Friday 5 July 2019

What's in a name? Why log on? Did he really say that? Engalnd semi Final heartbreak sparks internal investigation

With the pain of defeat easing since England's 2-1 defeat to USA in the semi finals of the 2019 Women's World Cup in Lyon last Tuesday, the spotlight has begun to glare an unforgiving light on individuals within the England camp.

Unsurprisingly, coming under the most scrutiny is captain Steph Houghton as the English public demand an answer to that burning question: 

How come her surname is pronounced "Horton"?

Over 11 million watched the semi final, and while the demand for an answer was put on the back burner while England looked to progress, the interrogation can now respectfully begin. Former men footballers Ray Houghton and Scotty Houghton were famously known for upholding the traditional "Howton" sound, while the Bedfordshire town of Houghton Regis has likewise stuck to it's roots.

So why the deviation for Steph? Well, an early indication suggests that the Manchester City captain has been a lifelong fan of former Maine Road manager Brian Horton, who became such a hit with fans during his spell in charge between 1993 and 1995, successfully avoiding relegation twice. Ultimately, Horton (B) was unable to engineer a survival drama such as the one he was involved in as a player for Luton Town in 1982-83, when he captained them to an 86th minute 1-0 win at Maine Road, which relegated City instead (ironically, the outcome of a foreign substitute instigating a pitch invasion by a spectacularly uncoordinated manager was just the kind of spectacle Sky Sports had begun to demand in their post 90's era) and City owner Francis Lee looked to former England team mate, Alan Ball, to deliver a sexier style of last gasp salvation.  

But Houghton has clearly channelled Horton with last-gasp tackles and clearances in this World Cup as a metaphor to that 82-83 escape, while her saved penalty against the US may have served as a tribute to her probable idol, showing him just what glorious failure looked like. 

So with that mystery maybe cleared up, the public can now move on to  Dion Dublin. The former stand-side opinion-spewer found himself pitch-side during the semi-final, having himself gallantly failed throughout the tournament to get any of his fellow pundits to take his bantz-bait. Now tasked with reeling in Eilidh Barbour with his misplaced jocularity, Dublin - or "Dubbers" as he would like to be known - boldly referred to a point that "JP" (Jonathan Pearce) made "in comms" (commentary). 

With bemused viewers already constantly nudged by "JP" towards the "player-rater on the BBC sport website and app" (like he's Theresa May flogging her dead Brexit deal) the invitation to decode Dublin's Bletchley Circle challenges seems to be one initiative too far, according to online feedback.    

JP himself unwittingly generated further social media interaction by, first, revealing the official "audience" figure in the stadium, before showing a regard for his co-commentator, Sue Smith that produced echoes of Richard Madeley's light entertainment career and BBC 2's Fast Show. Wondering aloud what positional shuffle Fran Kirby's introduction to the action would bring, he presumably heard Smith suggest that "Parris might go out wide". Kirby, a central creator by trade, then entered the pitch, while JP continued the discussion with himself: "So will she go into a central position or wide?" With Kirby then taking up her customary position in the middle, JP was able to confidently reveal who was going wide. "Parris".

3rd/4th place play-offs often bring in a change of players, though for England v Holland on Saturday, the BBC Sport team just need to make a couple of tweaks, or perhaps do without a couple of numbers altogether.  

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