Gareth Southgate has his haters… but it’s all gone quiet over there

Gareth Southgate has his haters… but it’s all gone quiet over there, plus missing the point about Cristiano Ronaldo, more on Wem-ber-lee and a tune to get you going (fast)

  • Plenty were quick to criticise Gareth Southgate – before England played Spain 
  • But that victory in Seville is evidence of progress for his young side 
  • READ:  We ignored abuse for too long, now it’s out of control
  • READ: English football still has a spiritual home after Shahid Khan’s withdrawn bid for Wembley… and that’s a great victory

Your headline: ‘We ignored abuse for too long, now it’s out of control.’ Yes, as Maurizio Sarri, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Jose Mourinho have rightly pointed out, the off the charts level of abuse from the sports media is out of control and has been for a very long time. That needs to be dealt with, not just social media abuse. Cloughie2000, United States.

How clever. Taking my point, deliberately misinterpreting it, and then turning it back on the sports press as if legitimate criticism bears any relation to the abuse suffered by Karen Carney, and others. Mourinho is currently managing a mid-table Manchester United team, a position which has seen predecessors sacked, so understandably there is talk about the job he is doing, and negative reactions from professionals in the game, as well as media. The same with Bayern Munich who have endured a disappointing season so far, and demonstrated hyper-sensitivity to criticism, despite having every possible advantage over their domestic rivals. And you compare this to wishing cancer, rape or murder on a person? Having taken issue with abuse in the column, I do not wish to be accused of double standards here, so I will just say that this is arguably the most stupid rationale I have read below the line for many weeks – well, probably since you described the press as ‘rabid attack dogs’ for asking Mauricio Pochettino about football. This is clearly a theme of yours, so why continue reading something you clearly do not understand? No-one in the mainstream media wishes illness or death on failing managers. That’s why there is no manhunt, as Mourinho would term it, and professional criticism cannot be conflated with abuse. Anyway, lots to get through this week. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s NDA to Freddie Burns failure at the try line and Gareth Southgate’s success as England manager. First, however, the random song generator returns us briefly to the Ibiza of the late 1980s. Sort of.

Point one: about Cristiano Ronaldo, NDAs, crime and punishment.

I have never read such a foolish article. It starts off my mocking Pottsy81, who has a point. Martin Samuel fails to compare apples to apples. If Ronaldo is proven to be innocent this would mean the accuser has lied. Lying about something of this magnitude deserves punishment. It teaches people there will be consequences for attempting to ruin a life and a reputation. The examples given by Martin are not the same. In rape, there needs to be a witness and this witness makes accusations of wrong doing. If the defendant is proven to be innocent, this would mean the accuser was lying. How is a cop bringing in a suspect the same as a witness accusing someone of wrong? One is ‘I think you did it’ while the other is ‘you did it and I was there’. Carlos Preto, Toronto.

Can’t stand Martin Samuel and only read his response to first question. He is totally failing to see that if you are found to be lying or submitting false evidence this is a crime and therefore should be punished accordingly. If the police officer arresting someone for murder did so by setting them up or planting false evidence then, yes, that police officer would face punishment. How does he get paid for writing such rubbish? Londonryan, United Kingdom.

‘If an individual accused of murder is found not guilty, should the arresting officer get life?’ Answer me Martin, since when has an arresting officer had the authority to decide whether somebody he arrested goes to jail for life? But if an arresting officer tried to manipulate evidence for his case, then he should be charged and punished accordingly. Joemike3, London.

Martin just doesn’t get the points which have been raised. If the accuser is found to have deliberately lied then Ronaldo should be compensated and the accuser should be charged and a prison sentence punishment awarded accordingly. JJ719, Birmingham.

