Spain and The Brexit: The Local tells us that Spain is the country in Europe that is most against Brexit; that 64% of Spaniards want Britain to remain within the European Union; that Spain is the nation most against Brexit; and that Spain is the country which would be least likely to vote in favour or breakaway from the EU. It offers these as the main reasons for these attitudes:-
- A Brexit could derail Spain's fragile recovery
- The Spanish tourism industry could suffer
- British expats might have to go home, taking their money with them.
The Spanish Election Results: The Economist gives its take on these here. It says this about Sr Rajoy, the Galician President: In appearance stolid and unimaginative, Mr Rajoy is unflappable and a shrewd strategist who has repeatedly defied rivals and expectations. Sadly, he now looks secure in his position.
Britain and The Brexit: As the pound and the stock markets bounce back from the panic response of Friday and Monday, the tiny face of common-sense is just visible at the window, trying to peek in. At the end of this post there's a nice Times article. The egregious Mr Juncker, they say, is a busted flush. Junk Juncker, say I. Here's a fascinating - left-wing - take on the EU and on Brexit. The debate about Brexit, the author says, was never about values or principles – it was about money. It still is. The Remainers are talking only about the threat to their pensions. The Brexiters are talking only about the role of immigrants in driving down wages. I recommend the reading of Jonathan Cook's 2 articles cited in the text. Especially this one, predicting that the Brexit won't be allowed to happen. Finally on this theme, here's The Local again, giving its view on why there's good news in the Brexit development for Brits in Spain.
Madrid's Many Whores: These are being offered money for training that will help get them off the streets. I wonder what the process is and how phony prostitutes can be stopped from getting their hands on some of the cash. Sure as eggs is eggs, there'll be some.
Bull Goading: In a very welcome step, the relevant regional government has refused to give a licence for the annual Torre de la Vega scandal in which a bull is stabbed and lanced by a baying crowd before being left to bleed to death. Sceptics continue to believe a way will be found around this blow to the bloodthirsty mayor and residents of the town. One hopes not.
Galician Ugliness: Sadly, there was plenty of evidence of this feismo during my camino of last week. But the regional government has finally decided to do something about it . . . by issuing a guide to the colours and materials you're allowed to use in finishing off your house. A guess it's something.
Finally . . . . That English Ignominy: See the very end of this post for 2 articles on this. If you can bear it. Meanwhile . . . .
Post Brexit Common Sense
We should ignore Juncker and talk to Merkel. Roger Boyes, The Times
Unlike the EU chief, Germany’s pragmatic chancellor knows this isn’t the time for punishment
In the grand investigative tradition of diplomatic journalism, reporters at EU summits are sent out to discover the top-table dinner menu. The point is to contrast the extravagant taste of leaders with their less well-nourished voters. They were saved the trouble yesterday. As David Cameron sat down with his soon-to-be-former colleagues in Brussels, it was pretty clear what was going to be served up: humble pie, sour grapes and Eton Mess.
Some leaders would have preferred his head on a platter. Not Angela Merkel. Germany is undergoing a fit of righteous indignation about Brexit; in particular her Social Democrat partners in government think the British should be placed in the stocks for their temerity and ingratitude. Up to a point Chancellor Merkel agrees: she was sure from the outset that Cameron’s referendum was a reckless gamble. Rather than In/Out, say the Germans, he could have launched a narrower question. For example: should Britain support further EU enlargement?
The German leader though understands that this is not the time for recrimination or punishment. If mishandled by the EU, Brexit will be like the barely visible thin crack in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher that ends up splitting the building in two. So out of an acute sense of danger she is being flexible about the start of negotiations. Whether this will translate into a greater understanding for Britain remains to be seen. Her priority is to head off a more general dismemberment of Europe and its core policies. For now at least it is important for her not to make a pariah out of Britain but rather find it a place, short of full membership, that slots us into a broader plan for a continent that is already operating at drastically different speeds.
Here’s the problem: it’s not just Boris Johnson who has mislaid his plan. Despite decades of white papers and leaked memos, the EU does not have a realistic masterplan. Once upon a time the destination may have been a European super-state, driven by France, Germany and some core states. Now it’s just a jumble of competing ideas.
