A blog by Patrick Crozier

June 28, 2004

Musings on Euro 2004
Patrick Crozier

Is international football becoming a young man's game (so to speak)?

Look who the stars have been: Rooney, Ronaldo, that bloke from Switzerland who swiped Rooney's youngest scorer record. Look who's underperformed: Beckham, Figo, Owen. OK, maybe at 24 Owen is not that old but, still, he was better at 18.

I hate England fans

Well, not myself, of course, (that would be self-loathing) but are there any other bunch of fans who so routinely chant: "if it wasn't for the English you'd be Krauts." or boo other people's national anthems? I cringe at things like this. And if we are such a bunch of bores how come we are so economically successful?

What is to be done?

I think if I were an England player I would play for the opposition, or refuse to play at all. But I'm not in that position. Support someone else? I have thought of founding the English Germany Supporters Association - just to make the point. Though that would be hard - especially if the two teams just so happened to meet. And, anyway, isn't that tarring a lot of people with the same brush? For every moronic England fan there's the perfectly decent, respecter of other cultures, good egg who just happens to be rather quiet about it all.

How to experience penalty shoot outs.

First of all, accept that this has nothing to do with football.

Turn off the TV

Get your coat

Go for a walk

Listen in. That night (on a quiet residential street) I heard: "Fucking hell Beckham". I heard one or two cheers and then silence. No one was coming out on to the street to celebrate. This didn't look good. But I did hear some loud cheering from one household - the one with the Portuguese flag in the window. And then cars started to drive by. No great cheering there either. By then I knew we'd lost.

Don't blame the ref

On the train the other night a perfectly ordinary ie sober chap started up a conversation with me about the game. "Bloody ref" or something.

I don't know how many people were watching the Denmark-Czechland game. Urs Meier (the referee for England) was the fourth official. And every time he did anything (which for a fourth official isn't much) he got booed. Work that one out.

Frankly, if you can't accept that referees make mistakes (and I have no great opinion here) then you have no business playing, participating in or even watching the sport.

And anyway, I think Portugal also had a pretty good shout for a goal. When Ashley Cole (I think) kicked the ball off the line... well, let's put it this way: I don't think it was any longer on the line.

Looking on the bright side

We are the only team to have made it to the quarter finals of both Euro 2004 and the most recent World Cup.

And the boys did get back into the game. Lampard's goal was one of the greatest ever. They were knackered. In Rooney, they had lost their best player. They had been defending non-stop for 110 minutes. They had seen their game plan (of defending a 1-0 lead) crumble as the Portuguese reversed the deficit. And yet, they still created the chance and Lampard had the presence of mind to coolly control the ball prior to putting it in the back of the net. It is a fantastic testament to the sheer grit of that team.

They managed to put away four out of five penalties.

Looking on the gloomy side

That was our best chance. Beckham, Owen, Gerrard, Rooney, Campbell, Neville, Cole. Great players. Some of whom are starting to age. And we had Eriksson who has worked wonders. If not this year then never. Or, maybe, I'm just getting old.

The England mystery

Some of the less emotional observers are spinning this line:

England lost because they were tired.

They were tired because they spent the whole time defending

They spent the whole time defending because they couldn't keep hold of the ball.

Ergo (though no-one ever says this) if they learn to hold the ball they'll start to win things.

(Incidentally, I do have some sympathy with the players. During the Portugal game, whenever and England player did get the ball, I did find myself asking what I would have done with it. The answer was almost invariably hoof it up the pitch - there was no other alternative.)

Question: can they hold the ball? They don't seem to be able to. This has been the exact same problem again and again for England - especially in recent years. But that's just when wearing an England shirt. Can they hold the ball when playing for their clubs? I don't know. If the answer's "no" there then we've got no chance. In which case...

Why worry?