There were a lot of posts like this at the bottom of the debate column on the Cristiano Ronaldo case. Universally, they missed they point. Shall we take what the much-pitied and completely wrong Pottsy81 posted in the first place? Here it is: ‘…if Cristiano Ronaldo is found innocent, will the woman be sentenced to the same punishment as he would have had to suffer?’ Now, does anyone see any mention of lying or falsifying evidence in that statement? No. In fact, none of the posters who wrote about sending rape accusers to jail introduced that caveat. The failure to get a conviction alone was the trigger as if a not guilty verdict was enough to presume the accuser was lying. This, of course, is nonsense. There can be any number of reasons why a prosecution is unsuccessful and few of them point to lies being told by a witness. This is why I made the comparison with law enforcers because we tend to believe they are telling the truth as they understand it, even if their word does not always result in a conviction. If Ryan in London had actually bothered to read beyond the first post, or even concentrated a little just on that one – so had an attention span beyond 30 seconds – he might have comprehended this before posting his nonsense. The same with Carlos in Toronto. No, a not guilty verdict does not necessarily mean the witness was lying. It means proof does not exist beyond reasonable doubt and with the nuances involved in rape trials, that is often the case. Funny how this eye for an eye stuff seems to apply only to bent coppers – but to all women. Not that sexism is at the heart of it, you understand. Thankfully, some got it.

Many posts about Cristiano Ronaldo on last week's column were wide of the mark

Many posts about Cristiano Ronaldo on last week’s column were wide of the mark

It is perfectly possible for an offender to be found not guilty and for the testimony of an accuser to be fully truthful. In this other world, no accuser or witness could risk giving evidence against anybody for fear of sanction, creating a situation where the rich can commit crimes and their potential accusers be intimidated into silence. Of course, it is what the elite already enjoy to a certain extent. How does a poor person pay for a non disclosure agreement? Decorum, London.

Well said. NDA’s seem particularly suspect when they are used to silence accusations of rape or other alleged criminal activity.

Usual PC flannel from Martin. Stopped reading it after the first couple of responses. The man is innocent until proven otherwise. The media are happy to drag a name through the mud but should the allegation prove unfounded they do little to compensate. I never saw many articles praising Ched Evans, when his conviction was overturned, for dealing with everything that was thrown at him. Richard, Northamptonshire.

Praising Ched Evans? Good grief, for what? Look, he was cleared of rape, following an appeal and retrial, but that does not excuse his behaviour that night or make him anything less than a grotesque opportunist. I wrote, at length, that he had to be allowed to continue his career as a professional footballer after his initial sentence because rehabilitation is as much a part of the criminal justice system as punishment. I stand by that sentiment, of course. But I’m not actually going to laud Evans for his handling of a crisis that was entirely of his making; certainly not when a young woman as good as had her life ruined by his odious champions, was hounded on social media and had to move home several times.

Point two: Wem-ber-lee…

Never understood why the new Wembley was built in London. Should have been built in the centre of England so all could access it easier. Hank Evans, United Kingdom.

I wouldn’t normally do this, Hank, but let me tell you about my journey home from the recent match with Switzerland in Leicester, a city in the centre of England. So, I left the ground about an hour after the final whistle once the rewrite match report was out of the way, and headed out of the city on the A47 towards Peterborough, my usual route home. It’s a drive of about 45 minutes cross country to the A1. There were no warning signs to advise of this but, on getting there, the southbound entry road to the A1 was closed. So, a diversion all the way around Peterborough, and then back on myself to join the A1 southbound. After about 15 minutes of driving south, the A1 closed. Traffic was diverted along the A14 towards the M11. OK, it’s a pest, but I’m still heading south. Then, before the A14 reached the M11, the A14 closed. That’s right, the diversion from the diversion: shut. Traffic was being rerouted back up the A14 towards the A1 which as we know is also shut. So, two hours after leaving Leicester, I’m in the south Midlands heading north and west, when I need to go south and east. I’m basically driving back towards Leicester. It’s raining, there are no motorway lights, and a 40mph speed limit through never-ending roadworks and I’m nearer where I started than where I’m supposed to finish having been on the road just shy of two hours. Fortunately, I spot a sign: Kimbolton. I have a vague recollection that two of my sons played football for their school against Kimbolton, and that it was off the A1. So I start following signs to Kimbolton; and follow my nose from there. And somehow, I end up back on the A1, which immediately closes again – but luckily only to shoot traffic off at a roundabout and then back on several hundred yards down the road. It took me three hours to get home, Hank. And the lads travelling north had it, if anything, worse. M1 shut, A50 shut, M6 shut. The way anyone working beyond 10pm in this country is treated by the roads departments – and the trains – is a national scandal and I can only presume you are tucked up in bed at the time when night workers are frantically punching revised instructions into sat-navs or having a guess on country lanes they have never seen before. So don’ t pretend a stadium in the centre would be any different to Wembley. It would be as bad, if not worse. Although, if you do find a stretch of road on which you can get your toe down after midnight, may I recommend this. Cost me three points on my licence coming back from Newcastle once. Not that I’m proud of that. Speed kills. Particularly if you’re trying to chop it up while driving. (That better be a joke. Ed.)