So both Britain and the EU are in flux. That is why Britain should be talking to Merkel, not to the busted flush Jean-Claude Juncker, who as president of the European Commission has set himself up as the lord high executioner. Not difficult to imagine his contribution to future negotiations: Britain will have to suffer, and suffer publicly, in order to scare off any other EU members (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark are part of the long queue) from consulting their citizens.
It cannot be business-as-usual for angry Eurocrats. No one (apart from the plucky Inuits of Greenland) has ever voted to get out of the EU. The talks then have to be not just about customs duties but about a fundamental repositioning of the EU. Merkel grasps that in a way that Juncker does not. He takes the Hotel California view: you can check in but you can never check out.
Merkel-watchers say she has a personal stake in stopping a European break-up. Her mentor Helmut Kohl constructed today’s EU. In order to get the top job she had to push him aside. That carried with it a responsibility to make Kohl’s Europe bloom. Now that Europe is disappearing fast — she had to compromise some basic German principles of good housekeeping to keep the eurozone intact and stave off a Grexit. Then came the challenge of Putin’s war on Ukraine — should Kiev be offered a European perspective or not — and the huge influx of migrants that has blown holes in the Schengen zone.
To these fractures in the south and east of the EU comes Brexit now in the west. They impact not only on how the EU will shape its present and future, but also on Germany itself. Brexit — perhaps this is the origin of current German anger — shackles Merkel closer to France, the sick man of Europe. François Hollande thinks that the French and Germans should re-commit to a deeper political union to demonstrate the EU’s vitality. It is difficult to imagine a more pointless act.
As Europe gets smaller, so German dominance becomes more evident. Merkel is profoundly uncomfortable with that. The Obama administration is suggesting the Germans will now become the primary US conduit into the EU. That’s a headache not a boon for the German leader. It will mean demands to step up Germany’s contribution to active defence.
Worse still, the impact of Brexit on the eurozone’s fortunes may tip Italy over the brink. The prime minister, Matteo Renzi, faces a referendum on constitutional reform in October. Judging by the insurgent mood in Italy, he may lose. If he does, he has promised to resign. Even if he doesn’t there will be an election at a time when the country’s banking system is looking wobbly. The Five Star Movement populists are on the rise and they want a referendum on, yes, membership of the eurozone. The euro would go into a tailspin.
Merkel’s eye then is as much on Italy as it is on Britain. The next crisis is just around the corner, even before we have engaged on Brexit. The calculation of the Leave team is that Britain is too important to overlook. The fact is, though, that the whole of Europe is erupting with problems and the buck is all too often stopping with Merkel. We need to engage her fast and explain that a fair, undogmatic compromise on the single market and freedom of movement is not only possible but also in the wider interests of a troubled Europe.
The Day That English Football Died. Again. Only Even More Than Before . . .
Nothing in England’s 144-year history compares to this ignominy. Nothing. Not even losing to the United States in Belo Horizonte in 1950. Not even the Wembley draw with Poland in 1973. Not even the defeats by Norway in 1981 and 1993. Not even that wretched night at Windsor Park in 2005. England’s 959th game was the nadir. This was a disgrace.
This was the worst because of the huge investment in resources the FA had put into preparing England for these Euros at a time when they were laying off staff. This was the worst because England do have talented players, like Harry Kane, who underperformed here. They were shadows of their strong club selves.
This was the worst because of the immense support who managed to find tickets, sort travel and plead with loved ones, employers and probably bank managers to make it to Nice’s Allianz Riviera in time and then be treated to a display lacking organisation, belief and commitment.
At the final whistle, as the Icelandic hordes were singing “England’s going home”, the patience of the England supporters finally snapped. Jeers and boos poured forth like bile from a broken sewer. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” came the chant, time and again. Incipient revolution filled the Riviera air. After showing restraint at the World Cup in Brazil, they finally let rip here and those players fully deserved the catcalls.
England were so predictable, playing similar passes time and again, playing into Iceland’s hands time and again. They were so profligate in possession, finding an opponent or a ball-boy rather than a team-mate. They lacked the leadership, ideas, composure and guile to break down the massed ranks of the Icelandic defence. They lacked a decent Plan A, let alone a Plan B. They lacked shape. It was all wearyingly familiar to seasoned England watchers. Plus ça change, as they say in these parts. Déjà vu. Encore.
