November 17th, 2010

England v France (friendly, 2010)


Today, I fired Seppings 21 times out of the ancestral cannon on my grounds in celebration. This was not in anticipation of the kicking we were due to deliver to the French this evening, which would propel their spines through their berets if only the French were in possession of spines. It was because of the formal announcement of the engagement of Prince William and his fiancee, Miss Kate Middleton, which has prompted the incessant ringing of church bells in every village and hamlet across the Kingdom since the news became public. This is an affirmation of all that this sceptr’d isle represents; heterosexuality, monarchy, golden carriages, souvenir mugs and a welcome distraction from other news which, were the grimy herd to comprehend it might provoke restiveness (Coalition plans to declare South Yorkshire a slave colony from 2012 onwards, for instance, which has raised barely a murmur in the general cheer at a prospective Royal Wedding).

Contrast this celebration of Holy Matrimony with the odious, oily cur across the too-narrow band of water to our right. This is a country where infidelity is not only regarded with insouciance but nowadays considered institutional. When filling in French tax forms, for example, not only is  “Name Of Wife” required to be filled in but also “Name Of Mistress.” There has been consternation, naturally, about plans for England and France to share defence strategy and facilities, including nuclear tests. What this will mean in practice, as the French will discover to their chagrin, is that England has simply acquired new territories on which to give Trident a run-out, the occasional spot check to see that it is still in Bristol fashion. When France wakes up one morning and realises that Marseilles has been reduced to a wide, charred radius, they will wish they had taken the time to read the fine print of the agreement a little more carefully.

The National Anthems tonight showed the gap between John Bull and his motley opposition of Gitanes sucking, table waiting street urinators. Our own was rendered with customary gusto, so much so that you expected the very Heavens to open at any point and a man with a white beard to appear in the sky saying, “All right, all right! I’ll save her. Whatever Rio mumbles, I’ll do it.” As for the French anthem, it had all the forlornness of a white handkerchief being raised on the end of a stale French loaf from a makeshift trench, as members of the Hitler Youth German bicycle battalion (Soprano Division) looked down with bayonets fixed.

The England line-up contained some unfamiliar names but this was to be expected. As anyone will agree who saw France perform in the recent World Cup, with the sullen reluctance and passive resistance of grown men being made to conform to an EU-imposed bathing regimen, they are a beaten, emasculated nation, who envy the manhood of  the women of their neighbouring countries. It would be an insult to players such as Ashley Cole, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, to ask them to engage in direct foot to foot combat with the French. It would be like asking them to clean the team boots, or load Signor Capello’s luggage onto the coach, or behave like decent fucking human beings with some basic moral responsibility rather than a pack of spoiled, rampant brayhards who regard the world as something to stick their penises into and rut till the sweat trickles down the hairs of their arse crevices.

Small wonder then, that debuts were found for Jordan Henderson, some sort of grocer’s lad by the looks of him, who made himself useful stamping around in midfield making sure that the blades of grass in the centre circle didn’t ride up untidily, and for Andy Carroll, who took full advantage of his first England appearance, and of his height, to check for humiliating bald patches on the heads of the opposing centre backs. No doubt, his aerial reconnaissance reports will make for amusing reading back at the mess.

As for Cardiff’s Jay Bothroyd, his call-up from the championship confirmed that to play for England nowadays is a hard-won honour and not more akin to jury service, something that’s become mandatory for anyone for whom a check with the Birth Register can prove you were born in this country, unless you can find an excuse to oil out of it.

The French were pitifully depleted, so much so that we had to lend them players from our own, English teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal in order to help them make up their numbers. It was a telling indictment of their cowardice that for lengthy periods of the game, they refused to allow England to have the ball, so fearful were they of what they might do should they ever acquire possession of it. England, by contrast, held no such anxieties, which is why they frequently passed the ball straight back to the French – they knew the women-men in blue posed no danger whatsoever.

As for our own men-men, we were thunderously impressive. Adam Johnson certainly doesn’t have all the makings of a prancing, greedy popinjay of the right flank.  Were Jamie Milner to be substituted by a side of beef dangled by steel wires from a low flying helicopter and dragged  around the field randomly, you would surely notice the difference. The operations of England’s defence looked not at all scripted by Messrs Jimmy Perry and David Croft. As for Steven Gerrard, it is no exaggeration, and a tribute to the man, to say that every single thing he did came damned close to working. Our performance was crowned by a quite magnificently taken goal by Peter Crouch, the sunflower of our forward line, who as ever took advantage of the awe of foreign defences at his loftiness – their own countries are incapable of breeding such specimens, stinted as they are by their aversion to such nutritious delicacies as tomato ketchup.

At the end, The French were in curiously celebratory mode, as if they had won some sort of victory. In a sense, they had, for it counted as a victory that they had managed to leave the field with their shorts still on – we had spared them that humiliation at least. As for manager/mascot Capello, he looked grim-faced, as if in defeat, clearly having had no more comprehension of what had just taken place than a cocker spaniel watching a game at the local park. No doubt an FA representative will explain to him precisely what had happened, if there is time. For, having crushed the French like garlic, our next challenge, and here we must do our utmost to muster a straight face, is the Welsh. We shall turn up for the formality, of course, and take to the field but one strongly suspects if we did not, the men of Harlech would find some way of contriving to lose 1-0 courtesy of a late own goal in injury time.

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