Nearly a week after their dismal exit from the World Cup, the truth about Engalnd’s dismal display at South Africa 2010 is beginning to emerge.
On Sunday morning, when four million copies of the News of the World hit the doormats across the green and pleasant land, we may know more.
But for now, we must content ourselves with rumour and innuendo – gossip which goes back THREE MONTHS, to the fateful day I emailed the Daily Express with a snippet of information on Steve Gerrard which seemed almost unbelievable had it not come from a good source.
The Express refused to print – rightly so given our lack of hard facts – but the Daily Mail did catch Gerrard’s wife Alex Curran out and about without her wedding ring two days later... and ran the story. And reports that Gerrard had moved out of the family home to the Vincent Hotel in Southport were rife.
The great irony of all this is that Gerrard was made captain of England’s abortive campaign in South Africa when Rio Ferdinand was injured in his first training session at the Royal Marang hotel.
John Terry, stripped of the captaincy over his affair with former team-mate Wayne Bridge’s partner Vanessa Perroncel, was understandably miffed. His attempt to gain an injunction against the story had succeeded for two weeks, then fell apart. He had argued that the story would have ruined his World Cup campaign. Apparently the Gerrard story – involving several other characters including a player from a less fashionable club - stays hushed up for exactly those reasons.
And if you have a quick squint at today’s Sun – the News of the World’s daily stable-mate – you’ll read how David Beckham was forced to make the peace when Gerro and JT went head-to-head before the 4-1 capitulation against Germany in Bloemfontein last Sunday.
Journalists aren’t supposed to operate on rumours, but when injunctions are flying and google provides a clearer picture of what’s actually going on than our newspapers can, something has to be said.
Around 30,000 England fans made the 12-hour flight to South Africa to watch England under-perform. Each of them spent in the region of £5,000 as the Three Lions failed to roar against the US, Algeria and even Slovenia. And then went out with barely a miaow against the Germans. I make that 150 million good reasons to fill you in a little on the rumours which have surrounded the England camp for weeks.
I’ve said repeatedly on air and in my written reports during this World Cup that it is hard for Fabio Capello to manage a side where so many players are racked by domestic upheaval. Ashley Cole and his wife Cheryl are going through a painful divorce, Frank Lampard has set out on a high profile relationship with a television presenter after he split with Elen Rives, the mother of his children. Robert Green’s girlfriend was pictured with another man during the tournament while Terry and Carragher seethed over their cornflakes for a month at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus. Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and others have also had their tabloid embarrassments.
With that sort of bad feeling eating away at the squad, is it any wonder they underperformed? Remember, the £100,000-a-week stars are well known in South Africa – and around the world. Every week they produce football of the highest standard in the Premier League. England qualified for this tournament in fine style under Capello’s stern eye. Yet they could barely raise a gallop against modest Algeria when the Barmy Army turned up in Cape Town to cheer them on.
And when it came to the crunch against Germany, they had only the Lampard disallowed goal to fall back on as an excuse. In truth, when Lamps scored his equaliser, they could have been 4-1 down such was the dominance of German’s young guns.
An unhappy Terry stands as the main character in this story. I wrote this at the time: http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2010/01/story-theyve-finally-allowed-us-to.html.
His discontent spilled over into the public domain when he gave an astonishing press conference in Phokeng two Sundays ago. He complained about not being allowed a beer after the Slovenia debacle, he said boredom had become a factor at one of the world’s best-equipped high-altitude training camps... and bemoaned the non-selection of his Chelsea pal Joe Cole.
His direct attack on Capello’s authority was quickly slapped down. An apology of sorts was issued through the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton, the man who had leaked the news of Green’s axing for the Algeria game after his Phokeng awful blunder against the US. Lampard was wheeled out to paper over the cracks. By then England’s campaign was doomed.
After the Slovenia game, Terry called the players into a huddle, challenging Gerrard’s captaincy. Beckham, the statesman and newly-appointed assistant coach, was forced to broker a fragile peace which kept things out of the public domain until after their embarrassing exit.
But that cease-fire will be blown asunder if – make that when – the Gerrard allegations are made public. Then Terry, a man who lives beyond his means despite his £140,000-a-week wage at Stamford Bridge, will be able to say “I told you so” and claim he should never have lost the captaincy and his major source of extra income.
Losing the armband came only months after his minders had put a poorly-spelt colour brochure around, touting Terry as a leader worth investing in. This is how it looked: http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2009/11/john-influencial-terry-england-captain.html. On top of that, Terry’s mum and his mother-in-law had been caught shop-lifting. His father was pictured in the News of the World dealing drugs. The man has huge problems despite – or perhaps because of - his status as one of England’s senior professionals.
I suspect Gerrard will join the Liverpool exodus to find refuge with Rafa Benitez at Inter Milan or elsewhere. Roy Hodgson knows full well the impact that will have on Anfield after last season’s dreadful performances, which may also have had something to do with the Gerrard situation.
Today the Sun bides it’s time. News International, owners of Sky, the Sunday Times, the Times and the News of the World, lulls us into a sense of well-being. We see Frank Lampard kissing his girlfriend Christine and drinking wine on holiday. Rooney, who is also believed to be under scrutiny, is reported to have flown first class to Barbados to escape the England inquest.
And we even have a picture of Alex Curran, Gerrard’s wife, having her hair done.
The calm before the storm. Prior to the World Cup, I said leave these people alone, let them get on with the business of righting 44 years of hurt since 1966. Now I’m not so sure. England’s long-suffering fans deserve an explanation. Let them have it.
To see him perform at the National Arts Festival on July 4, go to http://www.computicket.com/web/event/neal_collins_a_game_apart/148367625.