The players deserved the chorus of disapproval. They will go back to their clubs, to their comfort zones. Roy Hodgson, their manager until he resigned, humiliated after the final whistle, was also deeply culpable. It was his decision to rest Wayne Rooney against Slovakia that so backfired on England. It was his failure to organise and inspire the players that proved so expensive. The Lions were lambs to the slaughter.
Departing the scene deeply chastened, England had arrived actually looking calm with Rooney hugging a laughing Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge walking together, smiling, sharing a joke, while Hodgson sauntered in, his jacket slung over his shoulder, like a City exec returning from an agreeable lunch in the sun.
“Roy Hodgson — he’s taking us to Paris” sang the thousands of England fans. Optimism ruled. The Free Lions’ fanzine even devoted a couple of pages, “Looking ahead to Paris, our quarter-final venue, if England win in Nice.” Iceland had other ideas. More ideas. More hunger. More sharpness.
Yet England actually took an early lead. Sturridge floated the ball above Birkir Saevarsson, for Sterling, who had timed his run perfectly. Hannes Halldorsson, the Iceland goalkeeper, came flying out, rashly, ploughing into Sterling, presenting Damir Skomina, the referee, with the most straightforward of decisions.
The Slovenian pointed to the spot and Rooney accepted the responsibility. England have been practising penalties with greater frequency since reaching the knock-out rounds. Even though Halldorsson guessed the right way in every sense, Rooney’s penalty was too quick, too well-placed and it hurtled past the diving keeper for his 53rd England goal on the day he equalled David Beckham’s outfield record of 115.
All seemed well. The supporters had enjoyed their day by the sea or in it. They were in good heart and voice, unleashing an almighty roar when Rooney struck. The autoroute to Paris seemed to be opening up nicely, invitingly. But they had forgotten that England’s defence is weak, that the centre back pairing of Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling lacks conviction and concentration.
England themselves had forgotten about one of Iceland’s weapons, the long throw of their captain, Aron Gunnarsson, whose popularity at Cardiff City will have grown even more. Maybe England were intoxicated by taking the lead. Maybe they are just not very good. Maybe they had not been paying attention in team meetings.
Hodgson had warned of Gunnarsson’s threat, comparing the Icelandic captain’s long throw to Rory Delap’s. He’d explained it in terms that his players would understand. The ball came speeding through the warm Mediterranean air, demanding that a defender showed some strength of character, and attack it.
Kari Arnason simply wanted the ball more than Rooney, reaching it and flicking it on for the onrushing Ragnar Sigurdsson, outpacing Kyle Walker, to slide the ball past Joe Hart. Rooney lost his man. Walker lost his man. Smalling and Cahill lost their bearings. Iceland’s supporters almost lost their voices such was their ecstatic reaction.
England were rocked back, their famously brittle confidence rattled again. Where was the leadership, the tactics, the organisation — even a semblance of it. Iceland were more of a team, well drilled in their 4-4-2 shape, each player knowing his task and working over-time. They kept closing down England players, drowning them in a sea of blue.
Walker ran into traffic. Sturridge saw a pass was picked off. Kane’s shot was blocked by Gylfi Sigurdsson. Danny Rose had a pass intercepted. Kane tried to work the ball but Ari Skulason was too defiant.
England were creating chances but not taking them, a theme of the group stage. Dele Alli chested the ball down and sent a half-volley just over. Kane powered a drive over. England’s radar was askew. Iceland’s wasn’t. Their fairytale was a horror story for England. After 18 minutes, Iceland seized the lead. Sigurdsson’s lay-off was judged neatly for Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who controlled the ball calmly and played it across for Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. Again England were too sluggish, too anaemic. There were more holes in the England defence than in the shadow cabinet.
Smalling and Cahill belatedly slid in but Sigthorsson was too quick. He shot low and with reasonable power but Hart should have done so much better. Occasionally vulnerable down to his left, Hart was caught out badly. His left hand reached the ball but was not strong enough and the ball carried on over the line. “Iceland 2, Poundland 1” as some wit tweeted. England were being outwitted by 4-4-2 and occasional set-pieces.
England were staring into the abyss. Kane met the delivery with a right-foot volley that Halldorsson pushed over. Hodgson sent on Wilshere for Eric Dier. At the break, those watching at home were treated to a particularly ill-timed dandruff ad featuring Hart when England were at risk from having their heads separated from their shoulders in the land of the guillotine.
