WHERE HAVE THE HEROES GONE?
Collectively, we are the rheumy-eyed liver-spotted old duffer who gazes wistfully into his pink gin and sighs to his companion, ” Yes. Those were they days. You know, I used to cut quite a dashing figure then. By god, I was one for the ladies. Couldn’t keep them away……..”
The companion nods sagely but feels sorry for the tired old man who has nothing but his memories to sustain him. An old man whose future is now in the past. The threadbare collar on his shirt, the shiny knot on his Guards tie and worn jacket all tell you that his future has already expired.
When the future disappears, it is the out-of-focus memories of a once vividly-coloured past which will sustain him. Every time the old man recalls the good old days, they become more intense, more in-focus and more embellished.
The summer of 1966 has passed into legend but every now and again, we try and re-ignite THAT football game against Germany which, over the years, has acquired a mysticism which we often despondently refer to as the “Spirit of 1966”.
Just like the old duffer, we are beginning to re-draw those days to suit ourselves. The trouble is that anyone with the vaguest memory of that day in now at least 55 years old and has spent the intervening years as a spectator of that now-traditional English football cycle:
1. Media outcry leading to sacking of the England manager.
2. New Manager (Messiah) is hired.
3. England wins lots of friendlies creating national hysteria and media frenzy indicating that we’re going to win and that this is our best chance since…..wait for it……1966!
4. We’re dumped out of the (any) footnball competition to the accompaniment of another media frenzy but this time there is the added vilification of the incumbent manager.
5. Go to 1.
Why is 1966 is always our benchmark? Because we haven’t won anything since. Yet we perpetuate the myth and because we’re English, we somehow keep captive that arrogance which tells us that we are the rightful winners – even though ALL the evidence is to the contrary.
Here’s a bit of perspective: 1966 was just twenty years after the end of the World War 2. The Sound of Music beat Dr Zhivago to the Oscar. Four giants of the 21st Century were born: Teddy Sheringham, Rick Astley, Gordon Ramsay and David Cameraon. Walt Disney died and Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra was at No 1 in the Charts. Alan Ball was signed by Everton for a record fee of £110,000, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and it was the year of the Aberfan disaster. John Lennon announced to the Evening Standard “We’re more popular that Jesus now.” Petrol was 5.3p per litre and the average weekly wage was about £23.oo. You could buy a detached house for £5000.
The sainted Alf Ramsay was England manager and the average footballer’s wage was £100. His Holiness Bobby Moore earned just £140 per week. Although that was about six times the average wage, today’s Premier League footballers earn more than 15 times the amount earned by the real “Golden generation” of 1966 who lifted the World Cup, which is nearly 50 times the present average wage.
We’ve had THIRTEEN England managers in the 45 years since 1966 but only FIVE in the 45 years leading up to 1966. It is as if post-Alf Ramsay, our football authorities imagine that a change of manager is all that is needed for success. Once again, there is no evidence to support that theory.
Very soon, the England Manager will be sacked, the media will adopt a favourite – this time it will probably be Harry Redknapp and the overriding cry will be for an ENGLISH manager. (Remember the Sven Goran Eriksson to Steve McClaren changeover?). This is the interval during which we move from patriotism to jingoism.
The Football Association, however, will probably appoint someone called Carlos Fandango or Pepe le Pew and the cycle will recommence.
So what do they lack – those prancing prima donnas who masquerade as the England football team? What is missing? There are clues. France and Italy appear to be suffering from the same disease.
Call it motivation, call it lack of direction. In fact, we can call it what we want.
None has the HUNGER to win and there isn’t a manager on the planet who can change that. Here’s the double whammy: Our overindulged footballers are not proud to be representing their country and are paid disproportionately.
Footballers now earn more in a week than the average person earns in a YEAR. The average annual wage of an English footballer in the top flight is now in excess of £1 million.
Take John Terry’s wage as an example. His pay shows an eye-watering 100,000% increase from Bobby Moore’s £140 per week. Inflation from 1966 to 2010 has been approximately 1300%.
