Ruptured Achilles’ heel is the final nail in England’s World Cup coffin

15 03 2010

Beckham, Terry, Cole…injuries and melodramas expose England’s Achilles’ heel

As the Greek myth of the Trojan War goes, it was the heel of the great Achilles – pierced by a poisoned arrow fired by Paris – that killed the apparently invulnerable warrior. Now in England’s World Cup campaign, one that seemed so promising six months ago, it is the stricken heel of David Beckham that has all but killed off the nation’s chances of success in South Africa.

England's Achilles' heel has been exposedIf 2009 had been a perfect year for England and Fabio Capello, 2010 will so far be remembered with anguish and dismay. It has taken less than three months to derail England’s previously impeccable World Cup campaign. For all the invincibility perpetuated by the form of Wayne Rooney, it cannot be disguised that England’s Achilles’ heel has been left exposed by unrelenting fitness set-backs and public crises.

In the qualifying season Capello equipped the team with a raw pace and precision befitting of a world finals favourite. The pieces of the puzzle seemed to be falling into place. England scored more than any other European team in qualifying with a coherent, dynamic set-up that brought the best out of every individual.

The Italian even went so far as to say he knew who his no. 1 would be in goal, presumably David James given he played the majority of the qualies. The same could arguably be said for his thoughts on how the rest of the team would shape up.

Heskey and Rooney, with Gerrard interjecting from an advanced left position seemed to crack the ‘square peg in a round hole’ enigma of the Liverpool captain and bring the best out of Wazza, England’s most devastating weapon. Lampard and Barry developed an effective partnership in the engine room and Ferdinand, Terry and Ashley Cole made up 3/4s of an impenetrable back four. Doubts remained over the right flank but there were plenty of viable options.

Team morale was buoyant and yet the national team had an air of composed assurance instilled by the Italian’s machismo.

England's qualifying campaign could not have gone betterNow what a difference a superinjunction makes. The revelations (not like everyone was really that surprised) about Terry’s affairs and unrepentant betrayal of an England team-mate sent shock waves through the camp and stripped him of the armband. Shortly after being cut down by a broken ankle that will jeopardise his fitness for the summer ‘Cashley’ Cole’s popularity took another dramatic plunge after having salvaged respect for impressive displays on the pitch.

Wayne Bridge, the most experienced if not reliable back-up to Cole at left-back, backed out of deputising in the Chelsea man’s absence. No one is convinced about who should start in goal let alone be on the plane. Ferdinand has barely appeared all season due to his vulnerable vertebrae; and now one of the only truly talismanic player in the projected squad has cried off to Finland after rupturing that mythical weak spot on his left heel.

His experience – whether you think he would have played every minute in this summer’s tournament or just made up the numbers on the training pitch – would have been invaluable for the squad in South Africa. He has been through everything on the international stage from bearing the expectancy of a nation to bearing the burden of defeat; from his role in redemption in 2002 to reliability in 2006 he has embodied England’s pride and passion from that first cap to his 115th.

Beckham injury It must be acknowledged that England’s hopes are not entirely dashed, yet. Players are rediscovering form and fitness at a crucial time and with Rooney in the form of his life anything is possible. He is capable of inspiring the team around him to excel (just look at how his club are doing).

However, England’s vulnerability has been exposed as far more extensive than thought when qualification was secured in Wembley last September. That 23-man squad will be hobbling to South Africa, a World Cup most expected would go furthest in alleviating 44 years of hurt.





Twitter and the twit: How the John Terry affair has granted the press their freedom

1 02 2010

The JT “superinjunction” has redressed the balance between privacy law and freedom of expression.

If it weren’t for Twitter and a media conscious judge, John Terry’s latest indiscretions with Vanessa Peronccel and his betrayal of Wayne Bridge may have remained buried under paper work and bound by red tape.

Instead these revelations have been splashed across the front and back pages, calling into question the future role of the England football captain, the moral code of team mates and the responsibilities befitting a millionaire role model. Despite this melodrama, what will leave a lasting legacy is in fact how the social media phenomenon of Twitter enabled this to happen and returned freedom of expression to the press.

Wayne Bridge and John Terry as England team mates While Terry tried to keep his affair quiet and his lawyers applied successfully for an injunction to gag the press from reporting details, the judge in question, Lord Justice Tugendhat would have considered the merits of privacy and interests of the public.

The European convention on human rights, article 8 – respect for private and family life – and article 10, which defends freedom of expression understandably made this matter a family affair. With past cases, such as between the News of the World and Formula 1 boss Max Mosley over images of his Nazi orgy; or between the Guardian and Carter Ruck over the Trafigura affair, the press have been found in breach of privacy. As Marurice Chittenden of the Sunday Times wrote: “Until now, 8 was giving 10 a thrashing.”

Subsequently a superinjunction was ordered against reporting details, the press were left flummoxed in having to keep this quiet and Terry could smugly go about his business. That is, until Twitter entered the fray and blew the debate wide open.

Google and Twitter ignored the superinjunction:

Tweets from while the superinjunction was in force

TwitterTweets were not bound by this super-injunction as authors had no way of knowing this order was in place. Gossip and rumours were unchecked on the social networking site as shown by a simple Google search for “John Terry” that produced these tweets from while the superinjunction was in force at 11.15 on Friday before it was lifted at 2pm.

The judge overseeing the case understood this information was widely accessible to the public rendering an injunction to merely protect Terry’s sponsorship dealings as inadequate justification to gag the press. The Sunday Times championed “Tugendhat of the Inner Templar” as the protector of freedoms of expression.

