England 3 – 2 Scotland: Frankly Vulgar Matchday #3

Rickie Lambert, pictured here with giant tracksuited owl behind him. (Photo: Telegraph)

Rickie Lambert, pictured here with giant tracksuited owl behind him. (Photo: Telegraph)

Alan Partridge would describe this as a ruddy good football match. Thankfully for both you (the reader) and I (me), I’m not Alan Partridge, so I will have to spend the next 5 paragraphs describing this match without recourse to the word ‘ruddy’. Partridge aside, this was a bloody good football match and arguably the most entertaining friendly England have played in a long time. Much of the match was defined less by England than by their Scottish opponents who gave a seriously pugilistic account of themselves here at Wembley. In fact, I’d written a long and elegiac match report about just how great Scotland were.

Then Rickie Lambert went all Roy of the Rovers on me.

Rickie Lambert scored his first goal, a powerfully directed header, for England yesterday with his first touch after coming on as a second half-substitute for Wayne Rooney. Rickie Lambert is 31 and not long ago had a job screwing lids on the top of jars of beetroot.

“I couldn’t get a club anywhere, I was training at Macclesfield without a contract and I didn’t have any money so I had to had to earn some by (working in) a factory. It was a beetroot factory. I don’t even like beetroot!” – Lambert

Now he is winning matches for England. Stories like Lambert’s are why football is the most popular sport in the world. Now before I get even more sentimental lets talk about Scotland, a country which is pretty difficult to get sentimental about unless you are noted ham actor and fascist, Mel ‘FREEEEEDOM’ Gibson.

International friendlies are usually an exercise in pointless corporate bullshit and incredibly boring football. The clear animosity felt by Scotland and their fans towards the English lifted this encounter into a far less dismal realm.

Manager Gordon Strachan who on the night looked like a cross between Boris Becker’s nan, a glazed ham and a giant walking wasp sting, has reinvigorated Scotland since he took the team over in January and this progression was clearly shown against England. Captain Scott Brown was a study in ferocity, bald and snapping like a turbo-charged turtle alongside his more cultured midfield partner James Morrison. Both were particularly dynamic and assertive in the opening half-hour, when Scotland had their best period in the game.

Joe Hart, clad in an embarrassing kit that made him look like an irradiated banana, was almost entirely at fault for Scotland’s first goal. It has to be worrying for both England and Manchester City that high-profile mistakes are becoming increasingly common for Hart. The aforementioned Morrison received a clearance from a Scottish corner and with Theo Walcott failing to even flail in the way of him, took a fairly straightforward shot from the edge of the box, straight in the direction of Hart who had to fuck up spectacularly in order to allow the ball past him and into the net. Which is exactly what he did.

The 20,000 Scots in Wembley duly went completely batshit, fuelled not only by the joy of taking the lead against the hated English but by an afternoon well spent doing this to Trafalgar Square:

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Furthermore those 20,000 Jocks present yesterday managed to unequivocally shut that shite brass band up for most of the match – I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them on behalf of all right thinking English football fans everywhere for this unassuming service.

England started poorly and looked toothless, unable to make use of some intelligent running from Theo Walcott or Jack Wilshere’s ability to turn and beat players in tight spaces. Instead they relied on the rapidly calcifying Steven Gerrard to spray and wedge pointless sideways passes to Kyle Walker or Leighton Baines in areas where neither was able to threaten Scotland.

Gerrard might have his uses as a leader and a deliverer of lavish set-pieces but the fact he was made to look so unauthoritative by Scotland’s midfield may give Roy Hodgson doubts about whether Gerrard ought to automatically start for England should they qualify for next year’s World Cup.

England’s Lazarus act began in the 26th minute when a neat exchange between Rooney and Tom Cleverley fashioned a first proper chance for the home side. Moments later it was Cleverley’s supple pass that put Walcott in behind Steven Whittaker and despite a dodgy succession of touches, the Arsenal forward was able to finish smartly past McGregor.

England’s leveler was an injunction that ignited Rooney’s interest in the game, after he spent most of the opening half hour looking as angry as an old man who’s golfing holiday had been interrupted by his teenage daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. A clever interchange with Welbeck led to a shot that almost crept past McGregor, and a dubious offside decision late in the first half prevented him from scoring his 9th goal in his last 10 England appearances.

Kenny Miller’s turn and surging dispatchment gave Scotland the lead and hope of a profound victory in the second half; a goal notable for the dummy Miller sold Gary Cahill, a dummy that the Chelsea centre-half bought so thoroughly that he probably didn’t even ask for a receipt.

England were roused by this affront, like some great cantankerous sea beast brushed by a school of fish. The response was swift – Welbeck heading a classy Gerrard free kick into the net within five minutes of Miller scoring. England continued to clank through the gears, threatened occasionally by the running of Naismith and Miller, until Lambert got his improbable debut goal twenty minutes before the end to give England a tenuous win.

Promising for the Gordon Stachan’s men; Roy Hodgson will be hoping that his side can improve before the crucial World Cup qualifiers they face before the end of the year.

