Let's start with a confession. I'm still a wee bit hazy on the off-side rule. But even if I've never actually played football, I have watched hundreds of hours of the stuff with my Chelsea-obsessed husband, which I think qualifies me as well as most of the pundits to have a view. And while the said Chelsea-obsessed husband regularly teases me about having a 'theory of football', I've lost count of the number of times he's grudgingly conceded that I do have a point. So as Our Lads gear up for what we all hope will not be an ignominious failure to get past the group stage, here are my five infallible ways to put an end to those 40-mumble years of hurt, once and for all.
1. Play the whole game in your opponent's half....
Or to put it another way, attack is the best form of defence. This may sound like stating the obvious (though that never seems to deter the TV commentators), but it's staggering to me how rarely even very good English teams elect to defend a lead by trying to extend it. But it is, of course, physically impossible to concede a goal if you keep the ball up the other end of the field. And yet how many times have we seen England resort to Routemaster tactics in their own half, and all on the strength of a scanty single goal. But the fatal flaw in the said Routemaster approach is that it leaves you wide open to the dreaded CBB, otherwise known as Chaotic Bundle in the Box. It's not worth the risk, lads, and it's not worth the nation's nerves either. But the solution is simple: get out there and play to win.
2. .... and never let them have the ball
Possession, possession, possession. Not just nine tenths of the law, but the entire law when it comes to football. I'll be the first to agree that this - again - is nothing more than blindingly obvious common sense, but perhaps you're starting to see a pattern here.
3. A short corner is a waste of time
This is something I've never understood. The whole point of a corner is a free chance to lob the ball into the box where either skill, luck, or Chaotic Bundle might just send it into the back of the net (in fact the only time a short corner isn't a waste of time is when you're actually trying to waste time). I don't think I've ever seen a single short corner lead to a goal. Any stat-geeks out there who can prove me wrong?
4. If it goes to penalties, welly it
Penalty shoot-outs are, of course, our national pastime; it's just a pity that after so much practice we aren't getting any better at it. There's no excuse, in my book, for actually missing a penalty: of course the goalkeeper can get lucky, but if you're a professional footballer, even in such a highly pressurised moment, you really do have to get it on target. And when you do, my advice is maximum heave. Dainty little dribbles just give the goalie a couple more nanoseconds to go the right way.
5. Referees never change their decisions: Get over it
Offered, as they say, without comment.