England goalkeeper David James surprised reporters last night by eschewing the England team’s official regalia of Marks & Spencer grey suit, waistcoat and tie at a function at the British High Commission, and instead opting for a yellow long-sleeved polyester top with elbow and shoulder padding, complemented by a pair of thick white gloves designed by Umbro.
‘Goalkeepers are like method actors,’ said former England goalkeeper Bob Wilson. ‘It’s not a role you can just slip in and out of. People assume that goalies wear different outfits to the rest of the team for the extra protection and easy on-field identification, but it’s actually because we want to show everyone that we’re individuals, and that different rules apply to us both on and off the pitch.’
Pundits agreed that James put in a strong performance at the function last night where he was in the thick of the action right from the start. After the team posed for a set-piece photograph inside the High Commission’s Grand Hall, he was instrumental in getting the players out of the area quickly by flapping his arms and bellowing at them to ‘Move out! Move out!’, receiving praise from a thirsty Steven Gerrard who was able to find some space down a flank and hit the bar on the break.
Then as the team sat down for dinner, James took up a position at one end of the table where he won plaudits for his excellent distribution, frequently picking out the team’s target man Emile Heskey with salt, pepper and bread rolls. And although etiquette allowed James to put his elbows on the table – something frowned upon for outfield players – he was careful not to handle anything passed back to him by his teammates and produced several excellent clearances under pressure, including sending a heavily-weighted gravy boat far up the table to deny an advancing waiter.
‘I thought David James did a great job, and his communication with the back four was excellent,’ said Capello after the fixture. ‘A couple of times Terry and Carragher looked to be struggling to keep up with the conversation, but James just told them to keep close to their man, before shouting at Ashley Cole to close down the ambassador when he started singing Afrikaans rugby chants.’
Despite James’s strong display, questions continue to be asked about the wisdom of playing Gerrard and Lampard in the same side after they got in each other’s way fighting for scraps in the centre of the table, while Rooney frequently had to drop deep to gain possession of the pie tray. Capello was also left to rue the selection of Robert Green after the West Ham keeper spilled a regulation helping of soup onto his napkin, ruining his chance of keeping a clean sheet.