Para one – where our scribe yet again froths foamaciously about hearty and enriching nonsenses…
Bright Young Things quite rightly draw our attention and sometimes our love. For one thing it’s kinda fashionable to associate yourself with something that dashes or darts, or expresses something profoundly exciting in its rawness. For another, real talent – the expression of sport-glorious proto-genius – does light us all up, yes?
(False) para two – where things get unusually but temporarily focussed…
Take that boy Oxlade-Chamberlain. In a matrix of relative dullards and rammed Ikea-crafted pegs in predictably worn oaken holes he almost shineth. There is, with him (alone?) the wonderful possibility for something un-James Milner; meaning that, AOC has what JM, in his current maturity(?) almost completely lacks – a subversive whiff of impending inspiration, or the god-given wherewithal to stumble in glorious haste upon it. Possibly accidentally.
A post, then…
And possibly unfortunate or plain daft to make comparisons between these two Wingmen – the City man being essentially now an extension of the shape of things rather than a protagonist in his own right, the young gunner an occasionally unwieldy and at ‘this level’ naive unzipper of the crisp files of technocoachdom. Guess who I like most, out the two?
Oxy boy, of course. With his extravagant pace and directness and sometimes unplayable verve.
Even a fairly unschooled and dispassionate understanding of footballstuff assumes/evokes/infers some appreciation of the sportslife-enhancing boogie that naturals such as he hipswingingly perform. Naturals, when in the full flow of their electrifying ease, can utterly expose the stodgy, the ordinary and sometimes even the good. Because there is no answer to the kind of movement and joyful-lethal instinct they express. No answer – not even from top-draw defenders – not when the sap of confidence is risen and the ball is possessed so by the will and the spirit of that liberated charge. And yet…
England and Sweden has just finished. And the Boy Wunda didn’t feature, other than in the role of timewasterupper, as the ticks and tocks were being counted out. (Perhaps predictably, he fluffed his only meaningful opportunity, when failing weakly to control a through-ball; if confident, he might have taken the ball easily into his stride and lashed it gleefully home like some kid in a park. But he didn’t.)
And this is why I have been clear that despite the uplifting frisson/the succulence around his potential, Hodgson was quite right not to pick Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting 11; sadly. Like Walcott – more of him very soon, for obvious reasons – the Arsenal fledgling divebombs still too often and too crassly for top level international football; or, er… for England. The fact that this is clearly a matter of confidence deficit rather than talent deficit may be used against the Manager/Mr G Neville Esquire (arguably) once the side shuffle homewards.
Not that this fixture came near that aforementioned higher category of sport. As many of us expected, it was poor; poor but hugely enlivened by goals – good goals even, from England. And that other juvenile – Master Walcott – was central to the England ‘recovery’. Much of what I have said or suggested about AOC applies to TW. Except that Theo has skilfully played himself out of contention for the first team over a fairly long period of time now… allowing AOC to get a sniff of that right-wing birth now occupied by Milner. Theo, for me, has failed to grow up on the pitch; staying cute’n cuddly in an oh let’s make allowances kindofaway when we needed his pace to grow a beard or something. Seriously Theo, we have had to conclude that you should be better than this by now. And maybe… so should AOC?
Perhaps it’s a very deep one this. The question whether we should, as a nation now freed-up by the general revelation that We’re Shit And We Know We Are, experiment/and/or encourage our imperfect but exciting youffs? But is it worth bringing them on? Are they – these specific flawed gemlets – worth it? Can we bear all this cringing (our cringing) as they scurry down obvious blind-alleys or commit heinous sins of wastefulness in possession? Do the shocking miscontrols send you slightly nauseous like they do me? Ought we in a fit of wage-conscious pique to pitchfork them or flay them in the streets? Or give them a restorative Horlicks and tuck them up with a Mwa on their startled brows? These suddenly feel like matters of philosophical import rather than mere team selection, do they not? And remember we are relatively unshackled in this, because we ARE shit, yes?
That was the overwhelming conclusion, surely from the Sweden game? They were awful and we were like some some Scarfeian satire, some throwback to days when Jackie Charlton bawled at kids to ‘show me some aggression’. Terry could barely jog, but ‘fought through it’; Gerard again played so far within his gifts I imagine he used Lucas on a bad day as his role-model; Young broke his record for most wasteful moments and Johnson may need to be dope-tested again. BUT… the score was 3-2 in favour of the blues/skyblues/Oxford/Cambridge/whoeverthatwasexactly representing some mythical ‘us.’ And we need to rally round and be grateful.
There are – there always are – mitigating circumstances and I will almost certainly not, therefore, abuse the management team. Hodgson – an honourable man and a solid, perhaps even quasi-sophisticated coach – has barely got to know his charges. His choice (I assume?) of Gary Neville most of us approve of and his squad for the most part picked itself. Extraordinarily, these guys are pretty close to our best available. The particular crushingly naff 4-4-2 – awaiting or in the process of righteous deconstruction as I write – is Hodgson’s own and we can actually see why he’s done that thing. (Because we’re crap.) There’s a tournament to avoid utter humiliation in. (Un)fair enough.
The individuals involved in tonight’s Sunday League knockabout may have some kaleidoscopic sense of the paucity of their encounter but I fear are so depressingly-convincingly up their own botties that even the filmically pregnant pauses during conversations with friends – the thin ‘you’re doin’ great, mate(s)’ – may not pierce the squad bubble, let alone emerge on the flipchart of their team consciousness.
Almost no football was played tonight. But England, mighty England bore on.