The England team represents the country as a whole and not just London. The England team should play competitive games in all the major cities with a 30,000-plus stadium. Let the team come to the fans and the team will connect with the fans. Many people in the north consider England to be a London team. Let them play in Sunderland and Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester and you will see full houses and passionate England support. Luke Ozade, Liverpool.

So this would be Old Trafford, where the England team have long been a punchline to jokes, and where the fans used to chant ‘Argentina’ when they were considered our most bitter rivals? As for Anfield, I mentioned one incidental problem there in a previous piece. The Sun is banned from the stadium. So would the Football Association have to uphold that ban, which they would be highly reluctant to do, or would Liverpool’s house rules be set aside for the night, risking the wrath of the locals? That is the sort of dilemma that can occur when a stadium is not yours. I went to England matches on the road when Wembley was being rebuilt some years ago. It was OK. Some better than others, but nothing that greatly stands out. No cauldrons, nothing that sounded like Seville in the second half two Mondays back. A lot of it fell flat, just as Wembley can. I believe the national team should have a home, and England’s is Wembley, just as the home of Scottish rugby is Murrayfield and of English rugby, Twickenham. I don’t think a nomadic existence helps forge the strong national identity the team needs. Take Brazil. We often hear they do not have a national stadium. But they do: it’s the Maracana, the problem being that the national federation and successive governments have been too incompetent, or corrupt, to maintain it. So Brazil are on tour: and where do they tour? Not always Brazil. They’re as likely to pop up in Qatar or the Emirates Stadium, flogged to the highest bidder. A national stadium keeps a team anchored, keeps it in touch with its tradition and history. Spain don’t have a national stadium, either, runs the argument, and they are very successful. But Spain underachieved hugely for decades. Then some great players came along and they won everything. Might it have been the great players, and not the absence of a national stadium, that was the root of their success?

I wouldn’t call that badly designed mundane structure with a silly arch the world’s most iconic stadium. I could design a better looking one and most of those in the 2018 World Cup looked better. You remember Russia, Martin? I know you didn’t want them to have the World Cup, being a champion of righteousness, but even you must admit it went down quite well – or are you still fighting all the ism’s that you condemned the country for having? Ivor Point, United Kingdom.

You think that was Russia, do you mate? Think that was the real country? Yes, no doubt the stadiums looked lovely on the television but you might want to gaze a little further; maybe turn over to the news every now and then, see what is really happening in the world. You know the protestors at the World Cup final? They went to prison for 15 days. On release, they were further detained. One of them, Pyotr Verzilov, fell gravely ill from a suspected poisoning last month. German doctors treating him said it was ‘highly likely’ he was the victim of an unknown anticholinergic agent. But as long as the stadiums looked nice, eh? What a clever man you are.

Your colleague, Matt Lawton, wrote: ‘Football Association sources insist this will not lead to the resignation of Martin Glenn or Greg Clarke, with the FA hierarchy now focusing on how they address the issue of poor facilities in the amateur game across the country.’ Silly me, I’d have thought that was a major part of their brief in the first place. Now I realise my mistake. Their job was not to focus on how to address the issue of poor facilities in the amateur game across the country, but to sell the family home and silverware, feather their nests and those of their mates, angle for knighthoods then nick off before the well completely dries up to take on another sinecure. Chris, Australia.

Chris, you beauty, as I believe they say where you come from. I completely agree. What was their plan before knocking out Wembley? It isn’t as if the grass roots facilities nationwide were in tip-top condition and have suddenly fallen apart in the last fortnight. This has been an ongoing problem for decades now. So are we to believe the FA were sat without an idea in their heads when suddenly some bright spark had the idea of flogging Wembley? If that was plan B, what the hell was plan A?

Here’s my attempt to get into Five Points. Following the England game at Leicester you pointed out that everyone knew Southgate planned to rest some top players and you said the local football fans weren’t mugs. I’m certain England against Spain at the King Power would be sold out. Common Sense, London.

