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SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024

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England’s women footballers skilled? They wouldn’t make Dollis Hill Boys Under-21s

Here they go again … why can’t we all just celebrate with genuine joy our Lionesses getting to the World Cup Final in Oz? Why does it suddenly have to become a finger-stabbing issue by the Equalisers — those women who always come out of the woodwork at the drop of a hatpin to claim equal rights with the men? For goodness’ sake!


I’m sick of the shouts for England Women’s coach Sarina Wiegan to take over from Gareth Southgate as the men’s team manager; calls for pay parity with Premiership players and schoolgirls lined up in playgrounds holding footballs and telling us the England women players are better than the men. Trouble is, they believe it.


Some women journalists on TV and in print are among the worst. You can almost fry the chip on their shoulders. Their ‘told you so mentality’ totally blacks out the reasons why millions of football fans across the world pay millions of pounds to watch the men’s game. And why millions of pounds are given to men and clubs too. The women have a long way to go to reach the men’s standard, if ever. They are just not as strong and skilled, you don’t have mixed track races in athletics, do you?


Take Sarah Vine, in the Mail. “The Lionesses have shown they can be just as tough, just as tenacious, just as thrilling as their male counterparts,” she says. “Nothing stopped them from playing some of the most thrilling football we have seen for years.”


Oh, come off it, Sarah, love. Did you watch the first half when the team was all over the place and their manager’s much vaunted tactical plan was in tatters? Did you see the poor passing, the open spaces they left in front of goal and how off the pace they were?


Did you see their adored star Lucy Bronze run out of steam and into trouble, 40 yards out of position, finally being dispossessed as a swarm of red shirts took the ball all the way to the back of her own net, making her 1-0 down? Bronze hardly had the strength to jog back and help. And that is what her own newspaper said.


Thrilling football? Yes, if you are Spanish. They were the better team. True, England had some good touches, and their goalkeeper Mary Earps was outstanding at times, even saving a penalty. And we all got behind the women’s team. It was all wonderfully patriotic. I cheered and clapped too. But make no mistake, the quality of football in the women’s game is below the threshold of the men’s. And many know it but stay silent.


Anyway, some women – and male fans of theirs – conveniently forget that the Lionesses had a rocky road to their final against teams that frankly didn’t sparkle and wouldn’t make the Dollis Hill Boys Under-21s. They seem oblivious to the fact that the Lionesses were lucky to get there. By the time they did, we, as a nation, had papered over the cracks for them. They can count their blessings Fernando Torres wasn’t on the pitch.


To crown it all, Sarah even highlights her perceived difference between men and women when their teams lose. She says: “The good thing about women football fans is that they don’t get blind drunk and smash the place up when they lose, they go home and have a nice, consolatory cup of tea and a biscuit.


Really? Did she see the TV pictures of parks and pubs all over Britain full of women crying and guzzling pints of beer? 


Some of the women journalists now making sweeping statements about equality with men, have probably never gone through a turnstile. Sarah for example appears to see football through rose-tinted glasses. “This sport is not just about huge transfer fees and intergalactic egos or spoiled, pampered WAGS with too much time, money and lip filler,” she says indignantly, “it is something we can all enjoy for what it is: a beautiful game.”


Sorry, Sarah, but we go to football matches not just to see a good game, but to see our team win; gain promotion; bring home the silverware. We want to see the big names, big money players. Admire their skills, speed and strengths. We want them in our club. Football is about showbiz. If you want to see a kick about you can go free to any park at the weekend — and not pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a season ticket.


And that will be another reason why the growth of women’s football will still be slow to kick off … money. How much dosh from the family budget can you afford to send dad and the kids to see both men and women’s football every week? Or does mum go to her game separately? It will have to be a choice. No contest. Try telling dad he will have to give up his season ticket at Man United.


To cap it all, I will leave it with the words of a woman TV broadcaster, who was ranting about fans not being able to buy goalkeeper Mary Earps’ shirt: “What on earth is Nike playing at treating the best England football team since 1966 like this?” Eh? The mind boggles.

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A STAR IS BORN

How many of us have sat in vain, writing a blockbuster movie like Avatar that will wow Hollywood and the world, only to end up destroying a Dingley Dell of trees for nowt? A lot of us hacks. So good luck to Tommy Jessop with his Hollywood movie project about a superhero named after his Teddy Bear, Roger.


