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The Upton Park Disaster – What didn’t happen next

Patrick Crozier writes the editorial that The Times didn’t publish:

No right-thinking Englishman can fail to be shocked by the unspeakable events that took place at Upton Park on Wednesday. Wednesday 12th February 2003 will long be remembered as a day of national shame; the day when the flower of English manhood, opened a can of beer, sat down in front of the television and watched aghast as its champions, men they trusted, allowed themselves to be beaten by Australians at football.

There will be those, ignorant of the ways of the world, who will say “Hey, the Aussies beat us at cricket, rugby, tennis and just about anything else so why should we bothered about a game of football?” Oh Lord, have mercy on them for they know not what they do.

Football is far more than just another sport. Football is sport. All others are mere distractions. Literally. The whole purpose of inventing minor sports was to give undesirables something to do and Australians something to win at while we, silently and imperiously, continued to hog the main prize. Now, even that is under threat.

There have been worse times to have been an Englishman. Oh, hang about, there haven’t. But we have been humiliated before (remember Norway, remember Calais?) and we recovered then. The task now is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and prepare for the fightback. Quite simply we must show the World who’s boss.

We must begin by conducting a full enquiry into what happened. We must look at all aspects that led to this defeat with the intention of ensuring it never happens again. We must end the club versus country conflict. We must allow our champions to rest. We must consider whether it is time to rid ourselves of clapped out has-beens like David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen and find room for the young stars of tomorrow. We must put pride aside and scour the world for the coaching techniques and tactical savvy that will restore our game to its proper place. No stone must go unturned. No sacred cow unslaughtered.

And having restored our team we must right the wrong. We must put piffling concerns such as European Cups, European Championships and Gulf Wars to one side. We must challenge the Australians to a series of footballing tests (perhaps we could call it a Test Series). Anytime, anywhere, any number of games. Let them choose the ground so that when we beat them none shall doubt our superiority – just like the Canadians did in ’72.

There are dark days ahead but we can take inspiration from the words of Field Marshal Haig in 1918: “With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the freedom of mankind alike depend on the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.”

Patrick Crozier

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6 comments to The Upton Park Disaster – What didn’t happen next

  • Paul Platou

    I think the result needs perspective…it was only a friendly and a great way to let a number of young guns get their first cap. Though it is annoying that the winning team is overachieving Australia, I did half expect the result and felt sorry for fans who bought tickets.

    I agree that our champions need a rest and the PL needs a break over Christmas.
    On the subject of Norway, it is not only England’s bogey team. They have played 3 matches against Brazil:

    1st match- Drawn
    2nd match 4 -2 to Norway
    3rd match 2 – 1 to Norway (World Cup Match in 98)

    Anyway, maybe some good will come out in that club managers may back down on the club v country thing.

    Paul Platou

  • Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,

    Oy, Oy, Oy.

    (Actually, I normally cringe with embarassment when my countrymen do that. I was once at a cricket match where the some members of the Barmy Army were carefully deconstructing just precisely what it was that led to Australians chanting like that. It was quite amusing).

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    Look at it this way: The English did no better at the the last World Cup than — the Americans! 😉

    (Actually, at least the Americans outplayed Germany in the quarterfinals and got screwed out of a penalty shot. England were a man up on Brazil and were still utterly outplayed.)

  • Controversial! Don’t forget that half of these guys had their minds on Cup and Champions League games and the other half were an U21 side who’d never even played together – ever. It was the Macedonia result that really mattered.

  • zack mollusc

    Now that ‘we’ are proven to be crap at all sports, can we please stop wasting so much tv and print space over them?

  • marc webster

    You will, in time, exact revenge on the Socceroos. I would think that being called Socceroos is punishment enough, but I am reasonably confident that England would win 8 out of 10 matches against Australia.
    Once you’ve exorcised those demons, you can turn your attention to the US. I’m pretty sure they’ll pass England in the next FIFA rankings. I will enjoy that immensely.
    And get real: how can you talk about English football humiliation and NOT mention a certain World Cup loss in, oh, 1950?