Once more unto the breach dear Sven
- 30 Jun 06, 12:44 PM
GELSENKIRCHEN - Ray Winstone will apparently be seen on video reciting Henry V's St Crispin's Day speech and maybe even some Churchillian oratory to motivate England’s players before the World Cup quarter-final against Portugal.
Judging by what we saw of Gary Neville in his meeting with the media on Thursday, he could not be any more motivated to meet Portugal.
Neville inspired the media, let alone his colleagues, with his honesty and and his brutal assessment of what is riding on this game, and the desperate price of failure.
So what have we learned about some of those who will be listening to Winstone’s words of wisdom over the last month in Germany?
England’s players have gallantly performed their media duties for the last four weeks, probably with reluctance on occasion, but they have done it all the same.
And it has proved an intriguing insight into their characters.
Steven Gerrard is deadly serious, but more humorous that he appears on the surface – and cuts an imposing figure.
He was cutting in his dismissal of England's chances if they continue to perform as they have, and you suspect he will be putting it even more bluntly in the dressing room prior to kick-off
Despite his brilliance, he still needs to know he is wanted, as one incident illustrated perfectly.
Eriksson, Gerrard and Frank Lampard were wheeled out to face us before the meeting with Sweden.
The coach hinted he may rest either Gerrard or Lampard to spare them a possible suspension.
In two separate rooms, Gerrard and Lampard could both be heard uttering the same phrase to the press when word reached them: “I hope it’s not me.”
It was an eye-opener to see a talent such as Gerrard seemingly suffer the same moment, just a moment mind you, of self-doubt as the rest of us mere mortals.
Lampard is a deep thinker about his game, a man whose brow becomes genuinely furrowed when the subject strays on to the current thorny problem of his finishing.
But one thing can be gleaned from his body language, and that is if he fails it will not be for lack of effort and concentration.
Joe Cole has shown great maturity, while Peter Crouch’s media campaign has been conducted with a delight at his emergence at the World Cup and a nice line in humour – particularly on the subject of robotic dancing.
David Beckham is a measured spokesman on team affairs, but carefully avoiding any trick questions and controversy in the manner of a man who has been doing this for years.
Wayne Rooney has come on light years from the monosyllabic teenager who first faced the world’s media when he signed a professional contract at Everton.
He is now comfortable but still quietly-spoken – which may all be an act after Eriksson outed him as the noisiest man in the dressing room.
Goalkeeper Paul Robinson is another who has conducted himself well, particularly when he openly announced Michael Owen was out of the World Cup even before the official medical verdict – let’s have more like him.
Owen Hargreaves is composed and cosmopolitan with a wry sense of humour.
He has happily conducted interviews in German before moving on to discuss affairs with the English media.
But if there was an award for media interview of this whole campaign, Neville’s performance in Baden-Baden would be out in front by a mile.
It may need a World Cup win for someone to top it, but even then my money would be on Neville
He has no need for Ray Winstone’s admirable intervention, but let’s not knock the tactic – anything that the FA feels may help England to World Cup glory is worth a try.