This article titled “Footballers’ Spring launched by revolting players” was written by Harry Pearson, for The Guardian on Thursday 9th February 2012 23.00 UTC
This week the attorney general appeared on BBC radio and used the term “common sense” in the context of Joey Barton. To many listeners this preposterous event was conclusive proof the long-running sitcom Great Britain plc had finally jumped the shark, condemning faithful viewers to increasingly desperate plotlines probably including a trip to a royal wedding in the Grand Duchy of Figmentia and a fantasy sequence in which the entire population is forced to perform as if they were in a Busby Berkeley musical.
Yet while many fear the Barton/Grieve subplot presages the inevitable moment when David Cameron wakes from an afternoon nap to discover that the past eight years have all been a terrible dream, the noble Sol Campbell is still England’s first choice centre-half, Wayne Rooney is a chubby ball-juggling young scamp and Frank Lampard doesn’t walk around with the expression on his face of a man who’s just sat in something warm, wet and as yet unidentified, others have viewed recent events in an altogether more positive light.
In this week’s edition of that hothouse of intellectual push-and-run The Bacup Review, for example, controversially unpronounceable academic and “geo-socio-political pathologist” Lspkz Ccccccr claims that the Queens Park Rangers midfielder’s stand for freedom to tweet, coupled with Harry Redknapp’s brave fight against The Revenue and a “mutiny” among England players against their tyrannical ruler is a sign that at long last the huddled mass of professional football folk are about to rise up against a repressive regime of chest-waxing, chicken-and-banter pasta and the compulsory taking of positives. “Though it is still February and temperatures suggest an imminent meeting of the pools panel, it is not premature to conclude that we are witnessing a ‘Footballers’ Spring,'” Ccccccr concludes, adding the words “diaspora” “dialectic” and “paradigm”; just to show who’s boss.
This, of course, was before the momentous events of Wednesday evening, that saw happy mobs thronging public spaces, spontaneous street parties and middle-aged geezers in Dad’s-big-night-out shiny shirts crowding on to plush sofas to give an expert verdict on what all of them agreed was an amazing day that had to be put behind us going forwards. The post-revolutionary euphoria will not last forever. Soon there will come a mounting sense of dread when the reality dawns that if the chosen leader should for some reason – cold feet, an icepick in the skull, tempting odds on a rival – fail to heed the nation’s call, then the next best available candidate is Neil Warnock.
Other recent furores add weight to Ccccccr’s theory. For example, the Welsh players mumbling into their collars about the failure of the Football Association of Wales to ask them who they wanted to be their new boss (which is practically a legal requirement in every other workplace in Britain, after all) and the Argentinian FA’s radical political gesture of renaming their football season after the General Belgrano. Some have described this latter action as petty and childish, though to be fair our own FA did attempt to rebrand the Blue Square Conference North the Maradona Is A Cheating Shitball League first.
The alleged apparent unconfirmed and disputed disputation in the England camp such as it was, or wasn’t, centred in all likelihood, or not, on former coach Fabio Capello’s improbable love of John Terry. The Italian’s powerful affection for the Chelsea defender is one of those mysterious cross-cultural crushes that defy logical explanation, like André Gide’s passion for US Emperor of Pulp James M Cain, or Spaniards revelling in the tenacious fighting qualities of Vinny Samways. Indeed it is hard not to view the stern, autocratic Italian and the best-not-to-say-anything-because-the-lawyers-are-nervous Cockney Big Man as a latter-day sporting equivalent of the fruity Angela Rippon lookalike and the twinkly-eyed French roué from the 1980s Cointreau ads. Easy – though perhaps unwise after dark – to picture them meeting post-match and grinning wryly at one another in the candlelight while engaged in sophisticated flirty dialogue of the “See how the arrogant rigidness of my Italian 4-4-2 formation merges with the random bluebottle-in-a-jam-jar positional sense of you English …” variety.
No wonder the other players feel queasy as they sit in the background pretending to play canasta and desperately hoping the ambassador will send in some chocolate before JT begins fluttering his eyelashes and giggling coquettishly about his ice cubes melting.
The feeling among many observers was that the Terry captaincy affair was derailing England’s bid to win the European Championship. Sadly this campaign had already jumped the tracks and ploughed into an embankment killing several rabbits due to a previous event – producing a generation of players who are actually a bit rubbish despite “doing it week in and week out in the Premiership”.
Some have pointed to the antics of the past seven days as yet another example of England shooting themselves in the foot before a major tournament. The consensus seems to be that this is the result of bungling idiocy, of constantly choosing to clean a sporting shotgun without checking first whether it is loaded with buckshot of tabloid headlines. Having witnessed the same thing happen a number of times before, I am starting to have my doubts on that score. I mean, these self-inflicted wounds, they can’t all be blunders can they?
It’s my suspicion that English football is actually shooting itself in the foot not accidentally, but deliberately in a desperate bid not to be sent back to suffer a further ego-pounding in the sunny five-star hell men call the finals frontline. It is not an act of cowardice, but a desperate cry for help. High time surely that we heeded their call, acted humanely and with compassion, and resolved never again to send our boys overseas.
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