Alastair Campbell has many humps, and one of them is New Zealand rugby.
Campbell wasn’t just a Tony Blair spin-doctor. He wasn’t just a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. He was also the communications chief for the ill-fated Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005.
That tour didn’t go so well. Campbell was particularly cross about the coverage around Tana Umaga’s controversial tackle on Brian O’Driscoll. Moreover, sometimes the newspapers weren’t all delivered to his hotel room – and who can blame him for going all puce about that?
Anyhow, when the All Blacks were knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in a Cardiff quarter-final against France, Campbell bounced like a cocaine-addled Moonhopper about the place, shouting Schadenfreude you fuckers, Schadenfuckingfreude! Or, at least, that’s the impression you get from a piece he wrote for the Sunday Times, an article devoted to his happy mood at New Zealand’s defeat.
Here’s a taste:
That I was not alone in my uncharitable feelings became clear as my phone started to ping with text messages from some of the coaches and players I had got to know during my time when working as communications adviser to the British and Irish Lions tour …
The old ones are the best. “What’s the difference between the All Blacks and a tea bag? The tea bag stays in the cup longer.”
“What do you call 15 men watching the World Cup final on TV? The All Blacks.”
And my favourite: “They do the chokey-chokey and it’s ooh-la-la, that’s what they’re all about.”
Next time, the tournament will be in New Zealand. It is unthinkable that they do anything other than win. But that is just what they thought this time. They have four years to show that they have learned the right lessons.
If I read them right, don’t be surprised to see a year of soul-searching, a year of recovery, a year of supremacy and the vanquishing of all who come before them, then a year of hubris and the humiliation of all humiliations, a choke on home territory.
If you’re looking for any motivational materials, then, Mr Henry (and I know you’re reading), you could always print it out and stick it on the changing room wall. Just a thought.