England hunted an equaliser but Iceland still threatened a third on the counter. Ragnar Sigurdsson almost scored with an overhead kick. The magnificent Iceland fans loved it, never stopping singing. Outnumbered, Iceland were never outsung.
Iceland were so mature, so determined. Hodgson acted again, removing Sterling for Jamie Vardy on the hour mark. England fans hoped the cocky cavalry was arriving. Vardy did sprint through, charging down the inside-left channel but Ragnar Sigurdsson, the man of the match, put in a marvellous saving challenge, sliding in to steer the ball away from under the forward’s feet.
Iceland broke again, Saeversson powering down the right, turning into the Cafu of the North Atlantic, and shooting just over. Gunnarsson muscled his way past Wilshere but Hart managed to save. Hodgson’s last card was Marcus Rashford, the teenager replacing Rooney, but Iceland were too determined, too disciplined and England too abject. This was truly the worst.
England ratings: all zero from The Times
JOE HART (Manchester City) Beaten too easily for their second goal but made two good saves from point-blank range 0
KYLE WALKER (Tottenham Hotspur) Gave impetus with his runs and crosses but at fault for the opening goal as out of position 0
GARY CAHILL (Chelsea) Too slow to close down Bodvarsson in the build-up to Iceland’s second goal 0
CHRIS SMALLING (Manchester United) Hesitant on the edge of his area and worried in the air by Sigthorsson and Bodvarsson 0
DANNY ROSE (Tottenham Hotspur) Made the odd dart down the left, but has gone backwards since opener against Russia 0
DELE ALLI (Tottenham Hotspur) Provided the most drive from midfield and linked well, but finishing let him down 0
ERIC DIER (Tottenham Hotspur) Arguably England’s best player at Euro 2016 so half-time substitution was harsh 0
WAYNE ROONEY (Manchester United) Beaten in the air in the build-up to Iceland’s equaliser and gave ball away far too frequently 0
DANIEL STURRIDGE (Liverpool) Threatened intermittently with some dangerous shots but too peripheral 0
HARRY KANE (Tottenham Hotspur) Went close with an acrobatic volley and header, but hasn’t been at his best 0
RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City) Won the early penalty, but faded, and looked bereft of confidence in shooting positions 0
JACK WILSHERE (Arsenal, for Dier, 46) Produced a couple of probing passes, but unable to dictate pace of play 0
JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City, for Sterling, 60) Struggled, and any understanding with Kane remains elusive 0
MARCUS RASHFORD (Manchester United, for Rooney, 87) Brought brief hope with an electric run that won a corner 0
ICELAND (4-4-2): H Halldorsson 7 — B Saevarsson 8, K Arnason 8, R Sigurdsson 8, A Skulason 8 — J Gudmundsson 8, G Sigurdsson 8, A Gunnarsson 9, B Bjarnason 9 — K Sigthorsson 8 (sub: E Bjarnason, 76), JD Bodvarsson 8 (sub: A Traustason, 89). Booked: G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson
Another (funny) article:
Somebody in Nice who knows his onions said: “It does something to them.” Playing for England, he meant. And he drew an image of 18-year-old Marcus Rashford galloping onto the scene without fear but with only five minutes to make a difference. Good point. Rashford must have looked around and wondered what the hell was wrong with team-mates he had idolised. Why was Harry Kane blasting shots into the crowd and chipping crosses straight into touch? Why had the ball bounced off Raheem Sterling just about every time, making every second-touch a tackle? All across the pitch in Nice, you could smell fear, anxiety, confusion.
For the five minutes he was given by a manager who seemed to have a mid-life crisis at this tournament (it would have been better for Roy Hodgson to just buy a Harley Davidson), Rashford buzzed around and attacked Iceland. Yet the same old chasm of fatalism opens in front of him. Does he leave France excited to be an England international, or thinking – ‘I could do without this in my life.’
Sooner or later there will be a generation of England footballers who approach the job the way they do in Italy or Germany. They will be tactically literate, technically accomplished and mentally strong. But that day receded again at Euro 2016. Any chance that Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier would make the big breakthrough in France was destroyed by Roy Hodgson’s management, which featured confusion about England’s best starting XI, too many changes from game to game, an apparent aversion to Jamie Vardy and excessive loyalty to old friends who had helped him qualify: Jack Wilshere and Sterling especially.