In 1966, when Moore and his Band of Brothers pulled on those red England shirts and stood majestically in the July sunshine as the National Anthem played, they had tears in their eyes. Those were tears of pride in their country and tears of joy for having been given the opportunity.
The current shambles of no-hopers just doesn’t care. Half of them don’t know the words to God Save the Queen and they certainly do not feel any incentive to win. Their tears are the snivelling crocodile tears of self-pity as they slink from the pitch without removing their shirts in case someone notices the yard-wide yellow streaks up their spineless backs.
The team of 1966 earned their celebrity on the Wembley turf and we should hang our heads in shame in allowing acknowledgmant of their glorious achievment to go unrecognised for so long – some of the 1966 squad did not receive winners medals until June 2009. Five members of the actual team which played in the 1966 World Cup final (Cohen, Ball, Wilson, Stiles and Hunt) were handed MBEs in 2000 – 35 years after their triumph.
There’s no such problem for the current assemblage of Muppets. They are already celebrities and know that in two weeks time the media will continue to regale a gullible public with photographs of them sunning themselves on a West Indian beach while they tell interviewers what an over-long season it’s been and how “tired” they are.
The illiterate overpaid prima donnas will once-again be forgiven while their manager is thrown to the dogs, still wondering what happened.
“I make you da offer you can understand”
John Terry gave the game away after the full-time whistle was blown when he and his team-mates were putting together their staged “let’s form a team circle” stunt.
They were celebrating a 1-0 defeat of the Slovenians who are from a tiny country with a population 2 million and a first division of ten teams, formed as recently as 1991.
Did you notice Terry (who seems to have forgotten that he has been relieved of the England captaincy) formed a small huddle with several other players and was waving at others to join the circle in a show of “ersatz” camaraderie and “teamship”.
During the game, commentators appeared to be creaming themselves and breaking open the hyperboles at machine gun speed whilst their grammar deteriorated back to normal. The footie-hysteria had well and truly returned and the country once again lost touch with reality.
Meanwhile, Defoe scored after a cross bounced off his shin at point-blank range, “captain” Gerrard carried the jolly air of an undertaker’s apprentice with Aids, Terry made too many mistakes and Rooney looked lumbering and unfit with a face like a trodden-on anaemic blood orange.
“Postman Pat” Capello strutted the line gurning in Italian and treating us to a show of arm-waving which looked like Roman semaphore – probably the best way for him to communicate. Who recorded his Linguaphone lessons? Chico Marx? “To winner yew needa da goal.”
This is from the Marx Brothers Duck Soup. Is this where Capello found his “inpiratione”?
Wednesday we went to the ball game, he fool us and no show up.
Thursday he go to the ball game, but we fool him and we no show up.
Friday it was a double header, nobody show up.
Let’s hope everyone shows up on Sunday. We need you for the penalties.
…..and with profound apologies:
Stuart Pearce: “That kind of play we should eliminate.”
Fabio: “Atsa fine. I’ll have a nice cold glassa liminate.”
Capello and Friend
We football fans need heroes, we need supermen to represent us and to show the world what we’re made of. We believe that we are the chosen ones. So where are our English heroes? Where are the latter-day longbowmen of England? What happened to them? Have they become too lazy and spoiled? Have they had it too easy? They have to be found before it’s too late.
I have loved football all my life and many of my early memories are of playing not on well-drained and manicured lawns but on pitches with penalty areas so boggy that it was an effort to lift ones boots out of the ground. The stinging sensation on a frozen thigh as a water-logged ball smashed into it – and the less said about heading a wet ball, the better. Chilblains as you stepped into a hot shower after 2 hours running about in horizontal sleet.
There was a sliding tackle in the 60s which I remember so clearly to this day. I only remember it because I snapped my thumb in an iron-hard frozen rut as I tried to slide-tackle the opposing team’s too-fast centre-forward. Our trainer rushed onto the pitch, grabbed my thumb and decided that it was maybe just dislocated. He then proceeded to manoeuvre it as you would a gear lever on a non-synchromesh gearbox.
Once my screaming had died down, he told me not to be a pussy and to carry on. By the time the game was over, the pain had gone because luckily, I had lost all sensation right up to the elbow and my hand had turned greeny-grey through a combination of frost and pain. By the end of the game, my concentration was solely on my long-gone stomach muscles which were aching from the forty minutes-or-so of non-stop pain-induced retching.
Half-times used to be spent in the middle of the pitch. Even when the temperature was sub-zero. there would be orange segments, sometimes so sour that your scrotum would involuntarily contract in the genetically-programmed “flee” reflex.
The changing rooms always smelled of feet, piss and disinfectant and there were many occasions when we sat after a game, our hands so frozen that we could not even begin to untie our laces. I even recall occasions when we would stand in the shower fully clothed in our football strip, shivering as we waited for the thawing process to kick-in.
Another memory which still makes my teeth itch, took place on a sloping, frozen pitch somewhere in Leicester. I was running very fast towards a left-back who had the ball at his feet. I had already realised that there was little chance of me stopping because the stopping distance on a frozen field a 15 mph is more-or-less infinite. My purple legged adversary took two quick steps back and hoofed the 2-lb water-logged semi-frozen mud-spattered ball, presumably in a vain attempt to hoist it over my head. Whatever happened, I knew that a collision was inevitable.
That’s the last thing that I remember until I found myself supported by two team-mates who’d dragged me to my feet and were holding me under the arms. The trainer then proceeded to pump me up and down as he screamed into the gale: “He’s only winded. He’ll be OK in a minute!”
When the ball had hit me it clobbered me in the testicles so hard that I had temporarily blacked-out. However, the momentum had still carried me full-on into the full-back and I was indeed winded by the impact – but it was the excutiating pain between my legs which was making me puke.
I spent the next few days lying on my side with one of my mum’s very nice embroidered cushions between my legs with nuts the size of hand-grenades.
The faces of my old team mates are still there in my head and I can still remember goals that I scored decades ago. Sometimes there were tears when we lost but most of all I remember the wins. THAT is why football can be so addictive and such joy. The “ups” are so intense that you want to take them home to bed. The “downs” cause intense pain. They hurt so much because when you lose a match and lose it properly, you are spent. The energy has been burned off, you self-esteem is nowhere and you can hardly lift that pint as you drink to forget.
The young prancing English prima donnas with their silk suits, hotel-houses, large fish tanks, orange wives and Ferraris know nothing of the “coarse” football which we played and which even professionals played a version of, until quite recently.
They have become a freak show, an obscenity, a band of pampered illiterates. Many were plucked from their schools before they could write properly or construct a sentence (and it shows) because they could kick a ball – because they had “talent”.
Nevertheless, youngsters still look up to them because they are heroes. There was a time when I imagined myself pulling on a white shirt with three lions on the chest. Why? Because I too wanted to be a hero, a superman – a god. I wanted to feel unashamed pride in my country of birth.
Unfortunately, our present footballing heroes are men of straw with hollow insides. The whole country is trying to decide why. We don’t understand – even now, after the queue of media psychologists has given its last TV and radio interview.
Why do Englishmen “choke” at the slightest hint of success. The answer is surprisingly simple.
The overpaid ball-kicking thickos are mostly working-class scumbags who have retained the world-famous English class-inferiority complex – added to which, they are stupid. ( Don’t believe me? Listen to any post-match interview)
The mock-Elizabethan mansion, electric gates etc are there because these are essentially working-class dunces who need to show-off. It is exactly the same principle which turns a lottery winner from a normal well-balanced factory worker (remember those?) into a raving Ferrari-driving nutter.
They are all seeking esteem from others. They need that esteem because their own real self-esteem is so low. They cannot elicit esteem from others through the force of their intellect because they have none. Neither can the majority enjoy the admiration of others because of their sparkling personalities. The trappings of wealth are all that they have.
Their confidence flows from their self-esteem, which needs the esteem of others as a catalyst.
