We all saw it. The goal had more than a touch of luck about it, with Steven Gerrard’s cross deflected off of the Ukrainian defender’s ballbags, past the keeper for Wayne Rooney to nod home from six inches.
But it was the celebration that caught the eye. Because it was in Rooney’s celebration that we saw an England team usher in a new age and finally move on from the tyrrany of the Beckham era.
To recap, Rooney celebrated his goal in unique fashion, by pretending to apply hairspray.
It emerged afterwards that Rooney, hugely enjoying the versatility of his hair implants, has been sharing product with Andy Carroll.
This was a simple act of hair-kinship between two strikers which would have been unthinkable during Beckham’s decade or so in the England team.
While Beckham was an excellent player, there can be no doubt that he would never allow anyone else to show creativity when it came to hair, and this hampered the team’s performances. With his lucrative contracts with both Gillette and Brylcreem, Beckham stamped out any meek, honest expression of grooming from any other England player.*
Even two years ago, Beckham was at the 2010 World Cup simply as ‘player liaison’, a made-up role which ensured the subjugation of our players to ensure none of them made an attempt to, as they say in the rap game, ‘shine on his shit.’ And what happened? It was England’s most miserable tournament performance in living memory, perhaps ever.
It is only now, with Beckham occupied growing his luxuriant moustache in preparation for the Olympics – where, incidentally, it can be presumed Great Britain will perform atrociously – that this England Euro 2012 squad are beginning to express themselves hair-wise.
Rooney appears to be developing a quiff of which Elvis Presley would approve; Andy Carroll is there, ponytail full and in effect, flourishing the full mane towards the end of games; Ashley Cole, who has never showed any signs of freedom of hair expression previously, is now attempting a junior mohawk; even Jermain Defoe, while rarely seen on the pitch, is showing his support with his subtly effective peroxide dye job.
Clearly, this is a team just beginning to express itself. The dark days of the Beckham autocracy are still a very recent memory for many of these players and their confidence is, for some, including Gerrard, fragile at best.
It is true that England may not yet have enough style, team spirit and hair-quality to pull off a tournament win, or even a final appearance. However, this is already the most promising England performance since Euro 96 – the last major tournament over which Beckham’s malign influence did not loom.
Going into the quarter-final against Italy, when faced with Balotelli’s dazzling blond mohican, and Andrea Pirlo’s Steven Tyleresque layer and flow, England remain underdogs.
But what we do have is a group of players unafraid to openly experiment with different hairstyles with the full support of their team-mates. The choice of Krakow as base for England has been questioned by many, but perhaps being in the land where the Perestroika movement rose and eventually crushed the tyrannical Soviet regime, is exactly the sort of historical influence our lads need right now.
We are becoming a team of which England hair greats such as Kevin Keegan and Chris Waddle can be rightly proud. However far we eventually progress in this tournament our lads are doing it together and I, with my twin loves of football and hair, am immensely proud.
*Bar Glen Johnson who effectively acted as a foil for Beckham’s hairstyles down the right flank, giving him something to work off, and David James, whose constant pratfalls nullified his threat.