Thursday, 10 June 2010

The England Question... (and some Fianna Fáil bashing)

Hey folks,

Having just come out of a sports shop in Gatwick Airport emblazoned with St George’s flags I thought I’d found the reason for Irish fans’ general pattern of hatred for England. Over the past few months, the subject of whether we should have any problem supporting Fabio Capello’s side during their exploits in South Africa has cropped up again and again in pub conversations, on radio talk shows, during awkward conversations with taxi drivers and in almost every opinion column in the nation’s newspapers

Indeed, non-football-loving columnists seem to be the biggest culprits, many of whom seem to think they’ve just written the first ‘expose’ on this subject and have found a variety of ‘definitive’ answers to the quandary. They haven’t.

Anyway, back in Gatwick it was the sheer ugliness of the St George’s flag that caught my attention. The pretty stark horror of it never really comes out until you see it on mass – be it on the stands during an England game or in a corner of JD Sports. But there it was, all over t-shirts, flags, jerseys, hats, shorts and plenty more pointless apparel.

It’s bloody hideous.

In all honesty though, I think this distaste for the flag is more to do with my brain trying to scramble around for new reasons to revel in the suffering of the English than anything else. Other justifications are falling by the wayside. Ignore the tabloids and there’s none of the press over-confidence that plagued the 2002 and 2006 World Cups in particular (well not yet). At this stage too it’s a bit tiresome bleating on about Britain’s past sins when it comes to Ireland.

It’s a generation or two since the ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ signs in England and none of those messages were plonked in the pub window by Steven Gerrard or Fabio Capello.

The latest reason most Irish fans have for despising Capello’s side is that, like McClaren and Sven’s teams before, they play woeful football. Similar to the spiritual awakening Eamonn Dunphy has experienced in the last few years, it appears we’ve all become purists who can only support slick passing football. However, I think this is only another decoy reason to dislike them.

I think the thing we really detest about the English is what we also delight in, and will continue to do so despite appeals for a more sane, all embracing approach. We hate them because they always lose.
Since the State was formed a great proportion of the Irish people have thrown their weight behind a winning side. No matter who they are or what they’re doing. When we adopt teams, we don’t adopt loveable losers. We adopt great big fat winners.

We love teams with copious league titles, we love teams which get to the latter stages of cup competitions, we love big spending, all conquering football sides. I know there are a few exceptions – I was talking to a Scunthorpe fan from Dublin last week – but on the whole, and I include myself in this, we get very caught up in trying to follow a team that will give us more happy days than sad.

Obviously, some Brits – such as cockney Man United and Liverpool fans – are just as guilty when it comes to football but I don’t think it permeates through their collective mindset like it does over here.

In day-to-day life, you only have to look at the general religious fervour adopted by supporters of Fianna Fáil for more evidence of this in our psyche. The party has been out of power for two years in the last 20. Two bloody years. Despite this they will blame anyone – from American banks to volcanoes and wars waged in far off countries – as being responsible for our woes. Not them.

Not the men and women who had complete control of budgets, taxes, legislation and development for 90% of the last two decades. It’s all down to that PD in health so it is. It’s all down to interfering independent TDs. It’s all down to “the meeja”. It’s all down to the Dáil bar to put six pints on expenses and never mind about having a second scoop lads, sure the chauffeur is bringing you back home. Result.

But do Irish people desert them? Nope. Alright Enda Kenny is about as charismatic as a particularly boring otter, but even so, more should be migrating away from Brian Cowen’s party. But no, no, they’re the lads with the power, let’s stick with them, let’s stick with the winners… and no, I don’t buy into opinion polls like the one in the Irish Times this week and believe many of us will be just as moronic next time we vote…. Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah, England…

Anyway, England will never offer that winning feeling, they only bring more heartbreak and that’s the last thing we need. Had their football history had a few more World Cups and the odd European Cup thrown in, we’d most likely have them as our second team by now.

We should be over our pettiness at this stage but England’s stubborn refusal to win and let us be at peace with getting on board a bandwagon has kept us hating them. Damn them so for not giving us a reason to love them. It’d be great, if only so we could listen to ‘World in Motion’ without a nagging sense of guilt, but for now we just can’t embrace more pain.

Perhaps we need them to win a World Cup to get it over with and test out my theory*.
Later, JJ

*Not this time though, I gave a mate 3-1 odds that they wouldn’t make the semi finals, so another quarter round exit please Lamps. Next time I’ll be more mature, I swear.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

And now... the end is... now

And like that, he's gone...

Okay, the dance video we posted last week didn't help, but taking everything into account I'd say this is a fairly dignified exit from Rafa Benitez. "It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC. I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts," he said.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager. Thank you so much once more and always remember: You'll never walk alone."

Yes the last bit is cheesy but it does make a change from his default sarcasm mode that was adopted for the vast majority of the last 18 months. Of course, the suspicion has been there from supporters for a while that the players needed to hear a new voice. Someone to cuddle up to the poor love starved millionaires. Bless.

Whatever your opinion on Rafa - and opinions of opposition fans tended to veer towards outright hatred, which sort of made me love his style - ask any Pool supporter and they'll tell you that there are monster egos and fools in that dressing room that many fans would have had gone well before Benitez (Gerrard's several personalities making up most of the bunch); and that's before we even begin to talk about the selection of horror film characters in the boardroom.

Anyway, if there is no money to spend once the new man comes in (seeing as it could be a short term thing with little cash to work with, Roy Hodgson seems the logical choice) they could do a lot better than getting rid of the foreheadless captain.

Feck the speculation though, for now, adios Rafa, thanks for the fifth European Cup at the very least... oh and for pissing off the old boys brigade of Whelan, Thompson et al, for that I am forever grateful. The shower of bastards.

Later, JJ

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

World Cup Songs on State of Play

Whattup folks,

I'm on Phantom 105.2 this Thursday on a show called State of Play discussing the best and worst football songs ever created, or to be more precise World Cup songs.

Some gems I hope to mention include this MOR beauty from the New Zealand team in 1982, Germany's brush with the Village People, the obvious brilliance of 'The Flame' and, let's give them a wee bit of credit, England's 1990 gem 'World in Motion'.

Tune in if ye get the chance by clicking here at 7pm tomorrow, or you can just tune in the wireless of course.

Cheers, JJ