If England can't win under any circumstances isn't this a rather good thing? Instead of sending teams to international tournaments weighed down with a nation's expectations, instead we can send teams whose only ambition is to enjoy themselves. And perhaps, we would then stand a better chance. Jack Charlton used to tell his Irish team to go out there and enjoy themselves. And look at the results he achieved. Maybe, this could be a sneaky way of actually winning something a la Denmark in 1992. Or perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself there.

June 19, 2004

All restrictions on freedom have bad effects
Patrick Crozier

I do not tend to distinguish between the various methods that government has of coercing us be they levying taxes, imposing bans or imposing regulations. But I appreciate many people do.

So, why don't I make much of a distinction? Firstly, because they are all restrictions on freedom and my empirical observation is that freedom works much better than unfreedom. Secondly, it is my observation that none of the restrictions on freedom (in whatever form they might take) that I have ever studied in any detail could be said to work particularly well an so, therefore, I tend to assume that none of the other ones work particularly well either.

June 18, 2004

Is the European Championship the world's greatest sporting tournament?
Patrick Crozier

Now, if that doesn't raise a few hackles then I don't know what will. But I think there is a case.

The Olympics is absurd. Drug-riven, bloated, boring and possessing far too many idiotic events. Is a gold in the women's modern pentathlon really equivalent to a gold in the men's 100m?

The World Cup is also well on its way to absurdity. There are too many teams. That means it takes too long and also, that the draw gets buggered up. In 2002 the most important game ended up taking place at the quarter final stage. The only good tournaments take place in Europe. Anywhere else and it's simply too hot.

By contrast the European Championship is short, compact, of a higher quality and produces better sporting drama.

But are there, perhaps, a few tournaments that I have been neglecting? I think we can rule out the Rugby World Cup immediately. Countries in which rugby is the No.1 sport: 1. New Zealand; 2. Er, that's it. The list where it is the No.2 sport is probably just as short.

I think North American readers will accept that the sheer parochialness of the World Series, Stanley Cup and SuperBowl rules them out of contention.

But what about the Cricket World Cup? International. A big deal in some really important countries. Maybe, just maybe…

England 3 Switzerland 0
Patrick Crozier

"Good result, poor performance". I've heard that a few times over the last day or so.


Has anyone considered the possibility that England actually played really rather well?

Look at the facts:

a) we won
b) Switzerland didn't really look like scoring

"But what about possession? Look how we kept on giving the ball away." The assumption being that possession makes prizes. But is this true?

After all, who needs possession? Possession is nothing without penetration. And England are brilliant at penetration. In Gerrard and Beckham they have two of the best passers of the ball anywhere and in Owen and Rooney they have two players who can run the legs of almost any defence.

When they played Greece, Portugal had bags of possession. But to what effect?

I would even go so far as to suggest that giving the opposition the ball is a plus point for England. France had lots of the ball against us. What happened? For most of the game they achieved nothing and we came as close as you can to going two up. Ditto Switzerland. Ditto Germany (as far as I can remember).

I think Eriksson has worked this out. He has realised that as an international manager he can't work on players' skills and there's not much he can do about their teamwork either. All he can do is take what he is given, keep the guys fit and give them some self-belief. And encourage them to play the game they know. If that happens to be the long-ball game then so be it.

The France result may well be a blessing in disguise. I think it plays brilliantly into Eriksson's hands. Everyone has now seen England beaten. And everyone knows that beaten teams don't win tournaments, er, except Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, Holland in 1988 and Denmark in 1992.

And anyway if England weren't convincing who were? France? They could have lost both games. Italy? Oh my God. Holland? Sheesh. The only two teams who have looked good so far are Germany and Greece - neither of which are going to win the tournament (please).

June 16, 2004

The questionable assumption behind safety regulations
Patrick Crozier

Whenever a politician (or other) proposes or defends a safety regulation he is essentially making the statement that the safety level achieved by the free market is insufficient and that, therefore, the state must intervene.

To which the question ought to be: how would he know?

