The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 49

September 23, 2010

With the 2006 (and 2010) World Cup already a fading memory, I thought now would be an opportune time to do a bit more scraping of the TAG barrel.

So we proudly present (roll of drums)…………………….

A review of the 1992 Euro championships (TAG 29 – August 1992)


Xenophobia for Beginners

It’s 1992 and we’re all Europeans now.

Progressive, cosmopolitan, pan-European and communitaire, we, in most matters, may be, but when it comes to really important things like football, all bets are off.

The roots of my own Euro-scepticism pre-dated Maastricht by 27 years, going right back to a radio commentary of a Germany-Scotland match in Hanover in 1964. Before the game started the Scots commentators were expressing horrified outrage that the Germans had selected a defender whose sole purpose, apparently, was to mark Denis Law. The way they put it was that this hatchet-man had been brought in to “police Law”.

As the game progressed it became increasingly obvious that this was a successful ploy, depriving Denis of even a sniff at the ball. Each time Denis came second best there would be an exasperated exhalation followed by the comment, “Law is being policed out of the game” (the implied sub-text being “the bastards, the cheating bloody bastards.)

I had visions of Denis struggling to break free from a large Teuton in a trench- coat, who’d forced his arm up his back and had handcuffed his ankles together. Ever since then I’ve been more than a bit suspicious of Johnny Foreigner and his total football, his cattenacios, liberos, swerving free-kicks, zonal defences, away goals counting double, Marco Van Bastards, and the other myriad tricks and deceptions which have been used to prevent us fulfilling our destiny.


This touch of football Euro-scepticism puts me in the same boat as the usual squad of cretins assembled by the TV companies to explain and interpret the action in this summer’s European Championships for us ignorant couch-potatoes (have I speIt that last word correctly? Dunno – phone Dan Quayle).

Ron Atkinson set out his stall early doors. It took big Ron 40 seconds, I’d guess, to refer to Laurent Blanc as “the boy Blank”. Curiously, he squandered this golden opportunity to describe Blanc as “a bit of a fanny-merchant”. Terry Venables would have put that chance away no danger.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMeanwhile, Jack Charlton seemed totally bewildered by the whole thing (admittedly it’s not difficult to confuse big Jack). I lost count of the number of times he said something like, “Wur centa back, whassisname ah’ve forgoot yeah, Walka, that’s reet “. Jack kicked off with continual references to “this Woorld Coop “, as in “ah hoop wur centafoorward, whassisname, ­ah ‘ve forgoot yeah Lineka gets a gool­- this is obviously his last Woorld Coop “. Yes, obviously. Except a tad incorrect insofar as this was NOT the World Cup, but that’s just me being pedantic.

Brian Moore (whose head does look uncannily like the London Planetarium) spent the first few minutes of the opening match between Sweden and France prattling on about “I hope our lads get off to a winning start etc etc “. There was then a few seconds pause during which you could faintly hear studio instructions over his head-set requiring him to clarify the meaning of “our lads” to the UK audience. He belatedly added “and the Scots too, naturally “. Yes, naturally.

Jurgen Taegetyerfuckinheidkickedin

Over on the Beeb, Barry Davies got in with his first ideologically suspect strike, during the Germany v CIS match. The Germans had a free-kick near the CIS box. Barry informed us that “the German stormtroopers are arriving on the far post”.

This is a wonderful metaphor which really ought to have been developed to include

“Panzer divisions bursting through the midfield, aerial attacks on the goal by the Luftwaffe, and concentration camps in the dug-out which no-one knows anything about..”.

Overall, the BBC had an incredibly stimulating line-up for this tournament. Trevor Brooking has emerged as a genuine contender for Bob Wilson’s “Mogadon Man” title. Ten minutes of Trev induces a hypnotic trance, which would save the NHS millions if it could be bottled.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBack in the studio Jimmy Hill and Terry Venables were playing Statdler and Waldorf to Graham Taylor’s Kermit, while the England team performed like muppets who’d swallowed a dose of Trev’s tonic. For some wholly inexplicable reason, Statdler and Waldorf seemed to share the delusion that the muppets were in with a chance of winning the cup. Prior to their opener with Denmark, Tel went into his lovable Cockney wide-boy routine and expressed himself “very confident” about the game. So confident that he forecast a 3-0 victory. Just what was he on? Whatever it was, he was still taking it by the time of the last match with Sweden, when his prediction was for a 2-0 win by England. (Nearly right – exact score – but wrong way round).

Cantona Hot Tin Roof

International football competitions tend to have a dual interest for Scots. First and foremost there is the morbid fascination in discovering just how our own team has chosen to destroy itself. This time they opted for the “brave, gallant, heroic and unlucky” method of elimination, which was last given an airing in West Germany ’74. For once, the words “farce, disgrace, shame, humiliation and laughing-stock” were not decorating the pages of a million tabloids in relation to our team’s efforts.

