Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Football Crazy

I like the Guardian's ball-by-ball commentary of sport; and this is a gem, referring to tonight's performance against Croatia as a "team of plucky but technically inept autobiography-writers." How right he is. All this extraneous activity, of course, isn't supposed to affect their "main thing", yet even someone so at ease with the media as Beckham, didn't see the footballing heights in the end. So, what can you say about Wayne "Five Book" Rooney? Has his stumbling form coincided with the book deal? Yes, its true, you can say its got nothing to do with it; but its like when a club, company or council are in strife, its the small things that make a difference to "morale" and "application." However, I may break the habit of a lifetime and buy a sporting biography, that of Paul McGrath; not only was he the most consistently good play ever to wear an Aston Villa shirt, but he was the tormented soul's tormented soul. Of course, McGrath, who has had more in his life to write about than most, waited until after he retired before he hired his ghost writer. I think what tonight's game highlighted was an old footballing truth, that decline can be disguised, but never ignored. I think England have probably been in decline since Beckham moved to Real Madrid and Paul Scholes retired, yet with the emergence of Wayne Rooney we had the perfect teenage diversion. Wiser commentators at the time said that Sven was a little brave putting all his faith in a teenager, but wiser than we knew, perhaps Sven realised that was all we really had - that and the discarded Beckham. England, for some reason have never taken European Championship qualifying all that seriously - after all, how valuable can a tournament be that we've never won? Tonight's result was part of a pattern that began a long while ago, but was cemented with that defeat by Northern Ireland, and confirmed by the performances in the World Cup. The Chelseafication of the team probably hasn't helped either - since this club of millionaire heroes has created its own new elite system, without, perhaps, the much undervalued austerity methods of Alex Ferguson. England, 4th in the world in Fifa's ridiculously inept rankings, is a team in decline. Publishers take note.

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