Mickey Blue Eyes
By repute, Brits in general and the English in particular do not know how to relax or relish; we ramble not amble; alcohol is swallowed by the pint, not sipped for enjoyment; we get blind drunk, not pleasantly tipsy; we produce someone like Lowry and call him an artist, not a cartoonist; we make a menagerie and call it Essex, not Cockney Zoo; we prefer rutting, not sensuality; we build Canary Wharf and its ineffable Stalinist architecture, not Paris; we encourage children to watch trash TV and play computer games on their own, not read or hold a civil conversation. Even our pensioners prefer crown green bowling because it is more aggressive than pétanque (then again, when have the English ever given benefit of doubt to the French?). And it is no solace the Americans are even worse, or that these defaults are not exclusive to our island people.
Our football is still another expression of our cultural impatience and, yes, crudity. Mostly our fans demand end-to-end Gerritinthefucknboxla An' Don't Gimme None 'o' That Continental Ladyboy Tappy-Tappy Stuff. Despite that, aesthetics and Robbie Savage apart, our approach has its merits as a spectacle. It keeps the blood in circulation, often on the surface - even if it is frequently someone else's blood. There are compensations.
The main cause of all this is our climate, which does not encourage dawdling or a more amiable mañana or bukrah Insha'Allah mindset. Watch or play in a Sunday League game at Jericho Lane between October and March and you will get the gist. Furthermore, the international TV appeal of our domestic competitions speaks for itself. But emergence of a great Spanish national team and its generation of fine players had a beneficial impact on the English game, as did other foreign troupers. Merged styles have produced some wonderful matches and improved skill, though it also had an adverse affect on England's national team: sadly, without their more skilful foreign team mates our home grown boys are often all at sea in international competition. Ironically, this happened in the Spanish game fifty years earlier.
However, in your correspondent's unhumble opinion, roughly speaking the English game now has the best of both worlds. I wouldn't cross the road to watch the average Dutch, Portuguese, Brazilian or Italian game. Siesta would beckon well before half time.
Surprisingly, Welsh Swansea City of all clubs is a product of the Spain-England axis courtesy of inestimable Roberto Martinez, now performing managerial miracles at Wigan Athletic. Prior to that he was a journeyman player at all professional levels in 391 games in England and Scotland between 1995 and 2007. When he joined Swansea as manager in February 2007 they were in third tier League One and narrowly missed promotion at his first attempt. By the time he left for Wigan in June 2009 they were serious competitors for promotion to the Premier League, which they finally managed in 2011. Under Martinez, City developed the Spanish close-passing and possession game and became identified with it. Since then they have performed their own footy miracle by surviving against large odds in the Premier League. Appropriately, current Danish manager Michael Laudrup played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, 1989 to 1996.
On the eve of our game Swansea stood a respectable ninth to our fifth in the league table. Midweek before our match they went to Stamford Bridge and gubbed Chelsea 2-0 in the semi-final first leg of the League Cup. Plainly, they were not to be taken lightly.
As it turned out, I would rather have watched a game of pétanque than this one. It wasn't up to much as a spectacle, a condition made worse as the temperature dropped dramatically with the sun. Swansea weren't too interested in much besides not losing and we didn't have enough guile to break them down or have the required luck in front of goal. They played two banks of four across the back and did it very well, if you like Italian catenaccio. When we had chances they had to be snatched at and without luck never seemed likely to succeed. In the end a draw was about right, though we should have won. Our biggest consolation was to see Steven Pienaar back in action.
Still, it is typical of this type of game that they had the best chance in the first half of the match when their man tried to lob Tim, but it was touched, just, on to the top of the bar and over. We had three reasonable chances in the same half, of which two were near misses and one got cleared off the line.
As usual, tempo increased in the second half and almost all play was concentrated in the Swansea half without us ever looking really likely to breakthrough. Even the Bainsey-Pienaar combination couldn't create a decisive moment. The substitutes made no difference whatever as the match petered out into the kind of Continental stalemate that will drive fans away in droves if it ever gets traction. Our little group spent more enjoyable time trying to wind each other up. Frankly, I couldn't wait to get home to some warm TLC and a pot of hot coffee.
In total, it was a load of boules. But maybe I'm just pissed off because we didn't win. It is that time of year after all: snow and icy weather is forecast.
I blame the French.