37 Comments

What Plighted Cunning Hides

The Good Life

In memory of Richard Briers, who I’m sure we all recall for his startling portrayal of Malvolio in the Renaissance Theatre Company production of Twelfth Night, I thought I’d watch a couple of old episodes of The Good Life. OK OK so it maybe it wasn’t Malvolio. I’ll admit it, the first thing we all thought of when we heard Briers had finally succumbed to fags and shuffled off this mortal coil was his King Lear at Stratford. Wasn’t it? No?

Roobarb then.

I mention this world renowned thespian who’s career spanned several decades of radio, stage and screen roles and all you lot can think of is a cartoon dog. That’s like remembering Pat Rice for his glasses. For shame. So anyway, I’m watching the Good Life and I’ve made it through to episode two of the first series and I’m struck pretty forcibly by how much time has elapsed since Tom, Barbara, Margo and Jerry first burst into our living rooms with their cutting edge comedy. I can’t help but realise just how much the world had altered without me noticing. I had thought when I downloaded the torrent that it would be a timeless treat like Hancock, Fawlty Towers or Blackadder. Humour doesn’t change, I reasoned, even if the sets and the lighting have improved since the mid seventies.

But when they tried introducing the cockerel to the chickens and it refused to leave it’s crate, Tom turned to Barbara and asked “Do think he’s queer?” and she didn’t bat an eyelid. Sweet, cherubic little Felicity Kendall just let the casual homophobia slip passed her without losing her impish grin and it dawned on me not just how much things had changed without me noticing, but how I had missed  the precise moment when the wheels of life had turned and taken us down a more enlightened road.

I’ve been pondering on how and why a similar evolution has overtaken so many of us where international football is concerned. As recently as 2002 I was following the story of David Beckham’s metatarsal through the sports pages of the Guardian as if it was the most natural thing in the world about which to give a fig. His free kick against Greece was to me as important a goal as I’d seen that season, and the listless capitulation to Brazil in the quarter final left me with an empty despair I couldn’t put into words. Whereas, in stark contrast, this week, while I am of course aware that there have been international matches played, I have no idea who England were pitted against nor what the score might have been. I honestly could not care any less if I tried.

engerland

I always used to feel slightly embarrassed festooning my bar with union jack bunting and felt the need to apologise to the non football and non nationalistic customers during any major tournament, so buying into the whole flag waving jingoistic bollocks that went with it never sat that easily with me. But I did wear the replica shirt and while you would still get a punch in the mouth for racism in my pub any amount of chest beating, flag waving, patriotic nonsense was (until the quarter finals) acceptable. Nowadays I regard the internationals as an opportunity to watch as our players, carefully nurtured by the greatest coach any of them will ever know, lovingly taught the beautiful game in the best possible surroundings and among the finest squad ever assembled, are suddenly plunged into teams alongside Wayne Rooney, Lord Bale Of Nazareth the Patron Saint of Stupid Journalists, and (God spare me) James fucking Milner. And I just cannot stomach it. Just the thought of watching Theo as he is hugged by Ashley Cole and Stevie G is enough to drive me back to drink. So how did this change come about?

I know I’m not alone in having undergone this transmutation. I also know that many of you never gave a damn about the British national teams in the first place and given that you live on entirely different continents, I can’t say I blame you. Some people have suggested that the presence of more Arsenal players in the England line up might help but I’m not so sure that putting Humpty together again is ever going to be that simple. As long as they schedule these stupid games right in the middle of our season I can’t ever imagine being anything other than hostile. What did Arsene say about cars? Actually I think he may have been quoting Gérard Houllier, either way it went something like “what the national coaches are doing is like taking the car from my garage without even asking permission. They will then use the car for ten days and abandon it in a field without any petrol left in the tank. We then have to recover it, but it is broken down. Then a month later they will come to take your car again, and for good measure you’re expected to be nice about it.” and really that is the size of it. When you consider the financial restrictions that we have had to struggle to overcome in recent years and then factor in the unimaginable and totally unprecedented levels of injuries with which our necessarily slender squad has been faced, then any first choice player going off and getting hospitalised playing for some team other than the Arsenal is unacceptable. Unforgivable in fact. And be honest we’ve certainly had more than our fair share of Fifa casualties.

Theo-Walcott-England_2843926

So maybe that’s it, perhaps I’ve learned to associate the internationals with an interruption to the main event and a chance for someone to break my team. But I also wonder if the advent of the internet and Sly Sports money hasn’t played it’s part. Back when there was less football on TV the internationals were, like the cup final, a big deal. A chance to actually see foreign players you otherwise only read about with their nasty diving, cheating, skilful ways. There was also a sense that it’s what we as football fans did. We came together when the English champions played in Europe and we came together behind the English national team when they played Johnny foreigner. But just as my views outside of football developed and became less those of my father’s generation and closer to something a reasonable human being could be comfortable with, so my attitude to international football changed. Of course the increasingly cosmopolitan make up of Arsenal’s playing staff assisted in this process and being able to watch these exotic players week in week out on my laptop was the final nail in the coffin for the old ways.

