The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

Contact Us

[contact-form 1 'Contact form 1']

France 1 – 0 England (Over to You, Nick Hornby)


#5 David Beckham is England’s best player.

This seemed so obvious tonight that I couldn’t remember why he’d ever been dropped from the squad in the first place. It had to be some combination of politics and petty resentment, right? But how could anyone be that short-sighted? Around that time, I remembered the existence of Steve McClaren.

Nick’s Pick: “King Midas in Reverse,” by The Hollies

#4 (with a bullet) England can’t cross.

Seriously cannot cross the ball. I’d thought it was just the Lennons and Walcotts who were bad at perpendiculars, but I didn’t see anything from Barry or Gerrard to suggest that they’d been spared from the curse.

Nick’s Pick: “Buddy Won’t You Roll Down the Line,” by Uncle Dave Macon, the Dixie Dewdrop

#3 England can’t head the ball.

In most cases, they had trouble even getting the ball to the vicinity of their heads (see above). In the few instances when they did so successfully, tourists at the top of the Eiffel Tower were in more danger than the goal.

Nick’s Pick: “No Head, No Backstage Pass,” by Funkadelic

#2 Given points 3 and 4 above, in addition to their overall lack of pace, England might want to reconsider the wisdom of an attack based entirely on zipping the ball up the wings and whipping in the cross.

Capello had to be making some kind of point with this match, right? I’m thinking someone at the FA made an ill-advised tactical suggestion, and Capello decided to send a statement to keep anyone from interfering with him again. Deep and merciless are the paths by which he goes. Or maybe this was just a meaningless friendly that we shouldn’t read anything into. You decide.

Nick’s Pick: “Do I Make Myself Clear,” by Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto

#1 Wayne Rooney has reached a stage of his career at which he can do everything except score.

It’s strange. Sunday against Liverpool, Rooney played one of the best all-around matches I’ve seen this season, making cutting runs, disrupting the defense, and passing the ball like a meaty little Andrea Pirlo. But for whatever reason, he can’t seem to bulge the old polyethylene twine. With Manchester United, it doesn’t really matter, because Cristiano Ronaldo is an unstoppable wave of flame. Generally speaking, however, Cristiano Ronaldo does not play for England.

Nick’s Pick: “Threshold Apprehension,” by Frank Black


France 1 – 0 England (Over to You, Nick Hornby)

by Brian Phillips · March 26, 2008

[contact-form 5 'Email form']