The present England team in South Africa looks lost and totally lacking in confidence. Add to that the fact that they have been celibate for a few weeks and all you have left (for all intents and purposes) is a bunch of depressed eunuchs wandering around a field in their underwear kicking a ball – when they can get hold of it.
If the incomprehensible Gerrard, thuggish Terry, drooling Lampard et al could arrive and be greeted like heroes as they are at Wembley, if they were confident that everyone knew them and possibly seen their photo-spread in Hello magazine or read about them crashing their Lambo into a tree somewhere in Cheshire – they would be happy and they would have their self-esteem intact and firing on all twelve designer cylinders.
Unfortunately the Vuvuzela-toting South African crowd doesn’t know most of them from a bar of soap. Here, they are just footballers. The small pink, beer-bellied contingent of English fans cannot make itself heard, it cannot cheer its heroes and so the life-blood of the English players egos has been temporarily interrupted.
Ah, you may ask – but what about all the others? What about the Brazilians, the Koreans and the rest? Why are they not “choking”. Well, strangely enough, many of the over-pampered ones have choked. Just look at France and Italy. It is the ones who had to fight for their football, the ones who came from the stench of the slums , shanties, favellas and townships who are playing with both their hearts and minds.
They do not need the mental crutch of adoration. To them the B-flat of the Vuvuzela is a clarion-cry and not a distraction.
The English manager and Postman Pat impersonator, Fabio Capello is floundering. He cannot massage his charges’ egos or deliver a Churchillian address because he cannot speak English.
Can you imagine Fabio doing a Henry V – mind you, rent-a-moron wouldn’t understand what he was talking about anyway:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
The solution? Stop believing that England can ever win the World Cup. We don’t deserve it.
p.s. Just to demonstrate the “sprit” off the English team: Did you notice how many English players put their arms round Robert Green or consoled him in any way after he’d made that dreadful goalkeeping error against the USA? That’s right. None. They all walked away and left him to suffer on his own.
“The (round) Jabulani ball”
The way that the World Cup is shaping up for England does not look too good. You know, the West Ham goalie with a ball-catching problem, a centre-forward who does not score goals, ITV presenter Adrian Chiles who has the air of a garage mechanic who’s waiting for the Samaritans to call back and thick football pundits who are in permanent cliché mode:
“It’s a big ask” ; “Watching Brazil play is just like watching Brazil play”; “Only just offside”; ” It’s their usual passing game.”; “Set their stall out”; “Clinical Finish”; “The referee was right on that occasion”; “Spirit of 1966″; ” He’s facing a fitness race”; “All credit to the lads; “Quality; “That’s what the World Cup is all about”; “At the end of the day”; ” The ball hits the back of the net” (Actually – it’s the front of the net. If it hits the back, it isn’t a goal! etc. etc.
Let’s hope that the pundits don’t run out of clichés half-way through the tournament – otherwise, we’ll be in real trouble.
I could lip-read Rooney referring to an American opponent as a “boundah and a popinjay” and on another occasion I’m sure that he said that their goalkeeper was “a thoroughly bad egg” and “not quite the sort”. However, it was amazing how he made each phrase look as if it started with the letter “F”! Now that’s real talent.
During interviews, Jamie Carragher still appears to be speaking Swahili.
So the new Jabulani ball is too round, is it? Robert Green, the England goalkeeper would probably benefit from a Velcro ball with corners and a couple of handles on it.
They say that he was so depressed after the USA game that he threw himself under a train. Unfortunately it went under him.
Lastly – the Vuvuzela , a plastic trumpet which plays B♭(admittedly not everyone’s favourite note) has come in for a bit of unnecessary criticism from both players and spectators. They have obviously forgotten the good old days of the wooden football rattles, which made the fillings in your teeth resonate and fall out by half-time.
During the England-USA game, I found the constant buzz of the Vuvuzela quite soothing. It helped me to sleep.
If the definition of a cliché is a word or phrase which has become stale though overuse, here are some racist examples which pundits and commentators use to stereotype: Germans- efficient; Latin Americans – temperamental; Black players – panther like; Asians- industrious; English – shite.
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”