Thursday, 8 July 2010

Comic book stuff.

Not on Minus because, Christ, any more pieces like this and David Stubbs will take out a restraining order against us.

One thing I love about Send Them Victorious (which makes it more than just 'collection of internet stuff printed in a spine') is the little historical prologue Stubbs has added before each report. It's useful in that it can remind you about things like the Estonia football and France rugby games taking place on the same day, so there's no problem getting the 'late England substitute Jonny Wilkinson' joke.

Stubbs' prologues aren't just useful, but also contribute to the comedy in themselves. Once you're a few reports in, you start seeing the same short bone-dry sentences every time - 'Frank Lampard has an uncharacteristically quiet game,' 'England make uncharacteristic defensive errors,' 'Wayne Rooney suffers an uncharacteristic loss of temper' - it's enough to get you to the chortling-on-public-transport stage before you even get into the report itself.

There was a terrible repetition and predictability about that team, wasn't there? They were like some kind of cartoon ensemble, like the Bash Street Kids - every member of the gang had his own peccadilloe which he'd commit without fail every time he appeared. Owen getting injured, Rooney losing control, Crouch climbing over smaller people, Lampard, Ferdinand not paying a great deal of attention, Gerrard wasting possession and never hitting the target with his preposterous shots (the stats books assure me that he scored many goals for England, but I'm assuming that must be some kind of totalitarian historical revision). Then we get to the supporting players - a succession of error-prone goalkeepers, a rotating cast of wingers making pointless runs into cul-de-sacs and contributing nothing to the team...

I've argued elsewhere that a key component of footballing 'inevitability' is the sense that every game will unfold the same way, and the context of the game and the identity of the opposition make no difference whatsoever. Well - by that measure, that this generation of players should fail was truly inevitable. For almost ten years, a succession of opponents came and went, and England distinguished themselves in the same manner every time. We convinced ourselves that maybe when Sven was gone, maybe when Steve was gone, everything would be okay - but it could never have happened so neatly, could it? It was about as likely as Walter the Softy responding to Dennis' latest prank by smashing his teeth in with a half-brick.

Granted, a tiny bit of uncertainty creeps in at the end of the book - the assured qualifying performances under Capello eventually give Stubbs so little material that he's forced to adopt the guise of a Croatian (with his manservant 'Sepic') - but England's performance this summer was the final vindication. Send Them Victorious, folks. The perfect tribute (and postscript) to this strange period of England's footballing history.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it was more like a cheap, terrible ITV sitcom full of one-note characters. Scripted by Beckett.