I can no more laugh at Tom and Barbara and their queer cock jokes than I can wrap myself in a St George’s flag and cheer for Scott Parker.  It isn’t 1977 any more and even if I can still enjoy the Sex Pistols and even if the English national team still play to the same tactical methods that were already out of date back then, there are some things I suppose we just grow out of. Why would I need to watch England, Holland or Germany once in a blue moon when I can watch Arsenal, Ajax and Dortmund any time I want just by typing them into a search engine?

Do I miss it? Like I miss wobbly sets, bad stereotypes and 3:4 aspect ratios.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

37 comments on “What Plighted Cunning Hides

  1. If international football fitted into the Murdoch master plan, if Rupert had the broadcast rights for the World Cup, I reckon we would all find we were much more interested in the England team than we imagined. I would also expect the Faroes and San Marino to mysteriously disappear from the World stage

    As international football is competition however it has to be squashed – not much of a sportsman is Rupert

    Like

  2. I don’t watch Sky Sports so not sure the dirty digger would have that much influence over my choices.

    Like

  3. Great stuff from a man on his sick bed Stew.

    Like

  4. He will have your name in his book then Stew !

    For my part I still enjoy international football, watching England has never ever been easy – akin to following West Brom or a club about that mark – the big step forward was learning not to give a fuck about the result -be like the Irish or the Swedes – support your country, have a good time.

    Its a weekend off

    I still enjoy that Arsenal players are picked for their countries. Next year could/should give Theo, Jack, the OX, maybe Kieran and Carl a chance to take [part in a tournament they will remember for the rest of their lives.

    Like

  5. Excellent stuff steww. It’s so great that our Arsenal are back. And for such a ‘shit’ squad, it’s amazing how many full international players we have and thus how much we are disproportionally affected by the disruption. Why can’t we finish the season earlier and have a 2 week tournament style international season?

    Like

  6. Money Passenal.Its all about the wonga

    Like

  7. See anicoll5, who says we don’t have wildly differing opinions on PA?

    Like

  8. Like Gilbert & George Stew – not that George obviously

    Like

  9. “who says we don’t have wildly differing opinions on PA?”
    Those that enjoy protesting too much, methinks.

    For myself, the International game appeals because I follow cricket, where international cricket is the inverse opposite to the IPL and such stuff. Yes there’s too much of it, way too many games especially in Dan Tan’s neck of the woods. Can’t think why. And I don’t deny the appeal of watching or playing a game in London Fields before it was full of hipsters, or even after. (there’s a great neo-punk song called Dickheads in London Fields or somefink like that).
    But the top level of the Game is very much the international scene, especially the Test game. This is no longer the case in Football. I can see one of the world’s leading and most progressive & pioneering football clubs (look around and see how many teams follow the 07/08 template) on my doorstep. Shame I couldn’t make the U21 game this week, but the times when a sleep deprived parent/friend drops by and begs me to take their ticket for a game makes up for that!

    Like

  10. AA

    For injuries I just wait for the press conferences. Even that is usually just a vague guide. My brother is a physio/therapist. We know that these days the staff will be learning more about each player as they treat them, treating injuries they were not able to treat a few years ago etc…treating them using different sometimes recycled techniques from other disciplines and traditions. In short there are a lot of variables.The manager, not being an expert in the field, cannot give a definite answer in those pressers but he is more honest then other managers when it comes to players health. On a number of occasions in all sports physio advice is often ignored (see JTs career).
    Walcott? As many of you know I’ve always been a fan of the best English player in his position in his age group (that line never worked with Scottish Gooners…), but, well, there is some cover in the squad! Somehow. The Ox is ready for a mini run of games (i do believe there is a desire to not overplay him, for obvious reasons. And those that are to follow), and he almost got on a run earlier on in the season but Walcott’s form was just too good. Gritdammit, where did this squad come from? It just sneaked up on me! I’m confounded.

    Like

  11. Stew, I’m glad my Boyzone write up lifted you out of your sick bed so you you could post today!- I like Houlier,his comment about international football was on the money but my favourite line of his is when he described Arsene as “the last romantic left in modern football”,it was during in the Mourinio period at Chelsea,you know,when they were buying the title and still playing boring football.

    Like

  12. Really interesting find there anicoll5

    Like

  13. Now that I’ve caught up with my Yachting, I look forward to watching Arsenal.

    Like

  14. Abou is fucked up .But not half as much as some of our fans.

    Like

  15. Why abou why..

    Like

  16. fwuck man, poor Abou.

