x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The inside Italian job of England's bugged team talk

Ever since it emerged that England footballers were bugged before their match against Egypt, the world has been speculating over what the recordings reveal. Here is what was said ... maybe.

Fabio Capello watches over an England training session before the friendly against Egypt.
Fabio Capello watches over an England training session before the friendly against Egypt.

Ever since it emerged that England footballers were bugged before their match against Egypt, the world has been speculating over what the recordings reveal. Well, speculate no more. Last night I met a shadowy figure in an underground car park. I passed him twenty pounds in used coins. He passed me this transcript, and promised it was the real deal. I'll let you decide if I was conned. Fabio Capello: OK, so before we talk about Egypt, we talk about the World Cup. Everyone is happy, no?

(Long silence. Some nervous coughing. A clatter is heard as somebody, probably David James, drops his pen.) Capello: You got something to say? What about you Steven? You no happy? Steven Gerrard: Errr, not really boss. We're not happy with the coach, for a start. Capello: The coach? You got a problem with me? Cos if you got a problem for me, maybe I got a problem for you... Gerrard: No, not you boss. I mean the coach that takes us to games. Y'know, the team bus.

Capello: What is problem? You no like Fiat engineering? She start nine times in 10. Gerrard: It just doesn't look like a footballer's vehicle. No alloy wheels, no flashy paint job. Why can't we just get a load of mint Range Rovers? Make us feel at home, wouldn't it Wayne? Wayne Rooney: Yeah, or just one big stretch Range Rover? Dead classy like. Capello: No, no. We not here to talk about vehicles. We here to talk tactics. Are you happy with our style of playin'?

(Another long silence. More coughing. Another clatter is heard as somebody, almost certainly David James again, drops his teacup.) Capello: You got something to say, Frank? Frank Lampard: Well, now you come to mention it, Mr Capello sir, we're not that happy with it. We've heard it'll be a 737. Capello: What is 737? We play 4-4-2. Lampard: We don't want to fly to South Africa on a Boeing 737 like common holidaymakers. We'd rather go separately. Each in our own Lear jet, ideally.

Capello: I no say plane! I ask what you think of our style of playin?! Like, maybe you prefer to play in the Diamond? (More silence. More coughing. A loud crash is heard as Shaun Wright-Phillips falls off his chair, and has to be lifted back onto it by Peter Crouch.) Capello: You no like the Diamond now? What about you Jermain? Jermain Defoe: Oh, we all love diamonds, boss. We like them in rings, necklaces, everything. But we're not allowed to play in them in case they injure another player or, even worse, we lose them on the pitch.

Capello: Mama mia! Not diamonds, dummy. The Diamond formation. 4-1-2-1-2. I wanna talk football. Not cars, not planes, not fashion. Football! (A hollow thud is heard as an object is hurled across the room.) Capello: I'm sorry, David. I no mean to hit your head with that boot. David Beckham: That's OK, boss. I'm used to it. David James: I'm sorry too, Becks. I tried to catch it but it just slipped through my fingers.

Capello: Let's start again. I want to know if you happy with the way we play football. Are you comfortable making passes? (Loud crying is heard, followed by footsteps and a door slamming.) Capello: What is wrong with JT? Why he storm out? Peter Crouch: He's still a bit sore about the thing with Wayne Bridge, Mr Capello. Probably best not to mention making passes for a while.

Remember when turning 40 was a depressing milestone in a person's life? It was the official gateway between young and old, groovy and grey, on-the-up and over-the-hill. Not any more. Today's 40-year-olds are positively encouraged to act like 20-year-olds. They are not so much over-the-hill as skateboarding down it while wearing skinny jeans and listening to Lady GaGa on their iPod. Michael Schumacher knows this. He was 40 when he announced his F1 comeback, and he finished a respectable sixth in the opening Grand Prix in Bahrain on Sunday. What a way to laugh in the face of the ageing process, Schuey. Although I was initially sceptical about his return, I have to confess to being glued to my television all weekend. His comeback epitomises a sport which does not rest on its laurels. The F1 authorities know what we want - drama, feuding, heroes and villains - and they try to make it happen. Another man who turned 40 recently is the England rugby legend Martin Johnson. Sadly, I do not think he got the memo about age being just a number. Johnson's tactics against Scotland on Saturday were the equivalent of wearing a pair of nylon trousers (with elasticated waist) and banging a walking stick on the ceiling, shouting: "Keep the noise down!" England played dull, defensive, spirit-crushing rugby. Johnson must know what we want - more tries, more open-play, more running - but he delivers precisely the opposite. Scotland were not much better, by the way. No wonder the crowd broke rugby etiquette by booing the penalty kickers. When the spectacle is that dull, you have to make your own entertainment. Rugby needs to follow F1's example and start playing to the crowd. And Johnson needs to follow the example of Schumacher and realise that life really can begin at 40. Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan. sports@thenational.ae