Yes, but it would also sell out Wembley, pretty much, so why not go for a 81,392 gate – as happened when the teams met in September – rather than 30,000? That way 50,000 more could watch the team, which surely brings it closer to the people. And isn’t that the point?

Shahid Khan would have had a better chance had he changed his name to John Smith. Haradin, Australia.

Yes because this country has been so resistant to selling its national landmarks to foreign investors.

It was far better when Wembley was being rebuilt, and England played around the country. Wembley is a nightmare to get in and out of, the parking is expensive and the food and drink outlets a rip off. In fact, I had a far more pleasant experience when going to a Cardiff final then I ever had at Wembley, even though that had its access problems. Intereverything, Chesterfield.

Access problems? You mean the fact the M4 grinds to a halt for several hours, and the cops with speed cameras try to create a handy revenue stream from novice visitors who fail to spot the limit drops to 50 mph on the approach to the tolls, Maybe you mean the access to a chain hotel bedroom, available for a competitive £600 a night when Anthony Joshua last fought there. Are these the kind of problems, you mean? I love the Millennium Stadium but if I never have to return to Cardiff for a major event that will also suit me fine. It’s a rip off, every bit as big as Wembley.

Wembley is a nightmare. The stadium and surrounding areas are totally devoid of football atmosphere or interest. The tube is a joke. The security personnel are poor. Local pubs are robbers. It’s a folly. Dump it and send the team around the country. Oh, and if your wondering I’m originally a Londoner. Marc, Melbourne.

I wasn’t wondering, actually, Marc – because you fled your country so I don’t really care what you think.

The world’s most iconic sports stadium? You have to laugh. A soulless, depressing bowl in the armpit of north London more like. Accessed by the world’s bleakest and most congested road – the A406 North Circular. It’s a monument to FA incompetence and so over-budget no wonder Martin Glenn always looks confused. The Principality Stadium was a fraction of the cost but still remains a superior venue. And with a roof. That funny thing that goes on the top but delivers a better atmosphere. And how many memorable England matches have there been at Wembley since 1966? No, I can’t remember many either. The NFL season is from August to December. Why would it be such a national scandal for England to play elsewhere during those months? Nutherfinemess, United Kingdom.

Well, England’s football team would have been in effect kicked out of their spiritual home by the rebranded Jacksonville Jaguars, and if we are talking about international football being devalued that hardly sets the best example. Equally, I can think of plenty of great moments at the stadium since 1966 – not all involving England, obviously. But wonderful finals, memorable individual performances – ever noticed how Lionel Messi always turns it on – and great occasions. As for the roof, big deal. Football is an outdoor sport, and I like it that way. Always prefer the match with the roof open. Never seems to kill the atmosphere at Anfield on a European night.

Lionel Messi was at his brilliant best under the Wembley arch against Tottenham

Lionel Messi was at his brilliant best under the Wembley arch against Tottenham

Point three: Gareth Southgate – success story. (Note: these posts arrived before England played Spain.)

So Southgate is joining the success club of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino? Good at handling and smoothing the media but so far empty trophy cabinets and the press seem to be totally enamoured with them. Fans want success that’s easy to measure. Trophies, pure and simple. Bit of Common, United Kingdom.

You speak for the fans as a whole, do you? Because I’ve met plenty and they’re not as stupid as you think. Many of them will work out, for instance, that you cannot judge the manager of Middlesbrough, Birmingham City or Swansea, say, in terms of trophies won and yet all of those clubs have won trophies this century, and certainly more recently than England did in 1966. So there are different measures of success. Liverpool and Tottenham have not won the title in the Premier League era, which is why Klopp and Pochettino are judged on making the team better and placing them in contention, and not just by the black-and-white yardstick of becoming champions. Mourinho thought second was a successful season at Manchester United last May, because of the standard set by Manchester City. Being the best of the rest, he felt, was an achievement in an unusual year. So if we can rationalise success at elite clubs, we sure as hell can do the same with a national manager whose opportunities are considerably more limited, in charge of a nation that has not won a trophy in 52 years.

Mr Samuel will take plenty of ribbing if Spain thrash us tonight. Eric the Cat, London.

How to put this…

Fact is, Southgate can’t even make Raheem Sterling score. It’s hilarious. DM Daily Muppets, Manchester.

