TV View: Harry Kane takes the groundhogginess out of the day
Upbeat nature of the BBC studio at odds with the pictures coming from Volgograd
England’s Harry Kane celebrates with team-mates after scoring their first goal in the World Cup Group G game against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
Huw “Welsh Dragon” Edwards almost choking when he had to read out the news; Theresa May saluting the team in the House of Commons; Dele Alli waving from the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside the Windsor gang; Eric Dier’s image etched in to the White Cliffs of Dover; Raheem Sterling’s face on the £10 note; and Harry Kane saying “eh, obviously it’s a dream come true, obviously”.
Then, with a life-size image of Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft positioned just to the left of the panel, Gary Lineker talked about how good it was there wasn’t too much pressure being placed on this England team, that expectations were modest. Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand nodded enthusiastically.
Lest their audience be overcome with positivity, though, the Beeb then balanced these dreamy imaginings with a rather mournful piece featuring four former England managers, all of them reflecting on their spells in charge of the national team much as they might reminisce about a time they had gangrene.
“In my short reign,” Sam Allardyce started, but he was never allowed to finish, his reign lasting a single game. “This country should be embarrassed by how it goes about destroying people,” he added, giving you the sense that he hasn’t quite yet acknowledged that he destroyed himself.
Fabio Capello was chilled enough, it being just another gig, but Sven-Goran Eriksson looked roughly 80 years older than he is, while Roy Hodgson appeared to have just seen a ghost (which he kind of had).
Martin Keown was already booking his spot on The Mall to view Dele Alli waving from the Buckingham Palace balcony, Harry Kane’s 11th-minute goal leaving him anticipating the opening of the floodgates.
But for seasoned (aka old) England-at-the-World-Cup watchers, this was the Groundhoggiest of Days, the confidence draining from them almost as quickly as it departed Martin’s body once a lead was taken and the opposition was plucky enough to fight back.
“They can play – and pass the ball,” Martin conceded as soon as Tunisia started playing and passing the ball.
And then the penalty.
“I’m not sure I could have played in today’s football,” Martin sighed when Kyle Walker’s arm bashed in to Ben Youssef’s face and VAR pointed to the spot.
The mood in the BBC studio at half-time was a combination of defiant upbeat-ed-ness and a touch of dejection about the lads not being seven goals up.
“Got the goal and I thought ’ere we go,” said Shearer, “but . . .”
“We’re much the better side,” said Lampard, “we’re the most energised team in the tournament, alongside Mexico,” said Rio. But.
But, but, but, the story of England’s World Cup lives, really. And as the second half struggled on, you couldn’t but think, ’ere we go, a scruffy last-minute winner from Tunisia and there’d be front page headlines about the Nerf balling during training being the start of where it all went wrong. And the papers who’d welcome Raheem Sterling having a happy World Cup as much as they’d embrace a second Brexit referendum would blame it all on his tattoo.
But then a funny thing happened. England got an injury-time winner, from Harry Kane, obviously, and the Groundhogginess had been taken out of the day. “We did not panic,” said Martin, which wasn’t entirely true, but job done, all the same.
“Overall I would say that was a pretty exceptional performance,” said Gary after an injury-time win over Tunisia, and neither Al nor Rio nor Lamps laughed. Rio was already seeing Dele on that balcony, “there’ll be teams out there who’ll say, ‘oooh, we don’t want to come up against them’.”
The giggling you might have heard in the background possibly emanated from Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. Still, though, England are up and running. Eric Dier’s image isn’t yet etched in to the White Cliffs of Dover, but we’re not ah blessing any more.