Despite having the IQ of a Cornish pasty, the Mercury’s chief football pundit, Ryan ‘Nobby’ Clough, managed last week to accurately predict the results of all the opening England and Wales games at Euro 2016.
Inconveniently, Mr Clough remains on remand for arson at Belmarsh Prison, and is currently manacled to a wall in solitary due a misunderstanding about a length of lead pipe concealed in a lunchtime baguette. Consequently, he has been unable to see any of the Euro games played so far, but has received commentary on key matches through a system of Morse code knocked out on the bars with metal cups. That, and what he can get out of the screws when they come to hose him down / call him a slag, etc.
Nonetheless, with the tenacity and the enthusiasm for violence that characterised his playing days, ‘Nobby’ managed to overpower his jailers long enough to make his predictions for England’s final group game on a smuggled mobile phone:
‘In terms of the shape of the team, I think Roy Hodgson had it right in the Wales game. I’ve always been an advocate of playing a big man up front, as you know, but Roy did even better, and started the game with three big men up front.’
‘Then, after that muppet goalkeeper ballsed-up the boy Bale’s free kick, we saw the tactical acumen of the manager to its greatest effect. I’ve always though of Roy as more your Erwin Rommel than your Field Marshal Montgomery, with a bit of General Patton thrown in where set-pieces are concerned. And he proved me right on Thursday.’
‘You have to admire his blue sky-thinking. He didn’t bother fannying about with mid-field diamond formations, or defensive rhomboids, or attacking octagons or any of that rubbish. Ending the game with ten big men up front was an act of genius. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t do it.’
‘So for the game against Slovakia – who, let’s be honest, shouldn’t even be here if they can’t beat the Welsh – I believe that Roy will further refine his innovative formation and play eleven big men up front. Well, ten big men and Jamie Vardy. Obviously Joe Hart in goal is now surplus to requirements because: a) it’s Slovakia, and b) if he couldn’t stop a shot from the half-way line, what the hell’s he there for in the first place? Muppet.’
Mr Clough then attempted an analysis of the Spanish Tiki-Taka style of play and how that sort of thing was alright for foreigners but not real men, but his commentary was drowned-out by sirens and the sound of a prison warder’s head being forced down a toilet.