Tommy was the amazing Downs Syndrome actor who played Terry Boyle in series five and six of the BBC hit TV police series Line of Duty and got rave reviews. When it ended everyone expected his phone to ring with new acting offers. It didn’t. Sound familiar?


His agent told him to stop dreaming of being the next James Bond and instead invent a role for himself … so he came up with the idea of being a Down’s Syndrome superhero, inspired by his teddy bear with the unlikely name of Roger Harding. His idea was a battle against an evil scientist seeking to wipe Down’s Syndrome people out of existence. Roger can read people’s minds and change what they are thinking.


Tommy teamed up with his brother, documentary maker Will Jessop and they made a sample scene, spoke to actors who would help them and booked meetings with Hollywood producers in La La Land to tell them their La La dream. That’s confidence for you.


“I wanted to be a superhero,” says Tommy, “because I sometimes feel the world isn’t made for me and I want to change it!”


Now a film producer in Tinsel Town loves the idea and is interested — but there is one problem. Tommy hasn’t written the script yet and doesn’t even have an ending. The producer is waiting. And so are we. It is not even clear if he plays the part of a teddy bear.


Tommy’s story, documented by his brother, was shown on BBC last week, and you get the feeling that nothing will stop him. So, get back to your laptops and a bottle of wine as soon as you get back from Hollywood with your idea.

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SHOOT FOR THE MOON

I keep hearing people moaning about India’s spaceflight to the Moon and how disgusting it is that we give overseas aid to this rich member of the nuclear club, when they are crippling their own economy, this way.


Stop and think though. Our relationship with India is currently so good, that Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is off to New Delhi for talks on a British trade deal that will bring in billions to our economy and ultimately the Treasury, the Government tells us.


It points out that moaners should take note that our aid package is
£57 million next year — and the complete cost of India’s space flight in their search for water, is only £59 million. Fair point, I guess.

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MONEY OR YOUR LIFE

After the worst of Covid, I joined millions of others on our doorsteps banging saucepans and tin cans raising a noise displaying our thanks to our wonderful health service staff. Not sure I would do it now though.


Health union officials claim it is with heavy hearts that consultants are on picket lines again as the number of delayed treatments tops one million and people struggle with pain at home. But it is not their intention to hurt patients, the consultants say. Oh really? They sound like train drivers. Who is hurting them then?


“We can’t sit by and watch passively as we are devalued and forced to watch colleagues leave for more money, to the detriment of the NHS and our patients,” said BMA consultant Vishal Sharma, putting on his sweet bedside manner. It’s all the Government’s fault, of course.


With the country on its knees financially and a six per cent rise on the table bringing the minimum for these medical gods to around £134,000 and a £78,000 a year pension, I shan’t be tooting my car horn every time I drive by a picket line. Didn’t they all take an oath to save lives and stop pain for God’s sake?

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SOBERING THOUGHT

A sobering thought for all those colleagues who worked in the news engine-room of HMS Express for so long — working nights impairs memory by up to 79 per cent in later life, says a study, published in the sister battleship HMS Daily Mail.


Working past 5pm can wreck the body clock, apparently, leading to disruption of the circulation system. It doesn’t just affect your memory in later life; it can give you atrial fibrillation and even coronary heart disease. Not to mention that sitting for long periods puts you at risk of prostate trouble if you are a man. Your body runs down at night. That is why more people die during that time. Thank goodness for the four-day week then, or we might be in a lot more trouble. Er, what paper were we on?


How are you feeling?

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CRUMBS OF COMFORT

The trouble with Rishi Sunak is that he hasn’t got it, you know, the final piece of the jigsaw. When he talks about the government doing everything to help the poor who are suffering from the cost of living, he brings in the long list of benefits they get and how they have gone up.


Truth is that people who are not entitled to benefits are now poor. Middle classes earning under £40,000 are struggling like hell to make ends meet but they don’t fit the universal credit criteria to get help. And now that Sunak has frozen the tax thresholds for years, he is taking more cash out of their budgets to feed the kids their beans on toast.


Sunak should watch out for Rachel Reeves, Starmer’s new weapon to fight the nutcase schemes of the old Corbyn Left. She seems to have gripped the fact that the public are still wary of the Corbynite faction waiting in the wings.


TERRY MANNERS


28 August 2023