On Friday Tugendhat reviewed the case and, realising that anyone with a computer could find even more sordid allegations about the affair just a mouse click away, lifted the injunction. He added: “Freedom to live as one chooses is one of the most valuable freedoms. But so is the freedom to criticise – within the limits of the law – the conduct of other members of society as being socially harmful, or wrong.”

If the super part of the injunction can be lifted, revealing the fact that someone has sought an injunction, it exposes the person to gossip on the internet and elsewhere.

The former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf was also reported in the Sunday Times as recognising the significance of press freedoms. He said: “Any interference with freedom of speech has to be looked at with great care and suspicion. Terry was trying to stop people from talking about something that was already in the public domain.”

Since then there have been increasing reports on Twitter that Terry was involved in encouraging his mistress Perroncel to have an abortion:

Father of twins and Dad of the Year in June 2009‘Vishaldutta’ said: “John Terry has been s***ing Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend. Got her pregnant and she had abortion.”

‘asMaestro’ wrote: “Dad of the Year John Terry…forced her to have an abortion. Wow. This is the England captain?”

Until now I have been slightly sceptical of the role Twitter has to play for journalism. On one hand it provides an endless resource for breaking news and an insight into the privileged lives of the celebrities who use (or misuse) it. It also allows papers and news outlets greater opportunity to reach their readers.

But, like how these 3D glasses have suddenly become fashionable again, many feel those incessant tweets all day long were merely up-starts indulging in the latest gimmick of our tech-addicted generation. And now “citizen journalists” are getting all the scoops, making on-the-patch reporting less rewarding and all the more redundant.

The limited restraints on citizen journalism enabled through Twitter will mean information is rarely kept secret for long. The growing popularity of social networking can afford columnists and editorials more license to debate issues of public interest. Thus making it harder for those in the public eye to keep their skeletons locked away in their cupboards.

At a time when media and national empires have come to blows over restrictions of censorship abroad, Tugendhat has overruled the strict regulations incurred in this country by the Max Mosley ruling, setting a precedent weighted in favour of freedom of expression and the press.

Mark Stephens, the media lawyer, said: “As a result of a failed attempt to gag the world the lawyers have made a drama out of a crisis. It is an object lesson.” Fundamentally, it was Terry’s misdemeanour. Citizen journalists exposed the crime. Tugendhat called the felon to account. And Twitter served as the vehicle for justice.

I used to think Twitter was for twits. That was until I saw its full journalistic capacity to light up the shady parts of this world and realised its role in exposing the biggest twit of all in JT.





Labour smear and Jake Humphrey cheer – it’s all a bit unsettling

22 04 2009

Ok, so I’ve been away for a while. Call it busy, call it lazy, call it what you will, but I’m now back on song with a few fresh ideas in the blogging pipeline.

Recently I have been addressing the whole “need experience to get experience” hoopla with a week-long work placement at the weekly Wakefield Express newspaper. More on that will come soon…as if you can hardly wait.

I have been storing up opinions on a couple other issues lately. Firstly, this whole sleaze/smear scandal that Labour have conjured up. Damien McBride made an inspired decision in using political bloggers and tweeters, such as Derek Draper, to spread Chinese whispers and churn the Whitehall rumour mill – this whole social media thing is all so suddenly in Vogue – yet isn’t it all just a bit petty. The voting public certainly seem to think so. What has come of our government when Mr Obama is preaching transparent policies while Mr Brown is hiring blokes sitting in their dressing gowns on their iMacs to dredge up Mr Cameron’s latest STI check-up.

Secondly, to return fleetingly to the sporting arena, is the dumbfounding new Formula 1 season and coverage by the BBC. Jake Humphrey, formerly of the CBeebies, will be better known to toddlers and those whose daily newsbites are fulfilled by the wholesome Newsround coverage – I mean Lizo Mzimba is hardly a hard-hitting Paxman or a dependable national treasure in the guise of Sir Trev. Yet he has been hand picked to front the channel’s show in its first season since high-jacking ITV’s coverage.

Humphrey: uninspiring

He successfully douses the sparks created by that famous Fleetwood Mac intro music on Sunday mornings and his adolescent face “tingling with excitement” before what is sure to be another “thrilling ride” tends to put me off the whole spectacle entirely and question why I gave up my lie-in at all. I’d be suprised if he even has his provisional yet. Perhaps this decision is evident of the fears the BBC have faced when the likes of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand do what they do best. It must be admitted this is where Humphrey’s whole “wouldn’t hurt a fly" image can come in handy. I’d like to see what dirt the Labour smear squadron could dig up on him.

In terms of the season itself, the “spanner-in-the-works” performances of McLaren and Ferrari and the whole diffuser debate have completely gone over my head. It is as if the Premier League’s Chief Exec, Richard Scudamore was to banish the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba, Lampard, and a cohort of other world class professionals from Manchester United and Chelsea, to the stands to sit out the first 20 games.

Meanwhile, the MK Dons of the league (the manufactured side is the closest representation to the new Brawn GP team assembled moments before the opening weekend) have been allowed to run amuck and have turned the sport on its head. Ferrari hasn’t even picked up a single point yet and McLaren are having to resort to all manner of under-hand tactics to get close – oh wait, they did that last year. Still, some things never change.

So, there is a little release of pent-up opinion blurted out for anyone to stumble across. I hope you enjoy. Better still, lets draw up a petition to get Humphrey returned to his comfort zone of presenting In the Night Garden or something, where his real fans will get to appreciate his true talents. Maybe Jeremy Clarkson could be brought in to spice things up a little and offend some prime time viewers. That’s always fun to see.

And this is always worth another look