June 2010

England Bemusings By A Brit

Like nasal hair, seemingly incomprehensible candy bar prices and bafflement at acronyms; another part of growing older is seemingly antipathy towards sporting stars – particularly footballers.

When I were a lad (queue Dvorak’s New World Symphony – used in a British bread commercial and as musical shorthand for anything, grim, northern or nostalgic since) Footballers were a curious mix of demi-god and neighbour – they were the champions of a community and as many of them were local lads playing for your local team, literally local boys made good – you wanted them to succeed.  If any of them strayed from the long and narrow path then these were personal as opposed to professional failings, because they liked a drink it didn’t mean that all footballers were raging alcoholics who stagger from bar to club to gutter of an evening then back into training again the next day at 10 am to do it all over again.

With the advent of celebrity reporting – IE. That is a celebrity does anything then it is de facto news because it happened to a celebrity – all mystery and suspense around the lives of Footballers and Pop Stars (the bourgeoisie royal family since the old one fell into popular disrepute around the time of Princess Diana’s death) has been removed and we now know far more about both than we probably could and should be able to. Witness the furor around John Terry’s recent indiscretions and latest allegations (son of a drug dealer no less) and you’d think that they had been committed by an heir to the throne as opposed to the captain of Chelsea FC and England.

As a result, looking down the list of the England squad who represent my country in the World Cup, I am struck with a sense of pent up loathing and lip-tightening animosity rather than a swell of national pride and jingoism. The thought of John Terry and Ashley Cole dancing a jig around the Johannesburg pitch holding the cup aloft ala Nobby Stiles and Bobby Moore in 1966 frankly, makes we want to vomit.

We talk about the 1966 squad, Moore in particular, as The Immortals – well then 2010 vintage could easily be The Imbeciles.

David James, the senior statesman of the squad who has been handed the No.1 shirt by default and who once took the field with blue hair and put down a lack of concentration due to staying up all night playing the PS2, a man nicknamed “Calamity” for his long history of crucial mistakes in big games is going to be the last line of defense.

At right back, Glen Johnson, fined for stealing a toilet seat from a hardware store despite earning in excess of $50,000 a week. At left back, Ashley Cole – possibly the most loathed individual in English football right now, which is some achievement given the level of competition – if you don’t know why, just Google him, Cheryl Cole, adultry and if your stomach can stand it, mobile phone; At center back, adulterer-in-chief, John Terry with drug-test-avoiding roaster Rio Ferdinand.

In midfield we could field Shaun Wright-Phillips, a man who considers $100,000 a week derisory; in the middle would be Steven Gerard, gifted box-to-box midfielder and DJ Assaulter next to all action Frank Lampard, as energetic on the pitch as he is in a hotel room with his team-mates with Innocent Bystander Joe Cole tidying up on the left. Up front would be expert ball and relationship juggler Jermain Defoe alongside England’s only world class superstar and granny-shagger Wayne Rooney.

So there you go, the young men entrusted to bringing back England’s Glory and the World Cup and I wouldn’t let any of them take my hypothetical daughter to the cinema for a date. Just because you are getting old, doesn’t necessarily mean that the world isn’t getting worse.

On reflection – It’s a win-win situation. If England do the impossible and triumph I can celebrate for the country, my friends and family and rejoice in all the good things that England represents. If we fail and fall in the quarters or earlier, or even, quite possibly to the upstart Americans, then I’ve got no shortage of suspects to pin my deflated ego to and pour 100 percent proof Vitriol on. Like Kieron, Rio and Frank’s hotel guests – There is a limit to the amount I’m prepared to suck up for the greater good.

Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at guy@yanksarecoming.com.

Guy Bailey