Not as hilarious as your desperate attempts to justify yourself after England won in Spain and Sterling scored twice. What was is you tried to claim at the bottom of that match report? That the UEFA Nations League didn’t matter? Funny how it would have mattered had England lost. I reckon we’ve discovered the real muppet, don’t you?

Good point regarding influential past managers, though I’ve always felt that England lost out greatly when they prematurely ended the tenure of Glenn Hoddle, just when performances and team spirit suggested real justification for optimism. Icgnk, Greenock.

I think Glenn could have been a very good England manager, but I am afraid your memory of that time is a little rose-tinted. England actually lost away to Sweden and drew 0-0 at home to Bulgaria that season – 1998-99 – and the only win in their European Championship qualifying group had come away to Luxembourg. Equally, Hoddle wasn’t popular with his players. They hadn’t liked his treatment of David Beckham, in particular, during the 1998 World Cup and felt greatly let down that he had revealed private moments behind dressing-room doors in his World Cup diaries. It wasn’t a happy ship. Hoddle actually said very similar things about disabled people and karma in previous interviews, and nobody cared. It was precisely because circumstances around the team had changed that they blew up in his face second time around. By then, the FA were getting rid of an unpopular coach. Still, if karma’s your thing…

For all those posters saying that winning tournaments is the only measure of success: does that mean everyone who supports a mid to lower league club views each season as a failure? Are, say, Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and Sean Dyche at Burnley failures? When working with limited resources we look to other measures of success: are there clear signs of improvement, a more attractive and positive style of football, is the team more solid, do they advance up the table year on year? Southgate is working with the international equivalent of a limited budget but what we have seen under his influence is a clear change in emphasis. Encouragement to play out from the back and treat the ball as a friend rather than as a grenade to be dispatched in a hurry. If only Southgate had the players that Sven Goran Eriksson had, perhaps Rio Ferdinand would have been allowed to step over the half way line occasionally. Dave H, London.

Agreed, Dave. Looking at the way he has approached other conundrums, I fancy he would have found a better way to use Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, too.

Load of BS. OK, England got to the World Cup semi-finals. Who did they play in terms of the top teams? No-one. If they had played any of them any earlier they would have lost. Southgate is not a success. He’s bringing in these kids because he has no other options. Simple. Spain will tonight lay it bare for all to see. So we’ll wait for the press post mortem in tomorrow’s pages and we’ll see how many of the young players get slated. Paulmlfc7, Newcastle.

Don’t blame it on us, Paul. You’re the only one digging out the young players, by saying they don’t deserve to be in the team. The press were very positive about Southgate’s faith in youth, even before the match. We can see what Southgate is trying to do in the advances being made. It is when I see comments by people like yourself that I am taken aback by the negativity. Take the World Cup. Colombia won Japan’s group. Japan that came very close to beating Belgium. So eliminating Colombia, even on penalties, was a decent result. And why would it have been more of a test to beat Germany, who finished bottom of Group F, rather than Sweden, who finished top? Mexico beat Germany – and then Sweden beat Mexico 3-0. So what’s your point? Tunisia were the No 1 team in Africa until England beat them, when they were reimagined as rubbish. Terry Venables used to wonder why, if England lost in a friendly match against quality opposition, it was a sign that we couldn’t compete with the major nations, but if England won it would be said the opposition didn’t care because it was a friendly. He always asked why, in defeat, that excuse was never made for England. So it isn’t just me, Paul. Terry Venables would have had you marked down as a bit of a chump, too.

Didn’t the same journalist keep on blasting Arsene Wenger for not winning during his barren years? I guess the yardsticks are different if you are English. Parxx, London.

No, the yardsticks are different if standards drop. Wenger was one of football’s great innovators, producing teams that won titles and were hugely competitive, but that brilliance dwindled in his later years at Arsenal. If Southgate won international trophies and then failed to qualify, if his England team began losing ground on their rivals, if they appeared to stagnate or go backwards, he would receive the criticism Wenger received. Wenger wasn’t criticised for not winning trophies. His Arsenal team were no longer competitive at elite level. Bayern Munich were mocking them on social media because their meetings always ended the same way. And what I said about Wenger – which wasn’t much – was nothing compared to what Arsenal’s fans were saying. As for your insinuation that he suffered from xenophobic prejudice, he was probably lauded by journalists more gushingly than any manager in the history of the game. Don’t be stupid.

