Sunday, November 25, 2007

41 Years of Hurt

The jokes came quickly: What's the difference between Lewis Hamilton and England? Lewis Hamilton's got a place in Switzerland next summer. After the reprieve of Israel beating Russia, an expectant (too expectant?) nation watched England squander our get out of jail card. I watched the beanpole Crouch knock the ball down to his non-existent partner about half a dozen times in the first of half, proof, if proof be needed, that England can only play 4-4-2. And the next day, with a manager shuffled out of the door (and like other disastrous failures such as Adam Applegarth at Northern Rock, pocketing a wodge as he does so), the scribes are worried about what it will do for the economy next summer? Our team of glorious Autobiographers (AKA the Golden Generation) may have to move on to the genre of misery memoirs, though its notable how perky Steven Gerrard's performance was yesterday for Liverpool, in comparison with midweek for England. I had that sinking in the stomach that reminded me what it was like to grow up in the seventies (and briefly, around 1978, become a Scottish fan!) - ah, another generation gets used to not getting what they want. With Alastair Darling/Gordon Brown's current Winter of Disc-content, you get the feeling that what we need now is a good dose of Thatcherism. (AKA 13 years of bloody great hurt.) I found it a lonely place to be, caring about the English results, when I was meeting a lot of people from the arts, at an event we held in Birmingham. We talked about what a cultural Olympiad might look like in 2012? (Cheap, I think, given the way the funding has been squirrelled away for sport.) Its strange how few of our writers ever write about sport. You've got Amis's Keith Talent, I guess, if darts count, and in the Information, everything seems to revolve around some racket sport (tennis? squash?) in a way that has scared the middle classes every since Harold Pinter's "Betrayal." There's hope of course; David Peace's monumental rewriting of the Cloughie myth in "The Damned United" is a reminder that the two most-hoped for next-England-manager-candidates are both echoes of ol' big head: Martin O'Neill, as someone who learnt his trade under him, and Jose Mourinho, as the contemporary manager who most embodies Clough's strange mix of charm, success and frailty. Come to think of it, if Peace ever gets to write about our contemporary world, then Spartak Chelsea might be a worthy subject. I've tried to bury myself in the Guardian's quixotic task of listing "1000 albums you should hear before you die" which has been instructive on two levels. (1) there is more good music out there than I'll ever get to listen to (2) having listened to a few of my A's this week, I can categorically state that "Knife" by Aztec Camera, "How to be a Zillionaire" by ABC, Marc Almond's "Mother Fist" and the Jam/Lewis produced Herb Alpert album "Keep Your Eyes on Me" aren't a patch on Aswad's "Live & Direct", and "Show Your Hand" by Average White Band. The latter were a Scottish funk band, just to prove that anything - even jokes about English, rather than Scottish, goalkeepers - is possible. I'll get back to you when I've reached the B's. I could be some time.

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