Frankly Vulgar offers to improve the Oscars – free of charge

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It’s February 24th 2013. It is time for the 85th Academy Awards. It is the night where Seth McFarlane tries his utmost not to make a joke about the other Oscar in the news at the moment. If thats not enough to make the academy bosses who run the show nervous then the prospect of ever declining viewing figures which even the introduction of The Official Oscars App™ can’t stop must be truly terrifying. Short of having the indomitable, ego-puncturing Ricky Gervais host the glitzy ceremony I have some suggestions for how the whole five hour process could be improved to the point where it doesn’t feel like waiting in a really well upholstered, exclusively staffed by abnormally beautiful people, GP’s waiting room.

I think the biggest problem is the awards themselves. After 85 years in service they desperately need either some reinforcements in the form of new awards or retirement altogether. There is no jeopardy watching Daniel Day Lewis win yet an another Oscar – just make him ‘Best Actor’ for the rest of his wonderful fucking life. Frankly the awards as they are now are so moribundly American (according to the dictionary I have here this means they are po-faced and un-ironic) that they need changing.

Still this has to be an evolution not a revolution (that would be too un-American), the new awards have to be positive – this isn’t the Razzies. Lets get the more obvious categories out of the way. The award for Best Picture has to change. I propose a Best ‘Best’ Picture category ad well as an award for Best ‘Worst’ Picture. It makes sense, honestly it does. The first category is for films that are genuinely good, of actual artistic merit. They’re usually independent-ish films that cost nothing or studio prestige pictures made to win awards. Whatever. ‘Best ‘Worst’ Picture’ – thats an oxymoron right? To quote Arnie – wrong. This award will go to some shit films, maybe some really shit films that at the same time are utterly brilliant. Best ‘Worst’ Picture caters for the cinematic Big Macs of this world – yes it’s unhealthy, actually it’s really terrible but fuck me it’s tasty and I could have one right now quite easily. This award snatches the initiative back from crowd pleasing award-ceremonies like that MTV thing. In general, and in a way that isn’t dissimilar to some kind of algorithm that I wouldn’t understand anyway (Pythagoras’ theorem?), the shitter a film is the more people who watch it – when these films get nominated these people are more like to watch your show. Thats maths. Poor old John Stuart Mill will be turning in his grave – but who’s going to care when viewing figures increase. Mill’s been dead for ages anyway. 

Best Nicholas Cage Picture – a self-explanatory category. Cage is an actor of such intense, brain-meltingly stupid braggadocio that he deserves his own category. Given that he seemingly always makes more than one film a year it will always be a competitive field. The criteria are as follows: the more fucked up Nic gets in the film, be it through intensive crack cocaine use, genre-defining fear of honey, anger at filing systems – whatever, the more fucked up he gets the more likely your film is to take gallop home with the gong at a speed a findus horse lasagne would find obscene. Cage must accept the award via video-link and he must be accompanied by one of his pet lizards for the duration of his acceptance speech.

Best ‘Zinger’ in a Motion Picture – this award will probably be something of a dud. Despite it being completely against Academy regulations it will probably be one by this zinger every year (at 0.19 in this vid):

Best British Thespian in a Villainous Role – again, Alan Rickman will probably win this every year, but its worth having if anything, just to nullify a common British criticism of the Oscars – ‘why don’t we win as much as we should’, something that is wheeled out every year even though we win boatloads of the little gold statuettes.  Maybe it is just my fecund imagination getting ahead of reality but I’m pretty sure there is always some nonce on BBC Breakfast or The One Show bleating and bemoaning the fact that ‘we Brits’ lost out. Well, Best British Thespian in a Villainous Role award is designed to silence them and to reinforce some time worn American stereotypes that refuses to die like shape-shifting alien in ‘The Thing’ (I didn’t make a horse meat joke here because I’ve already made one, but please note that I could of).

Best ‘that should be my fucking award you ****’ Reaction Face – like any show on television thats been around for far too long (think The Simpsons) the Oscars needs to develop a desperate, knowing and self-reverential parody award. Face it – most people only sit through the four hour dirge that the ceremony actually is hoping to see two of two things – Halle Berry doing a Janet Jackson or those reaction mug shots of the likes of James Cameron dying inside as their former spouse wins an award they would kill battalions of schoolchildren to use as a paperweight. Seeing as I couldn’t think of an award to honour ‘Nipple Slips’ the award for Best ‘that should be my fucking award you ****’ Reaction Face will have to do. The best thing about the award is that all the reactions of the nominee’s when it is given out will be 100% real, as nobody will actually want to win this one.

Finally, The Mel Gibson Career Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Daily Mail Online Sidebar. This is an award for those stars in the firmament who like crashing cars, snorting suspicious white powders and getting caught having affairs (oh Kristen HOW COULD YOU). Without you guys popping up on the Mail Online sidebar I would probably be a far more productive, happier human being. Sincere and heartfelt thanks for keeping me in my present state – wearing pyjamas, eating shite and not working on my special project proposal. Lohan, Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise – I salute you, you’re the real heroes. God bless them, and God bless America.

Enjoy the show…