Nevertheless, as was widely predicted, we were the first squad to be making definite reservations for the flight home. The defeat by Germany gave us plenty of time to contemplate our second major interest, namely England’s inevitable demise.

It is really small-minded, immature, petty and downright wicked to take pleasure in the fact that England were shockingly bad.

I loved it.

After all the usual hype about England being amongst the favourites, and being certain semi-finalists, it was pleasing, nay orgasmic, to witness them being royally shafted and dumped out unceremoniously by a couple of Scandinavian “also-rans “.

The enjoyment was simply intensified by the TV pundits squabbling amongst themselves, and with Graham Taylor, in relation to such weighty matters as whether Carlton Palmer should have been in the midfield or in the back four. (You’d have done better with Arnold Palmer, lads).

On the subject of Palmer, Ron Atkinson went slightly over the top in praising his dedication when he said, before the match with Denmark, “He’ll die in the course of the day, that’s for sure “. What of, Ron? Embarrassment?

Meanwhile, England’s only serious rivals for the position of worst team in the tournament were France. Eric Cantona an international class player? Do me a favour. France were un heap de merde. The only excitement I can remember in any of the French games was when Brian Moore reported that “Deschamps is dangerous with his slanting balls “. Uncomfortable rather than dangerous, I would have thought, Brian.

This of course is all just a variation on big Ron’s favourite double-entendre,

“England are playing a lot of balls through the middle “.

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Brian McClair Disney (oh yes he does)

One consolation which usually arises from Scotland’s dismal performance in International Finals is that it makes it easier for smart-arses like me to write sarcastic articles in magazines like this. On this occasion, though, it would be churlish to criticise what was a magnificent all-round effort by “our lads “. Brian McClair even managed to bugger up all these jokes about what he’s got in common with Pele, Van Basten, Maradona and a cabbage-patch doll, by finally scoring more goals for Scotland than any of the afore-mentioned luminaries.

Under no circumstances should we, however, be happy to settle for the role of the patronised loser. It’s all very well for the Dutch and Germans to fulsomely praise our performances after they’d beaten us. Let’s see what they’ve got to say when we ram it up them in USA ’94. As has been repeatedly said in this very fanzine, we can match the best if we play to our traditional strengths (at least, I think that’s what Dr Paul Davis was saying in TAG 27). I think Sweden ’92 demonstrated this more eloquently than any number of demented rants in TAG ever could.


Denmark won the competition as I always said they would. (Strangely enough, I can’t seem to remember you mentioning anything along these lines – Ed).

In actual fact, I whiled away ten minutes before the Final started by composing the following paragraph ­

“Of course the bloody Germans won the sodding thing as deep down we all knew they would. I loathe the German method of playing, which is based on power rather than flair, efficiency rather than excitement, safety-first rather than adventure. Hassler was the only exception to these general principles, and he was bloody brilliant. Their first goal against us was scored by a musclebound hulk, who looked suspiciously like Bruce Springsteen, while they had a midfield player (Sammer) who bore a striking resemblance to our own Jim ‘Chic’ Charnley. “

Fortunately, I don’t have to develop my critique of the German team any further as in the event they were well beaten by the Danes. Apart from the obvious relief that the Germans did not continue their domination of international football, Denmark’s victory was pleasing on so many other levels. It’s really the first time in all of history that a complete no-hope outsider has come through and won a major international tournament. The message to us in Scotland must be so apparent that I don’t need to spell it out.

Unreserved congratulations to the Danes who thoroughly deserved their success.

For me, the highlight of the tournament was a perfectly ludicrous interview between Ken McRobb and Alexei Mikhailichenko. As we know, the only words of English which Alexei speaks are “give me money” and “nyet surrender”. The interview was, therefore, conducted under the auspices of an interpreter who had either been hitting the old vodka bottle rather harder than was compatible with his duties, or else he mistakenly believed that he was translating for the Tibetan version of “Match of the Day”.

The result was utter gibberish, which brings me to the low light of the competition, namely Ian St John’s irritating habit of qualifying every noun with the adjective “little” (as in “he knocked a good little ball in”, “that’s a great little pass/save/goal” and “Greavsie’s got a nice little brain.)

He’s even started infecting some of the other morons with this habit, such as Trevor Brooking who observed sagely that one of the German players had “taken a little head knock there” while the player in question, concussed and bleeding heavily, was being led from the field to a waiting ambulance. Trev and “the Saint” would be none the worse for a nice little boot up the arse.

There we have it then, at the end of the day when all’s said and done, it was a match of two halves, basically. We done terrific against Holland and Germany but missed a few little chances to beat them. On the other hand, we scored some nice little goals against the CIS, and our overall performance gives us a great little boost for the World Cup qualifiers. Denmark done magic as well! Hooray! Bring on Malta!


One Response to “The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 49”

  1. Kenny Walker Says:

    This is great stuff, I loved buying this in Vinyl Villians in Edinburgh. We should bring it back in webby format.

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