Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Interlull: Jack on England and all that …

Morning all.

As I mentioned yesterday this could be one of the quietest Interlulls of all time and already the trickle of Arsenal news has pretty much come to a halt. The news feeds still contain stories about Jack Wilshere’s smoking which will give you some illustration of how little there is to fill the pages.

Wilshere has been talking about internationals and how national sides should only choose players from that particular country:

The only people who should play for England are English people. If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I am not going to play for Spain.

Yes, but if you’ve got parents who come from a different country and you’re born in England then you have something of a choice to make. Or if you’ve lived in England from a young age. Or if you’ve got English parents and you’re born abroad. Or if you fake your own death in one country and buy an English passport from a dodgy site on the deep web and assume the identity of an Englishman and turn out to be good at football and Roy Hodgson needs you.

It’s complicated, in fairness. As an Irishman, I can talk about how we revolutionised international football in the Jack Charlton era. Of course there were many players of Irish descent in the UK. Emigration from this country was a fact of life, and I myself, personally, was born in London to Irish parents and could have been forced with that most difficult of choices had I not been a) more interested in beer and girls as a teenager and b) not quite as good as Alan Kernaghan.

Yet we, and by we I mean Charlton, took it to extraordinary levels. Players who had Irish parents were one thing, but we had the grandparent thing going on. Then possibly the great-grandparent. Then it was anyone who might once have read Flann O’Brien, enjoyed the stylings of Gilbert O’Sullivan or listened to Terry Wogan in the morning. In fact, it went so far that Tony Cascarino’s Irish ‘qualifications’ were entirely fictionalised (I think it was Samuel Beckett’s last contribution to Irish life), and the toothless would-be striker admitted to it in his autobiography (in which he probably also talked about wanking and other dressing room japes).

Did it really matter to anyone? Not at all. These men were embraced, they were green to the core, although it probably helped that the nation enjoyed its most successful spell at international level under Charlton. Ok, so the football was horrendous, but it didn’t really make that much difference when you were playing Italy in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and everyone single person in the country was out on the piss. Even the pioneers.

Anyway, my point is, who really cares? The world is hardly defined by boundaries any more. We’re a jumble of races, creeds and colours in almost every country, and international football is just a gigantic scam to ensure that FIFA remains rich and can host decadent parties at which corpulent, piggish executives can quaff wine and gobble expensive food served on the backs of orphans whose parents have died building stadiums in the desert because an oil rich nation has bought the rights to host the World Cup when there’s simply no good reason to hold the tournament there in the slightest.

Other than to make the rich people richer, of course.

Which is exactly what will happen because the players and the fans, the ones who actually make football what it is, are just an afterthought. They’re way down the list after sponsors, corporate shills, advertisers, TV companies, sports gear manufacturers, event managers, and assorted hangers-on to all of those people.

I mean, I get where Jack is coming from to an extent, but international football isn’t really about representing your country any more. There’s no core of morality to the game at this level. You can pick a racist over the brother of the man the racist abused and people will accept that because they think it gives them a better chance of winning. So let’s not jump on any high horses about nationality, especially as England have exploited the ‘rules’, such as they are, down the years.


Not much else happening today really. There’s a nice interview in the Telegraph by David Winner with Dennis Bergkamp. He talks about coming back to Arsenal ‘one day’ (not any time soon by the sounds of it) and is enthused by the signing of Mesut Ozil:

He is a tremendous player with a lot of effective skills like controlling the ball, making creative passes and assists, taking the right position in the field every time. And he’s extremely experienced. Putting all that together I think you’ve got a player who can be the missing link in the Arsenal team, a player who will make a striker score goals, who will link up in Arsenal’s position-game and who will score goals as well.

Go read the rest, or listen to my interview with David Winner on last week’s Arsecast.

More here tomorrow.

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