The Warm-Up: England’s striker crisis, transfer window rumblings and the hand of the devil
Jack Lang takes time out from slamming his head into his desk to make The Warm-Up great again...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Ingerlund, lund, lund
We’re knee-deep in the international break, so it’s no great surprise that tomorrow’s back pages are dominated by low-wattage stories about a low-wattage team with a low-wattage manager ahead of a low-wattage game on Friday.
First up, there’s Important Striker News™: it appears Harry Kane is not match-fit for England v Scotland. Funny, that, considering he’s just had a seven-week spell on the sidelines.
The man set to profit from this entirely predictable turn of events? Universally popular goal collector Wayne Rooney, himself in the throes of his worst season as a professional footballer.
There was a point a few months ago, before Euro 2016, when the Three Lions seemed to have an embarrassment of riches in attack. Kane was on fire. Rooney was still broadly functional. Jamie Vardy was treating Premier League defences with the respect he usually reserves for casino-goers of Asian descent. Even Daniel Sturridge was looking sharp between lay-offs for stubbed toes and tickly coughs.
Now, the whole thing’s in flames. Someone dig out Andy Carroll’s phone number, will you?
England's striker Wayne Rooney (C) attends a team training at Tottenham Hotspur's football training facility in EnfieldAFP
There are also some quotes from Adam Lallana, who thrillingly outlines the difference between club football and the international game:
“What you don’t have at England is the time that you get at club level," he said. "You can’t prepare for a campaign as you would for a league over the course of the season. It’s not possible, so it’s a different challenge.”
Three days down, nine to go.
Liverpool's English midfielder Adam Lallana celebrates after scoringAFP
Alive and Mkhing
The Warm-Up brings heartening news from the outskirts of Jose Mourinho’s scorched-earth hinterland: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been found alive and well.
The Armenian, very much the new Juan Mata in all manner of ways, had been missing for three months. But the search party was called off on Wednesday when, in a remarkable display of human endurance, he mustered the strength to say a few words at a UNICEF event.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)AFP
“It is true that I get little time on the field,” he said, presumably as a police officer nodded encouragingly and camera bulbs flashed.
“But I am not going to give in. I went a long way to play for Manchester United, so nothing will prevent me from achieving my dream. I will not retreat. I will find the strength to reach my goal.”
Remarkable courage. Godspeed, Micky.
Winter is coming
We’re not even halfway through November and yet bitter experience tells us that two of humanity’s most corrupted, overblown phenomena are already just around the corner.
One is the commercial carnival that surrounds Christmas: you can tell all hell is about to break loose because the idiotweb is already chuntering on about some John Lewis advert. It’s yet to be broadcast but is somehow already making the The Warm-Up feel nauseous.
The other, of course, is the transfer window. Yup, here comes the hurricane of speculative stories, right on schedule: Chelsea after Marco Verratti! Liverpool eyeing the ‘Iranian Messi’! Wayne Rooney both definitely going and definitely not going to China!
Strap yourselves in, friends; it’s going to be a long few months.
Brazil play Argentina tonight, so let’s take a little detour down memory lane to revisit the dramatic 1995 Copa America quarter-final between the two countries.
The Seleção won it on penalties, but only after a late equaliser by Tulio Maravilha, who clearly used his arm to control a cross from the right before firing home. The incident was dubbed the ‘hand of the devil’ by the Argentine press – an endearingly knowing reference to that Diego Maradona goal against England nine years earlier.
Dear Alex Chick,
But my interest was piqued enough to tempt me onto YouTube and now I have spent the last [redacted to preserve author’s dignity] hours watching clips of insufferable frat boys LITERALLY THROWING BOTTLES OF WATER AROUND and am totally, irreparably addicted.
So thanks, Alex, for broadening the range of procrastination options available to me this week. You really shouldn’t have.
Regular Thursday-morning readers (hi, mum!) will know by now that The Warm-Up regards the publication of a Marina Hyde football column as a week-shaping event.
No World Cup qualifiers in Europe just yet, but fear not, for we have a bumper set of South American fixtures on the slate for Thursday night. Colombia v Chile kicks things off at 8:30pm, before Uruguay v Ecuador (11pm), Paraguay v Peru and Venezuela v Bolivia (both 11:30pm).
The big one, though is that Brazil v Argentina clash at 11:45pm. It’s samba v salsa, churrasco v assado and, er, Paulinho v Ramiro Funes Mori, all rolled into one.