Poor Rob Green … even as the words go down on the screen, I can hear the fulminations to the phone-ins as one horrific moment is allowed to define a man’s career, even his life.
He is a professional footballer, and it was a playground error. Had it happened in the last minute of the Final, and been the difference between World Cup success and World Cup failure, then the wailing and teeth-gnashing might have been justified.
But it helped contribute to a draw in the most difficult of three games in the easiest group in the tournament. That’s all.
I watched the match at a fundraiser in Milton Keynes for England’s World Cup 2018. Quite a nice way to see the game, in the company of former England player Tony Woodcock, referee Dermot Gallagher and MK Dons rising star Sam Baldock. We were all asked for a prediction. The other three said England wins by one to three goals. I, the only non-expert on the panel, said that I thought America were better than people reckoned, and England would do well to win by a single goal (code for ‘I think it will be a draw but I don’t want to get booed in this flag-waving atmosphere’).
Typing this having just watched Algeria v Slovenia, it is unthinkable for England not to qualify and when they do, the Green save will be largely forgotten and some other drama will take over.
As I left Milton Keynes I tweeted about what good sense the Radio Five live ‘pros’ Dean Kiely and Perry Groves were talking in refusing to go o.t.t, and how over the top the papers would be about Green. I ended up being asked onto Stephen Nolan’s show to elaborate.
Perry had already made my main point – that the press only do hero and zero, no shades of grey in between.
So when the event – a draw – did not live up to the hype – England to beat the world – then the automatic default position is to go into zero-meltdown mode. So it has proved, judging by thew news-stands I saw when out on the bike this morning.
Green’s one mistake does not make him a terrible goalkeeper overnight. And though England were not brilliant, they were not dreadful and will get better as the tournament goes on. You could delete England in that sentence and insert Argentina, South Korea, Mexico … (France were dreadful).
One thing I really like about Fabio Capello, as I said yesterday, is that he takes his time to make his judgements and when he makes them, he stands by them and accepts the consequences.
He and his staff know more about how the players are, and how they are likely to operate with each other and under pressure, than any of the pundits.
In selecting Green yesterday, he will have had sound reasons. If he decides to keep him for the game against Algeria, fine. If he decides that Green’s confidence is too low as a result of what has happened, and he leaves him out, fine too. Both tough calls. The choice of David James or Joe Hart is another tough call, and the phone-ins will have a field day on that too, now that the whole country is made up of experts on goalkeeping, many of whom had not heard of Rob Green till last night.
In the 24 hour media age, it is not easy to insulate people from its noise and its frenzy. But the England camp should be making sure Green, who knows better than anyone that he cocked up, is as shielded from it as he can be. And Capello is best making the decision without any reference to to noise and frenzy at all.
Only one question matters for Capello arising out of Green’s mistake … which of my three goalkeepers is best placed to do the job against Algeria (whose manager will now be facing a similar issue following his goalkeeper’s cock-up against Slovenia)? Only they can decide, however many million advisers they may have.
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