Safety is an individual thing. We all have our own individual idea of how much safety we might want. The peculiar thing is that this seems to vary according to time and circumstances. Young men, it would appear, have very little concern for their safety - why else do so many of them succeed in killing themselves in road accidents? Many of us seek out potentially risky activities like sky-diving simply because they are risky.

And because safety is an individual thing it is quite impossible to state that one level is the right level. It will be right for some and wrong for others.

The other point to make is that safety (like most other things) is a relative and not an absolute. We compromise our safety when we take into account other factors such as cost and usefulness.

Having said that, it is still perfectly possible for the market to get it wrong and find itself providing a service that might be biased towards cost (or some other factor) at the expense of safety when in fact people would be quite happy to pay more.

But if that is the case then it is likely that the market will fill the gap.

June 14, 2004

The market will provide
Patrick Crozier

No, that's not quite right. The market is likely to provide. Why? Because, if there is a better product ie compromise out there, given all the factors, then people will buy it. And whoever provides it will make money.

June 09, 2004

In search of bad regulations
Patrick Crozier

Can anyone out there think of any good examples of regulations buggering things up? What I am looking for is clear examples of regulations doing harm rather than examples of regulations where we think they did or are doing harm.

I ask because so far I've drawn a complete blank. So far the only decent one I have come up with is Portuguese rent control which has had a disastrous impact on the housing stock. The only other example I could come up with was the 5mph limit in the UK which effectively killed off the British motor industry before it even got started. But I don't really want to use that one because that gets into the whole "car is evil" debate which I don't really want to enter just yet.

I am also not looking for outright bans like Prohibition as I think in the eyes of the general public and the neutrals who might read this site that there is a distinction.

Surely, there are a few more out there?

June 08, 2004

How do you know if something is a problem?
Patrick Crozier

I know that sounds like a really weird question but bear with me. Let me give an example. A couple of weeks ago I was watching some TV programme and it mentioned the "problem" of overcrowding on the railways. Now, at the time I wrote an article criticising the use of the word "overcrowding" especially the "over" bit. My point, then, as with so many other things is that passenger comfort is a factor relative to others and not absolute. I have made this point more generally elsewhere.

Having said that I still feel that passenger space is a "problem". But how do I know that? Because people complain? They're always complaining. I could say that death is a "problem" but what's the point? It's (so far, at least) inevitable. Right now, even if I lived in the best possible human society imaginable I would still expect to die.

But my sense is that in the best possible human society imaginable people do not have to be crushed - err, that's another absolute; I mean have so little space - on their way to work. But how can I possibly know that? Who is to say that what we have right now isn't the best in the best of all possible worlds?

It's pretty important for me. If I can't identify "problems" that could be rectified or moderated by my all-singing, all-dancing libertarian philosophy then I've, err, got a problem.

At this point I can almost hear the voice of London libertarian Paul Coulam telling me that in a truly free market things are so darned close to perfection (by definition) that it would be impossible to be sure that anything could be any better. Or, if it could that the costs wouldn't outweigh the gains. Which may be true but doesn't help expose the inadequacies of the current set up.

England's Dream Team
Patrick Crozier

On Saturday night Channel 4 announced the results of its nationwide poll to find out the all-time top England eleven, or Dream Team, as they put it. This is it:


Ramsey managing.

First observation: only one player from before 1966. I suppose that's the influence of TV. If you weren't on TV, or that TV wasn't much cop (as it wasn't before colour and other advances) you don't count. The fact that Finney made it all is amazing. Ballot stuffing, anyone?

Gazza. NOOOOO. Sure, he had his moments but precious few after 1991. Bryan Robson would have been a far better choice.

Psycho at left back? Another one of those people's choices. The alternatives were Ashley Cole (too young) and Kenny Sansom. Remember him? Precisely. You don't. Why not? Because no one ever got past him. He should have been there.