Every other manager of England has got an absolute hammering from the written press yet Southgate seems untouchable? England haven’t progressed at all under him and the football played is awful. He was a club manager with no success and that won’t change with the national team. Goggy02, Worthing.

Well, you’re watching a different game, I’m afraid. England have improved considerably under Southgate and to reach a World Cup semi-final, then win in Spain with the youngest starting XI since 1959 is evidence of this progress. And the press are inclined to be supportive of every England manager – the famous honeymoon period – and it is usually results, performance or a combination of both that brings the love-in to an end. The performances have got better under Southgate and the results are starting to come. What’s not to like?

Gareth Southgate won in Spain with England's youngest starting XI since 1959

Gareth Southgate won in Spain with England’s youngest starting XI since 1959

When Southgate finally leaves if getting to the World Cup semi-final is his best then I think he’s been a failure. We had one of the easiest routes to a final, the type that has never happened before and will probably never happen again. Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Portugal were all knocked out, and teams like Italy and Holland didn’t even qualify. The way we played was also bad, apart from Iran we had the lowest number of shots which is an embarrassment considering some of the teams there. Southgate also had no idea how to change his tactics to win a match, we took the lead several times but always let the other team back into it, and he did not know when to change players or rotate the squad to keep it fresh. G87man, Birmingham.

What are you talking about? He made massive changes in the final group game and, as he explained after the Croatia game this month, he kept the same system because it was best to bed in a group of young and inexperienced players. Now they have matured slightly, he feels confident enough to play a back four in competitive matches with Croatia and Spain and earn two good results. The Croatia match England would have won with better finishing, the Spain game was a landmark victory. And why would playing teams that were not good enough to qualify be harder than the route England took in Russia? If it was just about famous names and past glories, Nottingham Forest would be a tougher fixture than Bournemouth. Anyway, here’s Riley, who understands.

To get to a semi-final in 2014, Holland played Mexico and Costa Rica; Brazil played Chile and Columbia; Uruguay in 2010 faced South Korea and Ghana; in 2006 Italy played Australia and Ukraine. The draw opens up, it happens, no one else complains that they didn’t have to beat the Brazil of 1970, so why should we? Also, when should Southgate have rotated his team? He changed it for the dead rubber with Belgium, or do you think he should have switched to the reserves in the quarter-finals to keep things fresh for Croatia? Southgate changed his tactics pre-tournament moving to 3-5-2 to give his defence passing options. He did OK with that, I think. It is certainly fair to judge a manager not just on what they win, but how they change and the impact on the team. Southgate may get at most three World Cups and two European Championships to win. So are there other measures of impact that can be judged? Before Russia 2018 I wanted to be entertained by an England team, I knew that they wouldn’t win the World Cup, but I wanted to be able to imagine that it could happen, to get caught up in the excitement and enjoy the tournament. Southgate and his team provided that dream. In addition he showed the players that international football can be fun, that the press are not an enemy and engaging with them can be more rewarding than a siege mentality. These are young men enjoying their trade and proud to compete for England. That’s a big change in two years, so the success is altering a culture, and it may be one on which England can build. RileyD, Birmingham.

Spot on, Riley. That was my point. We have to accept advances can be success, too. Had Rafael Benitez lost the Champions League final in 2005 on penalties with an inferior Liverpool team, would that have made him a failure? No. It was a miracle he got there in the first place. The same with Jurgen Klopp. By rights, looking at the league, Liverpool should never have got past Manchester City in the last eight, let alone beat them home and away. They came up against a superior and more experienced Real Madrid in the final, and lost. And that’s failure? Southgate has made England better on, and off, the field. He is doing the best job of any England manager since Venables. And now, someone else who turns out to be less than psychic; or even smart.

I haven’t seen any progress with the England squad. You got to the World Cup semi-finals because other major nations were having a poor run and were eliminated. The only two decent teams you played, Belgium and Croatia, won all three games and even when it came to playing for the pride of finishing third you still lost. So what progress have England made? Let’s see tonight – although I am sure this England performance will be as dull as ever. Let’s see if Southgate has taken England to a better place. You just managed a draw against a team Spain hammered 6-0. Let’s see what England are going to bring to the table tonight then. Daghe Munegu, Monaco.

Point four: Alvaro Morata, what’s to be done?