Hodgson’s stewarding of this England squad was a form of dad dancing. Late in his career, he decided to go with the flow of youth and promise without having a clear idea of how to organise the opportunity he had been given. He turned against his basic ideas about football management as a man in a casino throws all his chips on a single roulette number. A senior figure in the England camp confirmed even before the tournament started that Hodgson had decided to give the public what they wanted, perhaps in the hope of staying on beyond Euro 2016.
The result was calamity. England won one of their four games – in the dying moments, against Wales. They drew with Russia and Slovakia and lost to Iceland. They took five strikers and scored four goals. They fell to the most basic set-piece in the book, and one which they had planned for and rehearsed: Iceland’s long throw and flick-on to a goalscorer in the six-yard box. Then they did what so many England teams have done before. With 72 minutes left to overturn Iceland’s 2-1 lead, they choked. Euro 2016’s walls closed in on them. They took pot shots from silly distances. They grew flustered on the edge of Iceland’s penalty area when they needed to be ruthless and composed.
After 50 years of this – half a century without a final appearance – England fans are entitled to ask why their country bothers to enter tournaments. That may sound childish, but it feels hard to avoid the thought on this latest Inquest Day. It, as they say, déjà vu over all again. And the mind turns to all the time and energy wasted in qualifying campaigns. Games in Estonia and Poland and Switzerland. All those friendlies that interrupt the club programme, from which English spectators derive far more pleasure.
For what? So England can win all 10 games in qualifying, as they did for Euro 2016, and then go out to Iceland in the second-round?
On a personal level, summarising another early English exit is grindingly familiar. I, like many others, have addressed this task in France, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Ukraine, Brazil and now France again. That is a lot of inquests. Others can trace their post mortems even further back. The good news typing stopped for them in 1966.
When the nihilism wears off – of course England will keep throwing their hat in the ring – we will face the sheer unacceptability of this level of failure. Heaven help, for example, anyone who piles into qualifying for Russia 2018 pretending none of this ever happened. Because some will. Amnesia is one of England’s sins. They never stop to confront the endemic weaknesses of the English game. They just pay another manager £4m a year and feed off Premier League hype to over-inflate the next wave of players.
The England job has broken many men. Even Don Quioxte would think twice before taking it on. In the last two decades alone it has confounded Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and now Hodgson. It will confound the next one too, unless he is able to break the pattern of players shrinking on England duty. The talent in this squad (Eric Dier, for example, showed flashes of real authority as a holding midfielder) will be lost to international football unless the next man in can achieve something in the ballpark of rugby’s Eddie Jones.
The most persuasive argument for hiring an English or British coach is that England is a highly distinct football culture that requires its leader to understand its kinks and quirks. Capello for example was completely baffled by the country he found himself working in for such a lavish salary. For a while we thought Hodgson was an ‘old English football man’ who understood the chemistry. Then he lasted eight days at the Brazil World Cup and lost to Iceland in Nice.
Unless all the England managers of the last 50 years have been incompetent (not so, by any means), there is a congenital flaw in the way English football is played, and certainly in its self-image. Many of Hodgson’s players came through the mixed-zone in Nice with minders, like superstars fearing stalkers. Only Rooney and Joe Hart stopped to answer for what had happened.
Over the last three decades we have made cultural giants of Premier League footballers, so no wonder their self-image is distorted. The bigger they get, the softer they become, on the international stage at any rate. In club sides they are capable of great tenacity. Together, in an England shirt, they seem to sense the ensuing disaster and surrender to it.
When Rob Green made a goalkeeping error in the first game of the 2010 South Africa World Cup, the feeling in the England camp, one insider said, was: “Here we go again.” The Iceland defeat was another self-fulfilling prophesy. Failure becomes a habit, a demon that cannot be exorcised.
Here we go again. But Marcus Rashford, for one, deserves better.
My View: I always expect England to fail to win a competition. So I prefer them to go out sooner rather than later, so as to save me stress. But I want to see fighting performances in their matches, most of all in the one that sees them depart. Monday's match displayed such ineptitude, inaccuracy and headless-chicken-ness that - after numerous groans - I finally switched off 30 minutes before the end. After Rooney's latest gift of the ball to an Icelander. I just couldn't imagine England even tying the match with a single goal. Defeatism or realism? Or both? Does it really matter??