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Don't Make A Whipping Boy Of Green


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Even as I type these words, I can hear the scraping of a thousand knives being hastily sharpened in the offices of England’s national newspapers. By the time I’ve hit ‘send’ on my email, be assured that this country’s sports editors will have plunged them all into Rob Green’s back. Football can be very cruel.

First things first, it was an awful, awful mistake. Green can’t blame a bobble off the pitch, as Paul Robinson did back in 2007, he can’t blame the ball, he can only blame himself, and he won’t be the only one. There is no excuse for a professional goalkeeper who fails to control a shot like that, and even less for someone who somehow contrives to let it spill over the line.

But this is an occupational hazard for a goalkeeper. Every footballer makes mistakes. The only problem is that when a goalkeeper gaffes, it usually results in a goal. Late on in the game, Peter Crouch manage to spank a simple header miles over the bar by swinging the back of his skull at it. A top professional making an inexcusable technical error. But will anyone remember it? No.

They won’t remember it because we never remember the sins of outfield players. We don’t remember Steven Gerrard missing an open goal in a must-win game against Russia. We don’t remember Rio Ferdinand being outmuscled by a diminutive Japanese striker. We forget because there is no obvious result of their error. Green will not be so fortunate.

There is something dark in the English mentality, a twisted demand for a scapegoat to hide the flaws of others. But Green is not the reason that England failed to win. They dropped points because they weren’t sharp enough in front of goal, because they let their supremacy slip after a bright start and because they weren’t good enough to capitalise on a poor American defence.

This performance had positives. Emile Heskey’s display, his miss notwithstanding, was another riposte to those who fail to see what he brings to a team. Gerrard’s tenacity, both in front of goal and, 80 yards back, defending his own. The array of chances that were created in the closing stages of the game, a far cry from the lethargic meanderings of the McClaren era and the last days of Sven Goran Eriksson. Above all, it wasn’t a defeat. When you open your tournament against the strongest other team in the group, sometimes it’s ok not to win. Algeria and Slovenia, while they must be respected, will not present as much of a threat.

There is a time for blame and a time for inquests, but it is not now. Green made a mistake. We all do. Let’s not sacrifice the confidence, and potentially, the career of another player simply to obscure the wider issues. England could have done better, but they could also have done much worse. And there’s a long way to go yet.