Off the Chez Lounge and an Iconic Moment at Oakley Cricket Club!

Posted on July 1, 2024

Yesterday, I pried myself off the chaise lounge, breaking a long-standing habit and watching the football at Oakley Cricket Club. Given that it’s a place where many of my personal disasters unfold, it felt rather fitting to be watching England there. For reasons I can’t explain, I was quietly confident that England would win handsomely. I thought that with the mundane ‘win once and you’re through’ group games done with, England would ignite in the knockout phase. Surely a team ranked around 40 places lower would be honest enough to try but unable to cope?

The Ugly Start

Wrong. England started nervously and after a series of calamities and near misses, they finally caved in. A well-worked move exposed England once again, and Ivan Schranz finished calmly with the outside of his foot. It was coming, and everyone around me knew it. Amid some stiff competition, England’s first 40 minutes were their worst of Euro 2024 (some achievement, that) as they were horribly vulnerable at the back, chaotic in all areas of the pitch, and lacking threat up front. The last five minutes of the half were marginally better, but that doesn’t mean they were good.

A Flicker of Hope

In the second half, England did begin to improve. It was hard to do anything else but improve, to be honest but beggars can’t be choosers. Then early in the second half, it appeared England were back in the game. Foden tapped in from a Trippier cross and England were back in it at 1-1. I didn’t celebrate as it looked offside in real-time. A quick check confirmed it was. Oh bugger.

England continued to struggle for cohesion, and then the icing was nearly put on the cake of a woeful showing just after the disallowed effort. A mix-up from a free kick when Stones wasn’t watching ended with a strike from the halfway line over the head of a stranded Pickford and past the post. It was England holding on, not Slovakia.

Slovakia’s Turn to Falter

Slovakia, sensing England had gotten away with not being 3-0 down, then did an England. Despite their ascendancy and England’s obvious vulnerability, they started retreating. Perhaps they thought that England couldn’t kick the ball in the direction of the goal and had possibly mistaken Cole Palmer for England’s worst-ever midfielder, 1993 legend, Carlton “Can you not knock it?” Palmer. Whatever the case, with Cole (not Carlton) Palmer on the pitch and everyone wondering why he didn’t start, England started looking a threat.

The Miracle Moment

At this point, we went into the phase of sensing nothing England did could stop fate. This was to be Slovakia’s day, and a Kane header that should have seen the net bulging along with a Rice shot that smacked the post was proof of it. Those chances had come and gone, the game was up, and Southgate’s career was set to end in ignominy. This was Iceland 2016 all over again. It was horrible and it was turning toxic.

In a bid to ensure he annoyed everyone, including his own players, Southgate brought on Eze with 10 minutes to spare and, incredulously, Toney with about 90 seconds left. Southgate had gone full-on Dad’s Army, The Keystone Cops, Mr. Bean, David Brent, Laurel & Hardy, Baldrick, and Fawlty Towers, the lot. He really wasn’t fucking about. If Southgate was going down with a calamity, it was going to be a calamity to remember.

Then, a throw from Kyle Walker who until then had been so unusually awful, he thought he would have a go at being former Stoke City long-throw specialist, Rory Delap. Guehi (who had also had a torrid afternoon) flicked on, then the truly inexplicable happened. An overhead kick by Bellingham and the next thing I knew, I was amongst a pile of Oakley Cricket Club bodies. Limbs everywhere.

The Aftermath

Take your pick (if you are old enough). Platt versus Belgium or Gascoigne versus Scotland? This goal trumped both and will sit long in Euros history as one of its most iconic goals. It was a moment of utter, utter beauty that was so unfitting of a performance so ugly, it was about to go straight into England’s long and winding Hall of Shame.

The Slovakia players were stunned like a boxer that had provided a series of heavy blows and was happy to see out a comfortable points victory. They were totally shell-shocked. The whistle blew, and Slovakia pulled themselves off the canvas. England, smelling blood, walloped them with a series of blows from Eze to Toney and onto Kane’s head. Goal! Slovakia were gone, flat out, devastated.

But this is England. Slovakia got up again, beaten, bloodied but not yet done. England retreated again but this time, stayed resolute and nearly ended it when Toney blazed over on the break. The whistle went, Slovakia players fell to the ground as England players celebrated wildly, as did the fans who had probably just lost a decade from their life expectancy.

A Glimmer of Hope?

It was an incredible finish to an awful display. When the dust settles and everyone has time to take stock, they will be wondering how England can possibly progress further after that showing. Yet football doesn’t work like that. Every game starts equal, and a sequence of unpredictable events takes it to its conclusion. Penalties, misplaced back passes, a sending off, a missed penalty, or a goal like Bellingham’s can change the course of any game.

England will at last be unfancied. Switzerland have been excellent, and all logic says they will cruise past an archaic, clunky-looking England with no apparent structure. However, it appears that Southgate has chosen what hill he is going to die on, and that hill is called pragmatism. But here’s the thing, don’t tell me England players lack desire. You don’t get out of jail the way they did by lacking desire. Without the desire to keep trying to make something happen, their tournament would now be over. Watch the post-match interview with Declan Rice and tell me they lack desire.

England they are still there and Bellingham has has given me my most ecstatic football moment since David Platt’s, “England have done it in the last minute of extra-time” goal at Italia ’90 34 years ago. As Alex Ferguson said after burgling the Champions League trophy from Bayern Munich….”Football eh…bloody hell!”

No Replies to "Off the Chez Lounge and an Iconic Moment at Oakley Cricket Club!"

    Got something to say?

    Some html is OK

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.