Martin Kelner’s Screen Break: England unite the nation in hubris and humiliation

Martin Kelner, whose "Screen Break" column ran for 16 years in The Guardian, picks up the pieces after another night of English shame...

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And lo, on 63 minutes, ITV summariser Glenn Hoddle delivered the understatement of the tournament, possibly of all time. "England have been a bit lacklustre," he told us. Most of us were taking a harsher and less family-friendly view at home, as we watched our wretched team redefine the word "dismal".

Rarely have I seen so many misplaced passes in one 45-minute period as in the second half, and I spent a season watching Bury in League Two. Wayne Rooney's performance may have been the most depressing thing we've seen from a multi-millionaire since Mike Ashley's at the recent parliamentary inquiry.  

Frankly, even as commentator Clive Tyldesley was trying to comfort us with the thought that Iceland might tire after playing without the ball for most of the evening, those of us on our laptops were busy working on our Brexit jokes.

Wayne Rooney, Iceland

Rooney consoles after England are frozen out

It was that miserable. Previous disasters, like all the penalty shootout defeats and the failure to beat Poland in a 1973 qualifier, at least kept us pinned to our seats. This time I felt able to leave the TV, and consult a reference book to look up the exact meaning of the word "hubris".

Hubris, it turns out, is not a hulking Czech centre-back whom Roy Hodgson would be pathetically unable to come up with a plan to negotiate, but haughtiness, a feeling of superiority, which the gods will inevitably punish.

"Fantastic journey"

So this time, maybe that's what it was, hubris. All the patronising talk about plucky little Iceland, with their volcanoes and geysers and how the goalie worked on the country's Eurovision Song Contest video – incidentally, he could have done an edit on their national anthem, which is the longest in the championship – was still being rehearsed by presenter Mark Pougatch in the run-up to kick-off. Clearly the gods didn't like it.

"What happens to Roy Hodgson now?" Pougatch asked his panel as the manager disappeared down the tunnel. Hodgson obligingly provided the answer before ITV went off the air, joining David Cameron and all those Labour shadow cabinet ministers we've never heard of, in resigning.

Mark Pougatch, Ian Wright, Lee Dixon

The sadness in their eyes

"It's been a fantastic journey," he announced, causing those of us enjoying a consolatory drink to splutter the liquid out in a comic manner, and remember similar fantastic journeys, like the time my windscreen wipers gave up in the middle of a rain storm in the fast line of the M1, or the time I fell asleep on a train to Durham and woke up in Edinburgh.

Hoddle, on the pitch with ITV's Jacqui Oatley, delivered what seems to be the epitaph of choice these days, dubbing Hodgson "an honourable, decent, football man," exactly what Hilary Benn said – apart from the football bit, obviously – about Jeremy Corbyn on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Well, my window cleaner is a decent, honourable man – he's never overcharged me, at least – but he's in no immediate danger of being asked to manage the England football team or lead the Labour party. 

"Can you manage, love?" "No thanks Mr Dyke, I'll stick with this job"

"Can you manage, love?" "No thanks Mr Dyke, I'll stick with this job"

Last rites

The ITV pundits, meanwhile, more or less had Hodgson's obituary written at half-time. Referring to the goal conceded from a long throw, Lee Dixon asked "What have they been doing all week?", pointing out that Iceland's long throw routine was clearly apparent in previous matches and relatively straightforward to defend against with a bit of organisation.

Remarkably Glenn preferred to ascribe the goal to our defenders' unfamiliarity with such Neanderthal tactics as the long throw, arguing it was a tactic they wouldn't encounter in the Premier League. Unless, I suppose, they had come up against West Ham’s Michail Antonio last season, or were familiar with the oeuvre of Rory Delap.

Match Of The Day on the BBC broke with a tradition going back at least as far as the Likely Lads (a television sitcom kiddies, ask your dad) and gave the game away at the start. "Blimey, you're suckers for punishment," was Gary's welcome.

BBC and ITV panels agreed that Hodgson had gone into the tournament without a plan, "making it up as he went along," said Rio Ferdinand. Alan Shearer on the BBC favoured the word "inept", while ITV's Ian Wright went for the more muscular "rubbish", but in a divided nation it was good to see at least some measure of harmony.

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