Shearer. I tend to rate my strikers on the basis of magic moments. The problem is that Shearer didn't supply enough of them. Not like "when Lineker scored" or Owen against Argentina, Germany and Brazil.

Ramsey? The real problem was that we weren't offered either Sven or Taylor. Why not one has to ask? Sven has already been ridiculously successful. If he manages to get us into the second round in Euro 2004 he should be knighted. The absence of Taylor, the man who despite wrestling with an almost complete lack of talent masterminded England's most successful Euro campaign, is simply bizarre. Without those two we were left with Robson (who managed to lose all three games at Euro 88) and someone else whose name I have forgotten.

June 07, 2004

Germany was liberated too
Patrick Crozier

It is not often I agree with Gerhard Schroeder:

"It [the allied victory in World War II] was a victory over the barbarians of the SS who in the days when they marched to the French coast, pitilessly murdered almost the entire population of the town of Oradour.

"It was a victory over the criminal regime which murdered six million Jews - and hundreds of thousands of people in the resistance, members of minorities and those designated as 'not worthy of life'. It was the victory over a regime which turned murder into an industrial process.

"And it was a victory for the brave men and women who, although they failed, tried to put an end to Hitler in July 1944."

When I as working in Italy a few years ago they had a day off for "Liberation". "Liberated from the Germans?" I asked. No. "Liberated from Mussolini". I wonder if the Germans have a similar day.

June 03, 2004

All things are relative
Patrick Crozier

I've recently noticed that I have either been writing (or thinking about writing) a lot of posts entitled things like "Safety is not the only thing" or "Pollution is not the only thing" or "Overcrowding is not the only thing". In other words that all things (or rather, almost all things) are relative and that, therefore, there are trade-offs between them.

Are there some absolutes out there? Actually, a couple spring to mind. The first is the threat of mass murder (you know, London being nuked) or invasion by a tyranny. The second is the threat of the extinction of life on Earth while there is something we can do about it (not much point in worrying about what happens when the Sun enters its Red Giant phase.)

Mind you, there are probably some trade-offs here too.

June 02, 2004

Vashti Bunyan and the 1960s
Patrick Crozier

Imagine you live in the Outer Hebrides. One day you get a computer and an internet connection and the first thing you do - like everyone else - is google your own name. You don't expect much. Why should you? But you get page after page. And slowly you are reminded of that album you recorded in 1970 which even you had almost forgotten.

Seems it hadn't quite disappeared without a trace. A few copies did saunter off the shelves. And over the years those copies were listened to. And over yet more years those copies, now dog-eared, got passed round amongst the clog and dungaree-wearing cognoscenti. And with the advent of the banjo-powered PC, they started building their own websites and raving about your album. And now, the whole world knows.

Except you.

That's what happened to Vashti Bunyan whose "Just another Diamond Day" I've just been listening to on the stereo. My sister bought it for me for Christmas and I think it's marvellous. A guitar, her voice - her beautiful voice - and the occasional accompaniment. She would also appear to have been a very pretty woman - which helps.

It makes me sad. Partly, because old photographs of pretty women do make me sad. Unavailable, see? But it also makes me reminisce (wrong word - wasn't really there in the 1960s now, was I?) No, it evokes the late 1960s. Hippies and tie dies and dogs and country farmhouses and colour TV and Jimi Hendrix and the idea that anything was possible.

This, of course, is nonsense. The vast majority of mankind just went on as they always had: going to work, paying the mortgage, putting food on the table. The number of people actually involved in the 1960s must have been tiny.

The thing about the 1960s is that it all ended in 1970. 1970 seems to have been far more than just a change to the second digit from the right but a real cut off. 1970 is when the 1960s got nasty. Charles Manson (yes, I know, it was 1969) and his family. The Beatles (again, 1969) split up. Troops on the streets of Ulster (er, 1969 again - where is this argument going?)

Ah, heck - just buy the album.