Hope, part 32


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.


Defibrillator, stat!

Near Post Flick swims back to a kind of consciousness. It can see a cornflower-blue sky stretching out before it, and tries to blink away the specks swirling in its vision. It’s odd, the specks seem to have wings and to swoop and plunge in elegant parabolas.

A voice. Strong, cold yet oddly guttural and glottal-stopped.


‘Do you quite fucking mind?’ Near Post Flick is awake now. Awake. Cold. Surprisingly, naked. And not too keen to further pursue voltage-nipple interface. Then suddenly, sharply, ‘What happened? Where am I?’

‘Well, Roy Hodgson got the England job,’ smiled his white-coated interlocutor, ‘and he secured them a creditable quarter-final finish after topping their group. It was football, after a sort, but hardly food for the soul. Unless you’re John Beck.’

‘Right.’ Near Post Flick felt warmth returning to its hands. ‘And?’

‘Well, Manchester City won the Premier League and Mancini then switched to a back three in pre-season purely to prove a point, United spent a ton of wad on Robin van Persie and Chelsea are transitioning into a sort of Ikea Barcelona. Also, this conceit is quite wearying, and I’m saying that as one of the two chief protagonists.’

‘Stop breaking the fourth wall. It’s so last year.’

‘Fuck off. I’m still carrying defibrillator pads.’