THE Diary is not ashamed to admit that we were cheering for England on Wednesday night and relishing the prospect of them playing in a first World Cup final since MCMLXVI.

They simply ran out of steam though, against a better and much more battle-hardened Croatia team.

The aftermath and inquest into England’s tactics has already begun and will play out over the rest of the summer, although there is optimism that the core of Southgate’s team will get better as they get older.

Might we be permitted, though, to recommend our own strategy for improving England’s World Cup prospects? Quite simply, there needs to be a radical overhaul of those wretched people the BBC and ITV have on their expert panels. They are all worth a goal to England’s opposition every time they open their mouths.

Do none of them pause to consider the effect that repeating the phrase “It’s Coming Home” has on the opposition? Luka Modric said as much after Wednesday’s game.

Effectively, these bampots are espousing that English arrogance and sense of entitlement that vexes even the most committed Anglophiles like yer auld World Cup Da. Here’s our six-point plan:

  • Sack Gary Lineker and issue lifetime studio bans to Alan Shearer, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Neville.
  • Banish Ian Wright to the Falkland Islands for the duration of every international football tournament during his lifetime.
  • Issue on-the-spot fines to public figures who utter the phrase: “It’s Coming Home”.
  • Require Ofcom to impose hefty fines and suspensions for radio and television stations who allow their presenters to utter this phrase.
  • All Murdoch newspapers plus the Express and Daily Mail to employ Scots, Irish or Welsh sports editors.
  • Skinner and Baddiel to be hauled before the magistrato to answer for historic crimes against the common good and for handicapping England’s tournament chances.

At a stroke you will thus deprive the opposition of some of their most potent weapons.

Don't adjust your expectations...

AT least England reach World Cups and European Championships. It’s been 20 years since Scotland last qualified for a tournament and there is little to suggest our exile will end any time soon.

Everyone but the English now accept that Scotland invented the game in the 15th century during the reign of King James IV. Sadly, the game in Scotland has failed to evolve much beyond this era.

The new season will see our “elite” division permit a quarter of its clubs to use artificial surfaces.

Being Scottish, such surfaces are to be found at the car-boot-sale end of the market. Cows would refuse to graze on them. As such, they reward the nation’s ploughmen and hammer-throwers.

There’s a reason why no Scottish referees were permitted to be anywhere near Russia 2018. Our officials exist in a football parallel universe where actual bodily harm and full-scale assaults are ignored on the field of play.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Football Association and the bodies representing the professional leagues are unique in world football for having overseen an unbroken period of abject failure since the 1960s when Scottish clubs, including the likes of Dundee, Kilmarnock, Hibs and Dunfermline, regularly defeated the best clubs in Europe.

To witness children’s football in Scotland is a depressing experience. Your eye is regularly taken away from the lads on the park to the antics of an assortment of feral male adults on the touchline re-enacting scenes from Platoon.

On the evidence of Russia 2018 Scotland would not be able to live with any of the 32 nations who qualified for the World Cup.

In terms of fitness, technique and tactics each of them are far superior to Scotland.

Anyone who thinks that Alex McLeish has the toolkit to bridge that gap is delusional.

Top chib merchants #7 and #8

OWING to the Diary’s slight miscalculation, we are having to include two of our favourite eye-watering incidents today.


SADLY for captain Rattan and an Argentina team that outplayed England at the World Cup quarter-finals in 1966, an incompetent referee enraged them with a series of favourable decisions to England.

Big Tony and his chums rather lost the rag. His long walk off the park after his inevitable dismissal is a classic of the genre: languid, stylish and possessing all the studied insouciance of Dean Martin.

We salute him.


THE Dutch are generally credited with inventing the concept of Total Football, but committed students of the game know it was actually Celtic’s Lisbon Lions under the tutelage of Jock Stein.

Since then, the insufferably smug and peace-loving Dutch have travelled far on a reputation for silky, free-flowing football, when much of the time they are just fannying about. In the final at South Africa 2010, they encountered a far more technically superior Spain side.

Unable to stomach being bettered in the finer arts of the game the Dutch sought out the refuge of ordinary: they set aboot the Spaniards. None more so than Nigel de Jong whose attempt to perform live open heart surgery on Alonso’s chest with his studs will live long in the memory.