Saturday, 17 November 2007

My England Habit

I need a new way to feed my England habit
By Russell Brand

When organising warm-up gigs for the forthcoming, final leg of my current tour my tour manager, Ian (City), and manager, Nik (United), asked if I wanted to keep Wednesday night free for the England match. Whether the game against Croatia is of any relevance will be determined tonight in Tel Aviv when Israel play Russia - if Russia don't win then England can still qualify for the European Championship with a victory against the group leaders at Wembley.

In effect, my response to this inquiry will define me either as a patriotic optimist or an indifferent pessimist. Or, as is often the case in these times, there is a third way: I could remain essentially optimistic but affiliate myself only with the claret and blue corner of England where Bow bells chime and bubbles blow, like a Cornish separatist imagining new borders around a principality of the heart.

We all know of the pledge, of course, where we swear to never again be seduced by a national side that only ever lets us down, an oath that is easier to remain faithful to if you're a fan of Manchester United or Arsenal and have a happy and successful domestic football life than if you follow Huddersfield, no disrespect, or even West Ham. But perhaps that constituency is now being diminished. Fans of the MK Dons could find more joy and triumph following their local team than by going to all the bother of daubing a St George's cross with Milton Keynes and traipsing off to Vienna.

I can't seem to give up my England habit: although I've never seen them play I have been inveigled by the trappings. Esso World Cup coins, for example, which bore the faces of the Italia 90 squad were as prized as richly as golden doubloons by my teenage self and while people fret and query the benefits of adopting the euro I campaign tirelessly in my mind to have them made our sole legal tender - a Peter Beardsley for a loaf of bread, a Chris Waddle for a day pass at Thorpe Park and a weeping Gazza for unlimited lap dances at Spearmint Rhino (they were very rare).

Last week only 38 Englishmen played in the Premiership. Now I don't want to get all Oswald Mosley but is that enough? We're approaching the point where if you are a top-flight English footballer you can assume you'll be in the squad, just turn up at the airport in your PE kit and demand a chance. So perhaps Michel Platini and the brave Steven Gerrard are right, that there ought be a cap on foreign players or players should run out for the nation in which they earn their money.

That might be quite good actually, not just because then "England" would be bloody brilliant but also David Beckham would have to play for the United States, probably as skipper, affording me the delightful opportunity to write an article entitled "Captain America to the rescue" which would be a breeze. It might even help to loosen the stranglehold that nationalism still has upon us, and our atavistic tribal instincts, to the point where we abandon the concept of the individual and gather in stadiums just to cheer the idea of collective consciousness - it would be much harder to tell who'd won or when the game had finished and some people would still struggle with the offside rule but it might herald an age of global peace.

When I was a lad and Liverpool won everything, folk would harp on about Sammy Lee being the only English player because that side was made up largely of home nations players. Others would say he was like a little barrel that had come to life in a Disney film set in a brewery but they contribute nought to this argument and can just eff off.

I suppose what I'm saying is that England will always underachieve, and it doesn't seem to be something we can correlate to club football in a direct way. If we don't qualify there is talk of having a home nations tournament, presuming that Scotland are also available, and some of my mates are more into that idea. "Four meaningful matches," said John (Liverpool) and I'd be interested to watch such a tourney, but it might feel a bit like the third-place matches in the World Cup where two teams of disillusioned failures vie for mediocrity.

We'd be pretending to care about our mini-matches but actually in our heart of hearts we'd know we were watching a consolation cup, for little girls in their mum's high-heels tottering around, fancying themselves all adult but not contributing to the gas bill.

I'm doing my warm-up gigs on Monday and Tuesday night and keeping Wednesday free because I make decisions with my heart (especially now my goolies are out of action) so Wednesday I'll be watching England and I hope it'll be consequential. I know it'll be a lot more relaxed than the front room in Yarm where Steve McClaren will watch tonight's other group matches with his sons and a loudly ticking clock.

Guardian column

No comments:


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari