Something got lost in the transmission again. Or perhaps it didn’t. Either way, England drew in Warsaw, a well-rehearsed historical inevitability which had Marx chuckling from beneath the sodden turves of Highgate cemetery. The Socratic wonder of the British sporting press has pecked out their diagnosis with trembling fingers: England don’t pass well enough. England don’t control possession well enough. England don’t show enough PASSION. What Is To Be Done?
It doesn’t matter.
England do as well as they should; Soccernomics taught us that. They just do it absently and joylessly. They’re accused of having no character; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. They have several characters, each more frightened, venal and entitled than the last. They’re Don Birnam, self-aggrandising and deluded in their drunken post-victory state: denuded and self-loathing in sobriety and defeat. They’re Alexander Portnoy, driven by their baser instincts into acts which disgust in the cold light of day. They’re Svejk, without the knowing insolence.
There’s no poetry to England’s entropy. And it doesn’t matter, because nothing will ever change; or at least, not for a long time. A country which has made a bloody-minded point of refusing to learn from defeats and disappointments is only just recognising that its raw materials are dwindling, its approach is outmoded and its priorities are skewed. As the player pool becomes a brackish puddle, functional footballers are first-team regulars and middling prospects are cherished as the second coming of Charlton and Hoddle, England grimly cling on and hope that by the time they’ve caught up, the rest of the world isn’t playing a different game altogether.
Let’s just hit the big man early and see what happens.