Chapter 24: Worst Meal Out Ever Follow-Up; England’s Euro 2020 Negativity; Second Book Finished; Arguer’s Debut E.P.
This latest update covers the fall-out from the review of my abysmal meal the other night and my irritation at the twining about England’s football team. I’ve also completed my second book, whilst my friend’s new band have some music out soon.
My last update, about the worst meal out I've ever had, seemed to inspire quite a reaction in people. It got the most views of anything on my website this year, doubling my story of getting engaged, quadrupling my tribute to the life of the beloved Bella and The Curse of Perfectionism: How to Overcome Creative Fear, and getting eight times as many views as most essays I've written this year. Not only that, it led to a spate of messages and comments from people who identified the un-named restaurant purely based on the description of the evening we'd endured, as well as several others from people enquiring which restaurant it was, so they could avoid it. What saddened me was learning how many other people recognised my experience in their own. My hope was to learn that it was a one-off, that my bad experience was due to a member of staff ringing in sick and leaving everything flustered or something. That it seems to be an ongoing issue with the restaurant was so disappointing to learn.
Upon the advice of a few people who contacted me, I sent the blog about my evening to the restaurant in question. It wasn't something I really wanted to do, but the point raised was that they needed to be aware of how unacceptable the evening was so that they could improve in the future. Though somebody told me they knew someone that worked there and they were aware of my review, I did not receive a response from the restaurant. Personally, if someone had taken the time to write so in-depth about their displeasure with a service I had provided, I would at least have the decency to apologise. This restaurant does not appear to share that mindset, which confirms to me that they just aren't worth bothering with.
It's a shame, because I love a good pizza and my partner loves a good steak, and that could've become a regular haunt for us. As it is, we'll just stick to Giannis and Villa Bianca for pizza and the Agricultural Hotel and the Cross Keys for steak in Penrith, and my recommendation is you do the same if you wish to be treated decently, with respect, be made to feel welcome and if you want to eat hot food at the same time as the people you go with.
Much more positive news was England making it through to the knockouts of the Euros, with 7 points from 9, zero goals conceded and the goalkeeper barely needing to make a save. England's performances have been controlled, mature and calm, not qualities you normally associate with the national team at tournaments, and they have a real feel of potential winners about them after the draw opened right up. With the best defender and best central midfielder now fit and in the team again, and Grealish performing in the first-half in the manner we all hoped he would, there's a lot to be positive about ahead of the knockout rounds, especially knowing we still have a few gears to cycle through, too.
With all that in mind, it was disappointing - though not surprising - to see that 95% of the reaction has been people bitching, moaning and complaining about England's performance so far. Grealish should play every minute, they cry, even though he has been training alone, is managing an injury and clearly faded in the second half. Sterling isn't good enough, they roar, despite his scoring of every England goal in the competition so far, taking his tally to fourteen goals and ten assists in his last nineteen appearances for his country. They should be playing Sancho, they twine, despite the fact nobody had thought about him at all until Grealish's disappointing substitute appearance versus Scotland led to Ian Wright bringing his name up about two minutes after full-time. Who knew Wright had the power to influence a nation's thoughts in such a manner? The Labour party should head-hunt him as the new leader, given his ability to twist millions of peoples' beliefs to his narrative with half-a-seconds' thought and spurting the first thing that came to mind. He couldn't do much worse than wet lettuce Starmer has done so far.
The one that really makes me chuckle is the demand to play attacking football, whatever the cost. That is a loser's mentality. What that demand actually says is that they don't believe England can win the competition at all, so we may as well lose in gallant fashion. Why on earth would Southgate start doing that? The man believes England can win the competition, and he is deploying the players and tactics he believes are best suited to win the competition. He's not going to throw all that away because the fans suddenly demand their latest flavour of the week be inserted into the team, irrespective of any plan, tactics or strategy.
Three weeks ago, Foden absolutely had to play, and it was imperative the team was built around him. A fortnight ago, it was Grealish who was the essential ingredient. Now, it's Sancho, but if Foden, Grealish and Sancho all start against Germany, they'll all bitch about how Saka - Tuesday's man of the match, who was previously heralded by very few - should've started. They all want Sterling dropped, but if he was and England lost, they would call for Southgate's head for dropping someone who has outscored Kane over their last twenty England games and has scored all of England's goals this competition. I'm not going to even get started on the people who want Kane dropped, because you just don't drop an elite striker such as Kane. He's England's best player, by far, and what England need to do is maximise his goalscoring opportunities, not bench him for a far inferior player. That being said, if Kane's presence keeps tying up defenders and allowing Sterling to score winning goals, it really doesn't matter if Kane doesn't score. France won the World Cup in 1998, on home soil, with Stephane Guivarc'h starting up front in the knockout phase. Guivarc'h scored zero goals in six appearances that tournament, but he didn't need to score. It wasn't about Guivarc'h, and his irritating apostrophe. It was about the team, it was about making it through each round of the tournament, and it was about winning.
After that World Cup, nobody cared that France needed extra-time to beat Paraguay, nor that they needed penalties after a 0-0 with Italy in the quarters. They only remember the result. So it will be for England, and Southgate knows this. While everyone in the country demands changes to the team, while everyone decides they are the person who knows best about how England can win the trophy - or, in reality, get eliminated memorably - Southgate just gets on with his job and gets England results. Eight wins from nine matches, a draw in a derby game, and only one goal conceded in that time. A Nation's League semi-final. A World Cup semi-final. These are Southgate's credentials, and they have earned him some trust. You don't know better than Southgate as to how to win this tournament. He's learned from those semi-final defeats, he's tweaked the strategy to be able to compete better in the business end of tournaments, and he's used those tactics in the group stage so they are natural to the players. It's a smart move, and Germany have already shown they struggle against such tactics.
England have, perhaps, the best chance since 1966 to beat Germany in knockout football. They are vulnerable at the back, and they struggle to score against a dogged defence. England can beat them, and if they do, the draw opens right up. Stop allowing your image of what it should be like ruin this tournament for yourself. Trust the best England manager in a quarter of a century to line England up correctly, based on his enhanced knowledge of the players, their injury status, how well they fit into the system and how effective they will be at beating Germany.
At one point, we thought this tournament might never happen. Now, we have a great chance to win it. Have some faith that Southgate will get his revenge for 1996, sit back, see what happens and just enjoy it. I have a sneaking suspicion our lads will surprise a few people.
Moving onto the fantasy side of football, I'm sat here with the proof copy of the second FPL Nightmare book. I need to have a read through and double-check everything is correct with it, ahead of its release in a month or so. It's still surreal to be sat here looking at a book I wrote, with my name on the cover, on my bookshelf, and it's even weirder knowing that, not only is it a book about Fantasy Premier League, but there is a second instalment on its way. I think the strangest thing is knowing there are people in the world, real people, who have a copy of a real book written by me on their real bookshelves.
Thank you so much to everyone who has bought it, seeing the photos you send me of your copy gives me goosebumps every time. It may be a little raw, but it's a great story. This second instalment is even better, having been written and rewritten and edited over and over, knowing it was going to end up as a book all along. I didn't know that with the first instalment, and it does make a difference. I'll let you know when it will be available in due course. In the meantime, if you have bought the first one, The FPL Nightmare: How to Lose the World's Greatest Mini-League in 38 Simple Steps, please let me know what you think of it. I would be especially grateful if you would post a review of it on Amazon, that sort of thing can help me a lot.
Speaking of upcoming releases, my mate Shane's new band has their debut EP coming out in two weeks, and it's got some cracking songs on it. They are called Arguer, and you can pre-order it for £3 HERE, or you can get it with a t-shirt for a tenner HERE. If you ever heard his songs in With Lights Out, Youth Salute, I Dine With Wolves or Sails, you’ll already know he’s one of Cumbria’s finest songwriters. If you didn’t, this is a great place to start. Shane’s music has helped me through some seriously dark times, giving words to thoughts I struggled to verbalise at the height of my mental illness, so it’s always a big deal when he publishes some new music. The Song of the Chapter in this essay is by them, too, by means of an introduction.
Thank you again for all your ongoing support, it means the world to me.
Song of the Chapter:
'Phantom' by Arguer
Quote of the Chapter:
"Attack wins you games. Defence wins you titles."
Sir Alex Ferguson
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... It is very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
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