Morata cares much more about his love life – with his wife – than his scoring habits. His Instagram posts will give you the details of what he’s in London to do. I did not know of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa’s partners when they were scoring for fun during their spells at Chelsea. Kirkman, Brooklyn.

Not being an Instagram participant I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement. I presume Morata posts a lot of lifestyle stuff and gets about town, as a young person should. I wouldn’t judge him for that. I would, however, advise players to be a little more aware of how this stuff goes down when they are not delivering on the field. But if he was scoring, he could take a selfie from Nelson’s column in his Y-fronts and nobody at Chelsea would give a stuff.

At least you admit that Chelsea are just a quality striker away from something special. Someone like Paulo Dybala will fix the problem. Caribeblue, Mexico.

The presumption of some fans never ceases to amaze me. I’ve just watched Dybala in action for a Juventus team that outplayed Manchester United, and are a decent shout to be champions of Europe this season. They are already on a record-breaking run of Serie A titles. Remind me again why Dybala would leave them for Chelsea?

Whoever brought in Morata should be sacked. StillBlue4eva, Bristol.

Er, I’m pretty sure he has been.

Point five: Freddie Burns and the age of self.

Age of the selfie? Aye, because these kind of mistakes in sport never happened before the tech folk stuck a lens on a mobile phone. Good grief. Hendrox, Newcastle.

They didn’t happen with the same regularity, no. Just as when you went to an art gallery people actually looked at the work, instead of taking a second to snap it with their camera phone, and moving on. You know that show Room 101? There’s another of mine.

Age of the selfie – says the man desperate for his own mug on any media outlet that will give him the time. All of these sports stars have made far more sacrifices than you ever did Martin. So easy to castigate after the incidents. Paul, Kent.

You have no idea about me, Paul, so please do not presume. I couldn’t care less about picture by-lines and when I do interviews always refuse the shot of the pair of us together. 5 Live don’t call me anymore, because I always turned them down. The same with talkSPORT, pretty much. I was offered a radio show earlier in the year and knocked that back that, too. I rejected another book deal last year, plus Question Time and too many TV guest spots to remember. I’m not on any form of social media. I do the Sunday Supplement because it’s fun and several writing gigs because that’s what I enjoy. The Mail, GQ – and new project called The Tortoise starting next year. My picture doesn’t appear in GQ and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest; if they stopped using it in the Mail, too, great. Room for more words. I’ve never cared for that photograph anyway. As for sacrifices, that’s not for me to say, but I wouldn’t have time to post dribble on the bottom of articles, let’s put it like that, so I’m probably putting in a bit more than you. Finally, the reason I castigate after the event, not before, is because I’m not psychic. Although, hang on, I’m looking at your name now and I’m getting the word…pillock.

Freddie Burns' late blunder cost his Bath side a victory over Toulouse

Freddie Burns’ late blunder cost his Bath side a victory over Toulouse

The kids have to learn the hard way. Freddie Burns won’t do it again. Rolster, Bournemouth.

Very recently, Burns saw a team-mate make a very similar mistake. It would appear that he did not learn from that particular incident. Cedders B, London.

Good point, well made. Also, he’s not a kid. He’s 28.

OK, so what about Will Carling’s famous cock up over the try line? Silly baseless reporting. And I’ve added to it by clicking and commenting. Saintsman, Northampton.

Don’t worry, though, Saint, you haven’t added much because your point is entirely bogus. For a start the fact everyone remembers Carling getting caught over the try line all those years ago, shows how uncommon an occurrence it was. Also, he wasn’t showboating like Burns, playing to the crowd and blowing kisses – he was attempting to do as all players are told, by making the conversion easier. He just got a little complacent. Having made a fabulous run down the right flank, he cut inside once over the try line and slowed, thinking he was clear – and was surprised to be held up by two Rosslyn Park players before getting the chance to put the ball down. And finally – it was in the Middlesex Sevens, for God’s sake. An invitational of little significance, variously won by the British Army, Bradford Bulls rugby league team, Western Samoa, ULR Samurai and St Luke’s College, Exeter. Burns stuffed up a vital late play that would have won a Champions Cup tie with Toulouse, in what is now a wholly professional sport. Somewhat different. And now, an appropriate conclusion from Mr R Wyatt. Until next time.



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