WITH all the validity and integrity of big Sepp Blatter’s process for sorting out the level of his annual bonus, The Anfield Wrap held an independently adjudicated draw to determine which country competing in Euro 2016 we would all write about.
I got England.
Sensing some kind of diddle, I immediately asked for some assurances about the character of the independent adjudicator. I was sent photographic confirmation that the draw was watched over by some sort of squirrel with an uncanny resemblance to Roy Hodgson’s lad (not the one with the watch) if you shovelled it into a sock, stitched a couple of arms on to it and slapped it about until a bit of blood started to circulate through it. A little bit like a heavily frostbitten foot being plonked into a hot bath.
So then, England, what’s fresh? Anything changed since the last time we met? A couple of months ago I wrote about England and specifically about Roy Hodgson possibly being the Devil and somehow managed to piss off a load of people from the South. Turns out they think he is sound and that the Devil isn’t.
Mad that, isn’t it?
I am writing this the day after England’s 1-1 draw in Russia and in fairness to The Hodge I thought England were quite good in the first half. Aggressive in the tackle and prepared to press high up the pitch, it appeared that the man with the big watches was getting some kind of tune out of his players as opposed to the grim 4-4-2 death march football he usually imposes. But the thing about Hodgson is that he is ultimately a pretty negative person. When it came down to it, his natural instinct was to protect the lead he had rather than trying to kill the game. The rest, as they say is history.
England are now in a pretty precarious position going into Thursday’s game with Wales as anything but an England win probably leaves them needing three points in the last game and in major tournament football that is quite the ask for Hodgson’s England.
It leaves me wondering who Hodgson will shift the failure on to should this happen. The Premier League for not having enough English lads playing every week? The big clubs for buying foreign players as part of some massive declaration supporting the nonsense idea that is charmingly called Brexit? Some poor sod, possibly Eric Dier or one of the full-backs, after they have scored an own goal or given a penalty away to knock England out? Or possibly the fans for having the unrealistic expectation that one of the richest footballing countries in the world, with quite possibly one of the best squads in the competition (and the highest paid manager), wasn’t able to get out of the group.
Whichever, you can be sure of one thing — it won’t possibly be Roy’s fault. How will he get a new contract if he gets the blame for another tournament of failure?
Perhaps, Uefa’s stance on trouble from England supporters will give him a way out.
Anymore chaos, and the Three Lions could be kicked out, it was announced over the weekend. I can imagine Hodgson bouncing around France in three-quarter length pants, no top and a balaclava throwing massive watches at whoever gets in his way in a bid to get the team sent home in disgrace so he can blame the uneducated, uncultured football fans for ruining it for everyone.
Meanwhile, he gets a contract extension and a cool £4million a year for chatting shite and somehow convincing people that this England side should be considered heroes just for qualifying for a World Cup play-off.
Perhaps I’m talking bollocks, England batter Wales and Roy ends up winning the thing. Then he gets his grid plastered on a £10 note and forever goes down as a national hero. If that and Brexit happens I might walk into the sea.
It’s a weird thing being from Liverpool — and consequently England — you know. Sometimes, I wish I was able to get behind the country I was born in when they play footie. But it just isn’t in me. I look at the fun being had by Northern Ireland and other national teams and feel like I’m missing out.
But, truth be told, when England are playing, I look on in a similar way to if I was watching Arsenal or Tottenham in Europe. I’m interested to see how they get on but absolutely not arsed if they win, lose or draw. Hodgson’s presence as the manager swings the balance towards wanting them to get beat but at no point in the future do I see me actively wanting them to do well.
For people outside of Liverpool, this is probably really difficult to get your head around. You probably think I am a prick. That may well be true, but if it is, it isn’t because of my thoughts on England.
Being from Liverpool, every time you go out of the city to other places in the country, particularly the South, you get battered with stereotypical views of how we behave and how we are as people.
“There’s a Scouser in here, watch your car.”
“Are you a Scouser? Watch your wallets, lads, we’ve got a Scouser in.”
All of the above said in passing, based on an accent and some nonsensical views on the city I grew up in and the people within it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying about it. It doesn’t bother me.
I know the idea of a high crime rate within Liverpool is a stereotypical view formed in a time when the city was abandoned by the country and the appointed government, who chose “managed decline” over anything else.
I know some people who haven’t been to Liverpool think we’re all savages running around killing each other while simultaneously singing Beatles songs, wearing a shellsuit and sporting a perm. I know that there probably isn’t a great deal that can be done to change these people’s minds.
I also know the South of England has got loads of sound people in; I’m mates with some of them, I’ve got family living there. For fuck’s sake, I’m married to someone from the Cambridgeshire Fens.
The thing is, you add into that existing stereotype the general public’s view in relation to the Hillsborough disaster and you can start to see the case for a separatist Liverpool Country movement. The widespread historic view that Liverpool fans and Liverpool people (though not exclusively) caused the death of their own mates and weren’t even arsed by it isn’t an easy one to swallow. But it was swallowed none the less, whether consciously or subconsciously, by the country as a whole.
An entire city dehumanised to the extent that it became acceptable for strangers to make jokes, to your face, about you robbing them and then expecting you to laugh, like it was the first time anyone had ever said it and it was funny.
I know that people believe what they read in the papers. I know that there was a concerted effort to sell this idea — to dehumanise people from Liverpool, to make a scapegoat out of us. I know this. I know that for a lot of people, when the police tell you something, it is something that you should trust as fact, as they are Her Majesty’s Police Force and they could not possibly lie.
I know this.
But, put yourself in our position — growing up in a country where the majority of the people believe the above — and you might start to see why we some of us might not want to support that country when they play football. For the vast majority of my life it hasn’t felt like a country that I can say is mine. It’s felt like someone else’s.
As I said, I’m not crying about any of the above, I understand the rationale behind all of it. I can see the mitigating circumstances for forming that viewpoint. I’m just offering one explanation, my explanation, as to why I don’t follow England. If you don’t like it then that is fine. It is honestly fine.
The thing about stereotypes is that we have all got them. I have a very stereotypical viewpoint of the South of England as being full of self-serving Tories, who wear bootleg jeans, loafers and rugby shirts, drink real ale, watch Top Gear and have silly tattoos. I know, in the main, that this is nonsense.
I have a stereotype of all England supporters as being fat pasty skinned dopes who wear cropped trousers and jarg trainees, silly hats and like to down pints of beer in the sun and then start fights while singing ridiculous songs and playing Vindaloo on a trumpet. I also know that this is a frankly stupid viewpoint to hold.
I know that the vast majority of people who support England are probably sound. I know that there are bell-ends in every walk of life. Perhaps it is time for us to jib our pre-conceived ideas and be nice about each other and then see what happens, eh?
Come to Liverpool, bring your mates. You will have a ball, you know. If you get robbed by a rampaging poor man who looks like Ringo Starr in a tracksuit then so be it. I will admit I am wrong. Feel free to give us both barrels. Send Hodgson up here, tell him what happened, he has got an axe to grind anyway. See if he can conquer the city on horseback by lashing his massive watches at us all.
Until then, let’s see what happens on Thursday.
Tops off if the Hodge gets a new contract.
Up the flexible-faced Hodgson and his Three Lions. Sort of.