to jibes about Barcelona.

The actor told me to break a leg (or words to that effect). Which was fair enough. So we hired a Manuel lookalike who lay gozzy-eyed by a goalpost screaming about Meester Fawlty stringing him up by the boleros if Spain win. It narrowly missed out on the Orwell Prize for outstanding journalism.

This happens whenever England make it to a major tournament. It's the only story of the summer, with the media reflecting a people who become willing members of a pitiful freak show.

So for those lamenting England's absence from the latest Greatest Show On Earth, look on the bright side. Think of all the pain you've been spared.

No Beckingham Palace farewell party where WAGs jostle to get their borrowed frocks and satsuma tans in Hello!

No hordes of man-pleasing females who usually loathe the game, dressed in replica shirts feigning undying love for "footer" and Frank Lampard's thighs. No workplace creeps pretending they love footer to please their boss. No celebrities leaping on the passing bandwagon or sights of Wills and Harry in the best seats at the quarter-finals with their piles of chinless rugger chums.

No dirgeful Euro 2008 single, Rio Ferdinand telling his mates "you've been merked" on ITV or excruciating adverts for soft drinks and soap powder, where players look as comfortable as armed robbers caught on CCTV.

No rows about whether Stevie can play with Frankie, whether Owen is finished, Rooney is fit, or why our players possess the same technical ability as the Galapagos Islands yet are near-billionaires who've been promised a fleet of Baby Bentleys to lift the trophy. No hordes of drunken racist oiks swaying on street cafe tables giving Hitler salutes and telling passing Austrians: "If it wasn't for the English you'd be Krauts (puke)." Then having pitched battles with riot police who "acted like Nazi stormtroopers".

No Skinner and Baddiel coining it in for 42 Years of Hurt or talk of a Golden Generation about to deliver. No legless WAGs worsening our debt crisis by spending millions on Swiss handbags. No inevitable penalty shoot-out agony at the hands of Germans, followed by BMWtorching riots from Berwick to Barnstaple.

And when it all goes tits-up, no burning of Steve McClaren effigies (to be fair that would have been a bonus), no tears from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as they console a weeping Becks, no free posters bearing the face of the latest foreign scapegoat on a dartboard, and no books full of banalities from banalities like Ashley Cole.

None of that. Just a chance to sit back and enjoy some decent football in a sane climate, revelling in the skill of the players and the inevitable pain of the fans of all but one of the teams.

But revelling mostly in the smug knowledge that for once, the English won't disgrace themselves abroad this summer.

Well, until the Rooney wedding at least.

"At least there'll be no Beckingham Palace farewell do"
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 5, 2008
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