By Alex Netherton
An obituary of football on a football website that does not thereafter immediately shut perhaps highlights the futility of existence. This existentialist crisis is probably only matched by the futility of football itself. Football, like dignity and the common usage of the question mark, is waning. Now, I still appreciate and use the question mark, and one day I might do something with dignity, but football is dead to me.
I’m 26. I’ve grown up with Sky owning football. I have no great truck with Rupert Murdoch beyond his politics, business practices, family, newspapers, the people he employs and his attitude to humanity. I don’t mourn for Old Football. Despite this I’ve still had to bear grim witness, like Don Draper contemptuously boozing while watching a strippers’ fake threesome, to football inventing something worse than a nadir. Football then took that, threw it down an abyss, and attempted to chase it without getting caught banging a drunk hairdresser. There’s no point recounting in every detail how we got here. The answer is simple. Humanity is a disgusting waste of potential, and that’s reflected in the football we watch, the footballers we watch, and the people we watch watching football.
The football we watch
Simply put, we like pieces of skill in the Premier League, the events that make football worth watching without needing to put them into context. We like the pace, flair and technical ability of the foreign players. These players have been doing this every week for 15 years in the Premier League. English coaches have watched this happen. More than that, English coaches, English spectators and English children playing football have seen this happen every day on television.
Who are the best English players produced in this period? Frank Lampard, a statistically brilliant but flairless player. Steven Gerrard, an inspiring but flairless player. Joe Cole, a legally exciting teenager who became more and more English as the game and his managers got to him. Wayne Rooney is an exception, but compare that at 17 he simultaneously nutmegged and playfully mouthed advice to a defender, and now, when he’s losing, hoofs players up in the air. The English at all levels have shown themselves incapable of learning that quick, skillful football is the most inspiring version of the game. That the English have not grasped self-improvement is no surprise, but I don’t have to pay to watch people destroying themselves in the pub with booze and self-hate, or voting Tory – but I do have to pay to watch football.
The foreigners are leaving as the tax rules change here and abroad, and the economic position of clubs and countries dictate where the best players go. The best players are not English, and we’re going to be left with the English players. The football we watch, with a couple of exceptions, is increasingly dour and loveless. The 4-5-1 that the best in England claimed, with occasional justification, as 4-6-0 or 4-3-3 is now definitely 4-5-1 averse to joy. As the better players leave we will not scale back to an achievable quick passing game that Newcastle United or Manchester United played in the early years of the Premiership. The managers are now so cowardly, and the English players so unfamiliar with relying on their own initiative, that we will be reduced to watching Barry Ferguson elbow Jimmy Bullard in the ear, having a row about it as Darron Gibson punts a shot into the crowd, hitting a fat man in the mouth that’s broadcasting his ill-informed homophobic abuse to embarrassed but tacit silence.
The footballers we watch
Who have we got to carry us through the bleak period? The ageing Golden Generation. Now, if any of them were charismatic, or footballers you could appreciate even if you didn’t support their club, football might have a hope. I could watch Dean Windass, knowing he was a reasonably decent human being, even if I now can’t understand a word he says on Soccer Saturday. Neville Southall was alright as he did this to Michael Owen.
Michael Owen, a man so gifted with spark and Tangible Human Emotion he needed his own brochure, was brilliantly dismissed by Liam Gallagher as, ‘trainee CID‘. Consider who else we’ve got for the next five years. Who else are we going to have to rely on?
This cannot go on.
The people we watch watching football
Tim Lovejoy has a pretty huge fan of his work. That’s Tim Lovejoy. The rest of us think he’s a fawning git with frosted hairtips, convinced of his own wider cultural significance and legacy – he’s written a book. Yet he’s had work at Sky for years and we pay his wages at the BBC. We’ve paid his wages by choice (Sky subscriptions) and by force (the TV licence). None of these methods have made him produce anything of cultural value, and everything he has ever said, and everything he has ever done, has made the world a worse place intellectually. Apart from this. That he influences the fans’ and media’s perception of what football is and how it should be reported, on our coin, is both chronic self-abuse and the ignorant insult of those at the top of TV. As When Saturday Comes said, ‘it’s clear that being Tim Lovejoy requires a very special blend of arrogance and ignorance.’
Jamie Redknapp has a pretty huge scrotum. He’s a pretty huge fan of Frank Lampard. He’s a Chelsea fan with big nads. We get it. If I had oversized testicles, I’d probably accommodate them with a loose pair of trousers and sit with my legs either side of my inflated kid brewers. Jamie’s gone another way – that’s his choice. If I had the same rancid, tedious, underanalytical gift for looking at men kick a ball and talking about it, I’d probably have enough decency to stay away from the TV studio. Take that, dignity!
Simon Barnes has a pretty huge ponytail. He makes references to books, music and films from more than ten years ago because he thinks he needs to because he writes for a paper that used to be a broadsheet. It’s not anymore though, Simon. It’s The Times.
Martin Samuel is just pretty huge. He had a bee in his bonnet about Tim Howard going to Everton once because he had a decent relationship with Chelsea at the time.
Ma poor dignity!