Saturday, 24 March 2007

Bring Back Billie

Bring back Billie, that's all Wembley needs now
By Russell Brand

I like new Wembley just fine. It seems super. Yes, it was a financial fiasco and took much too long to be completed, but this seems to be de rigueur for construction projects. I've bought a new house and am getting it done up at the moment, and I must confess that I had less of a sense of needless cash haemorrhaging when I was a devoted user of crack and heroin.

At least those illicit transactions were immediate and generally authentic. I ne'er had a drug dealer suddenly quadruple his price then suck air lethargically over his teeth before informing me that my drugs would be six months late. Why, no self-respecting junkie would tolerate it. It's a shame Wembley weren't finished last season for the cup final between the Hammers and Liverpool. Not that Cardiff weren't a blast, it just would have been pleasant for West Ham to have played (and lost) in the inaugural finals in both Wemblies. I'm sure that's how you pluralise it.

Funny to think that the reason there's so many White Horse pubs around East London is because of the famous 1923 "White Horse Final", when Bolton triumphed over the Irons and a hundred thousand excess people turned up causing peaceful bother in the presence of the King, and one of the horses the mounted police were upon - I believe it were called Billie - was white. That tells us something of the power of image; there were loads of horses there that day. And policemen. And footballers. And the King of England, for Christ's sake but none of those things were deemed fit to entitle the first final because of the tyranny of iconography - that white horse looked good, plus "the man on the white horse" is a phrase synonymous with heroism; Pegasus was one, Gandalf had one and Beckham was photographed on one a couple of weeks ago to advertise pop.

I bet that white horse Billie was a right smug bastard. I bet he shat on the supporters willy-nilly, just for a jolly, and resented turning up at a football match, thinking he were was better suited to rescuing princesses and being a stud. That shouldn't be allowed either, male horses having it off for a job. It's a disgrace. My mate Matt says he rode a horse once and it was a big, muscly coward skittering about on its ridiculous tapered legs and spindle feet, too thin for its body. I'm also against them having shoes. And I'm against horseshoes being considered lucky. If they are, where's Shergar? He had four of 'em.

Photographs from that day in 1923 seem to be from another world as much as another time. All those hats and rattles and moustaches - I can't imagine those people crying or farting. One day folk will look at photographs of us, probably on digital monitors on their fingernails, and think we looked a proper sight with our tight trousers and silly hair. Actually that's just me, and I already look a bit ridiculous without the necessity for time travel.

Perhaps in the future England will have a team that can qualify for major championships without turning us into a nation of quivering, accusatory paranoids. Can we get a result in Israel today?

Confidence in the national side is low after Eriksson's reign and McClaren's appointment and subsequent losses. From where do we draw optimism for today's tie? As per bloody usual players that are great for their clubs look chastened and curtailed by the emblazoning of the three lions 'pon their boobs - Lampard, Gerrard, Ferdinand etc - so it is to the novel that we turn for hope, young Aaron Lennon, AJ and Preston NE's Nugent.

After the season I've endured at club level I'm kind of immune to disappointment. Unless Rooney takes to the pitch in lingerie singing Oklahoma! I don't think my expectations can be further wounded. If they don't win or at least draw today the hullabaloo will be renewed and we shall holler for McClaren's bonce, but with whom do we replace him? Though the years have onward rolled and much has changed since 1923 one thing remains the same: the significance of image. I, for one, am prepared to revise my antipathy towards things equine and demand Billie the white horse be made manager of England. He'll look great in photos, he'll be handy if there's crowd trouble, and if it don't work we can put him out to stud - and I don't think we'd get away with that with McClaren.

Guardian column

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