Phil Foden, pictured after seeing the TV schedule for the week ahead
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Football is powered by superstition. How else to explain the continued use of the word "hoodoo," which has its roots in the late 19th century but has been used only to explain statistical quirks in football since roughly 1885?
Many supporters are convinced that the outcome of a game depends on their lucky pants, socks, driving routes, pubs, drinks, pre-match meals, half-time routines and handshakes. The impact of wearing the wrong trousers on Colchester United’s away form remains a lamentably under-researched area of mainstream science.
The more intricate the routine the better. A fellow QPR supporter has an arrangement with the people she sits with. For the first game of the season a nominated sweet-buyer chooses a packet of treats. If QPR win, they buy the same one for the next game until they draw or lose, at which point a new buyer picks a new brand of confectionary.
This being QPR, it’s a diverse selection of snacks throughout the course of a season.
For England fans who believe in portents and lucky radiators it’s bad news in this build-up to Tuesday’s game against the Czech Republic: ITV is the broadcaster.
Despite enormous strides in its coverage and punditry line-up, which has frequently made it a better watch than the BBC this summer, its record with England games is oddly poor.
The national side’s matches were often shared between broadcasters in tournaments past, with the odd exclusive. This practice only finished in 2000, when the BBC and ITV both showed England’s Euro group-stage victory over Germany. The 1996 semi-final between the same sides was also on both channels.
Since France 1998 most England games have been on either one or the other. Of course both broadcasters would share the rights if England reached a final. Amazingly, this has yet to come about.
Friday night’s Scotland game was the latest horror. It took ITV’s record since 1998 to 24 games shown, four wins for England, 12 draws and eight defeats. All numbers refer to results after 90 minutes only.
Meanwhile the BBC has shown England 22 times, with 15 wins, three draws and four defeats. That’s a win percentage of just 16.7 per cent on ITV, compared with 68.2 per cent on the BBC.
ITV has been the venue for some of England’s all-time stinkers. Defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 and the excruciating 0-0 draw with Algeria in the 2010 World Cup stand out as particularly soul-destroying nights for their supporters.
England's defeat to Iceland was an ITV game
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
There was another shocker from South Africa in 2010, a 1-1 with the USA featuring a Rob Green blunder and an England goal many viewers missed due to a technical fault.
Other ITV defeats include Romania in 98, Portugal in 2000, France in 04, Uruguay 10 years later, Belgium (twice, because of the third-placed game) in 2018, and the semi-final exit to Croatia.
We should also note that one of ITV’s draws was with Colombia at the last World Cup, which England won on penalties. That was probably the high point of watching the team since 1996, so feels as if it should be worth two wins rather than the draw it was recorded as above. Unortunately ITV also brought us the Argentina round of 16 game in 1998, which cancels it out somewhat.
We saw Beckham see red on ITV
Credit: ACTION IMAGES
Let’s not overlook those four wins. Beating Germany at Euro 2000 was highly enjoyable (unfortunately it was also available on the BBC) Wayne Rooney was excellent against Switzerland four years later. Narrow victories over Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 and Ukraine in 2012 stir fewer memories.
On the other side the BBC has brought you the Rooney 2004 game par excellence against Croatia, thoroughly satisfying World Cup knockout round wins against Denmark (2002) and Sweden (2018), Beckham’s redemption in the World Cup 2002 group against Argentina, and the late win over Wales in 2016.
So what is causing the great discrepancy between ITV and uniquely-funded Auntie? As a commercial broadcaster ITV has an eye on kick-off times as much as England involvement.
Its preference will often be for primetime games which will guarantee higher ad revenue. The prestige game of each tournament day has often been scheduled for those timeslots, meaning England will generally face weaker teams at times when most of the nation is at school or work.
So ITV is potentially picking games in which England face tougher opponents. This theory falls down when you look at some of the middling opponents England have failed to beat on ITV, and the credible wins on the BBC.
Beyond that, it’s tough to explain. Is it poor font choices? Cursed microphones? A hex on Sam Matterface? Many would argue it’s no more complicated than our old friend: coincidence.
Nevertheless, the stats will worry any nervy England supporters. Better give that lucky bannister rail an extra-meaningful rub ahead of Tuesday night.
The full TV record since 1998
World Cup 1998
England 2 – 0 Tunisia – BBC
Romania 2 – 1 England – ITV
Colombia 0 – 2 England – BBC
Argentina 2 – 2 England – ITV – (Arg win 4-3 on penalities)
Portugal 3 – 2 England – ITV
England 1 – 0 Germany – BBC and ITV
England 2 – 3 Romania – BBC
World Cup 2002
England 1 – 1 Sweden – ITV
Argentina 0 – 1 England – BBC
Nigeria 0 – 0 England – BBC
Denmark 0 – 3 England – BBC
England 1 – 2 Brazil – BBC
France 2 – 1 England – ITV
England 3 – 0 Switzerland – ITV
Croatia 2 – 4 England – BBC
Portugal 2 – 2 England – BBC – Draw (Por win 6-5 on pens)
World Cup 2006
England 1 – 0 Paraguay – BBC
England 2 – 0 Trinidad and Tobago – ITV
Sweden 2 – 2 England – ITV
England 1 – 0 Ecuador – BBC
England 0 – 0 Portugal – ITV – Draw (Por win 3-1 on pens)
World Cup 2010
England 1 – 1 USA – ITV
England 0 – 0 Algeria – ITV
Slovenia 0 – 1 England – BBC
Germany 4 – 1 England – BBC
France 1 – 1 England – ITV
Sweden 2 – 3 England – BBC
England 1 – 0 Ukraine – ITV
England 0 – 0 Italy (Ita win 4-2 on pens) – BBC
World Cup 2014
England 1 – 2 Italy – BBC
Uruguay 2 – 1 England – ITV
Costa Rica 0 – 0 England – ITV
England 1 – 1 Russia – ITV
England 2 – 1 Wales – BBC
Slovakia 0 – 0 England – ITV
England 1 – 2 Iceland – ITV
World Cup 2018
Tunisia 1 – 2 England – BBC
England 6 – 1 Panama – BBC
England 0 – 1 Belgium – ITV
Colombia 1 – 1 England (Eng win 4-3 on pens) – ITV
Sweden 0 – 2 England – BBC
Croatia 2 – 1 England – ITV
Belgium 2 – 0 England – ITV
England 1 – 0 Croatia – BBC
England 0 -0 Scotland – ITV
Pick your England team to face Czech Republic