    Like

  17. The poor man is cursed. It’s just not fair.

    Like

  18. @ steww
    beautifull written as always.

    I recall rooting for ManU as the English club in the CL final of 1998 (I know, weird to think back on that now) and cheering wildly in a pub during the 5-1 demolition of Germany, But all that was before I was an avowed Arsenal fan and crucially before I got to know what bellends most of the “golden shower” were. I really related to this part of your post: “Just the thought of watching Theo as he is hugged by Ashley Cole and Stevie G is enough to drive me back to drink.” The newer faces haven’t had time to piss me off at club level, so the other Engerland players touching our boys doesn’t revolt me as much. So that was one of the things that put me off England – that and the jingoism and cliches of the commentators. Oh, and the assumption that I must support the England football team because I’m English. That winds me up no end. I used to like France – because of their style of play and they had some Arsenal players and now I like Germany for the same reason. In fairness to Wodgson, he has a philosophy of football which he is trying to follow with the side, and I respect him for that. It takes into account what he has at his disposal – you can’t play like Spain without Spanish players.

    But these days, if there is one or more Arsenal player starting for England or any other international side, I’m interested. If not, not.

    Like

  19. You were rooting for an English club in the 1998 (99) CL final ?

    I have to say there was dancing in the streets, me leading a conga the length of eight cricket pitches, the ale was flowing freely in the gutters that night, and strangers were hugging one another

    Until the equalizer went in anyway

    Like

  20. Good stuff, steww, as usual. Went straight to Google to look up Richard Briers.

    I have a real soft spot for international competitions. I hate the nationalism part (USA! USA!…oh, just shut up), but those kinds of tournaments are often the only way folks here in the States get introduced to the game. Unless you play, or your kids play, you never see it. I would never have found Arsenal if I hadn’t gotten interested first by watching World Cup, Euros, Olympics, etc. Watching club football here requires real effort. You usually have to subscribe to a specific TV package, and more often than not pay extra for a specific channel in order to watch. Not going to happen unless you’ve developed a love for the game through some other means. Even watching MLS is hard (in more ways than one). I saw a story that said the Mexico/USA qualifier on Tuesday drew almost 2.4 million viewers on ESPN. Trust me, that’s huge. And I’ll spend the next few weeks explaining to my friends why a 0-0 draw (not a tie, please) is exciting. Well, this one really wasn’t, but you know what I mean. I had to suffer through a commentator on SportsCenter trotting out the old “A tie is like kissing your sister” cliche. He halfheartedly tried to explain why that wasn’t true in this case, but he didn’t seem like he was really on board.

    On Abou Diaby. I couldn’t be more sad for him. Just so unbelievably unfair. And the reaction of some “fans” is disgraceful. Get well soon, Abou.

    Like

  21. I am so upset for poor Abou, but what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I can just imagine the abuse the poor man is getting from some of the more heartless ‘supporters’ George.

    Like

  22. People moaning over this poor fellows injury, claiming that the manager has counted on this player are ignoring that Song was his cover for, oh, about three maybe four maybe more seasons. Either they are being really stoooopid to have missed Song play for their club for about three seasons whilst watching every game or they are delibertely using this players injury to attack the club. Class.

    Like

  23. Interesting piece there Anicoll. Honest, it wasn’t me. But it’s accurate.

    Like

  24. I am in a state of psychological dissonance. What else can go wrong for Abou? In the parlance of the street. “I’m gutted”

    Like

  25. I am on fire on Twitter tonight.

    Like

  26. Slay ’em George. Anyone being disrespectful to our Abou deserves the most righteous ire you can muster

    Lovely post btw Steww.

    Like

  27. Rolling thunder George

    Like

  28. poor diaby… where will it end?

    Like

  29. Not with this latest sat back I hope TS

    Like

  30. i meant when will the set backs end….

    jest when he was saying he had learnt to take care of himself better!

    Like

  31. Anicoll

    I’m pleased you let Dukey have it over there on ACLF. How harsh people can be about Abou both amazes and disgusts me. Abou has, to date, been robbed of a potentially glorious career and we of enjoying a magnificent footballer.

    Ditto Harry

    Love the retorts for Bill. Keep up the sanity!

    Like

  32. unfortunately I fear this will be the end for poor abou , football never really give him a chance

    Like

  33. People are mourning Diaby’s career but I’m taking moment to remember the lost art of supporting your team.
    Fucking idiots.

    Like

  34. Excellent piece of writing here, Stew. I have similar feelings about my national side but they’re so bad that I can’t help but get behind them.

    Like

  35. anicoll5 March 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    awful night…2 ricoches in 90+ = ..champions of europe…donkey slips = champions of europe x2….terryble…

    poor abu..

    Like

  36. Devastated, just devastated to learn of Abou’s latest injury. Just might need a Jamaican obeah man.

    Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: