“The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel” (23.5.12)

Last year I found out my maternal Grandmother, a gentle woman who made her own lemon curd, who went to church and lived in Darlington all the years I knew her, was born in Bombay. This makes me part Indian, how exotic I’ve suddenly become; I could have played for the Indian football team and should have had a part in Slumdog Millionaire by rights. Now when we fill in forms that include questions of ethnicity I ask Wifey if I should write “English/Asian” which makes her scowl and say “stop trying to make yourself sound interesting.” I then tell her off for being racist, which is funny because she isn’t. How I laugh. How I sleep on the sofa.
When we considered staying in New Zealand I wondered if I would be expected to start supporting their cricket team instead of the English. The answer was an instant “bollocks to that, all those years watching England lose and now we’re good I have to support someone else? I don’t bloody think so.” Also I found I was surprisingly uncomfortable at the prospect of not describing myself as English. “I’m a Kiwi,” says our mate Christian in Auckland, with some pride and an Austrian accent. Good for him, less good for me it seems. I like being English and am something of a patriot despite the bloody minefield you walk into when saying so.
Watching the motorcycle racing on Eurosport I want Danny Kent to do well in MotoGP 3 – why, when I don’t even know what he looks like? Because he has got a little Union flag next to his name. Any English people in sport, even in sports I hate like Formula 1, I want the English bloke/team to win.
Because England is a complicated, mental little rock in the North Sea patriotism can take many forms but the National Anthem is no use to those of us who are anti-royalty and are not speaking to (or not convinced by the existence of) God. Our history is littered with shameful episodes but that’s how empires work and our mental little rock in the North Sea was bossing about half the world because we are a bit handy in a bundle. We have a proud history of drinking, fighting and civil disobedience which doesn’t tally with Royal tea parties and mythic dragon slayers. Any halfwit study of history will tell you we are a mongrel nation, that Lord Nelson was brilliant and so were The Clash. BBC Radio 6 wouldn’t exist in any other country in the world and we get to listen to it, advert free, for nothing.
Everybody’s patriotism can been different but when the flag-wavers start trying to get us all involved in their version things get sticky. Diamond Jubilee celebrations? The Olympics in London? The English pound? How much are we supposed to care compared with how much we actually do? Sup to you mate. But be warned; one of the reasons I came back to this country was to bring the government down and I consider the task to be an act of extreme patriotism.
The National football team. Ah now here’s a juicy topic. Most football fans would rather see their own team win the League Cup than England win The World Cup. A fact that is more prevalent and obvious over recent years as the English National team has been stuffed to the doors with pampered babies, unrepentant shit-houses and grasping, selfish despicable **nts dizzy on their own sense of entitlement. We resent International breaks in the football season for being a boring nuisance, the national stadium is an overpriced vanity project that we are all being forced to pay for. And did I say that our “Golden Generation” of superstars are a bunch of **nts?
I did? Good. Not that you or anyone else needs telling.
When the camera pans along the England team at the National Anthem from one face to another who doesn’t tick the players off something like ; “I hate him. And him. And him, he’s alright, over-rated but alright, oh I really hate him, he can f**k off, oh James Milner I like him, I hate him, cheat, liar, bastard?”
None of this is especially new of course. But come an International tournament we have traditionally put aside our club loyalties to support our National team and get annoyed because the manager has picked the wrong players for the squad. (To really soak up the feel for the tournament we will also pick several other teams to follow so we can maintain an interest when England are not playing and when they have gone home in shame and ignominy.) But the problem at the minute is that so many England players are so repulsive to us that swallowing down our prejudices has become almost intolerable. And it’s not as if they are so brilliant that we should indulge them their moral weakness and unrepentant shithouseary. Remember how badly the Germans beat our Golden Generation at the last World Cup and wonder why we should have to turn a blind eye to John f***ing Terry being in the squad.
“Because we have got no one better,” claim Terry’s friends in the media. But we’re not going to win this Championship anyway so why should we have to suffer his presence, his face and his dishonesty anymore. Gerrard has let England down too many times and Rooney can’t be trusted when Sir Alex hasn’t personally vetted the refs for him. Ashley Young looks like evil Marlow Stansfield from The Wire and dives, Gareth Barry tried to get a Newcastle player sent off recently, Glenn Johnson called James Perch “a joke” after he went down after getting butted in the face during our game against Liverpool and … and … and… All of which prompted me to ask this question via Twitter last week; that if when England come up against France in their first game in Poland/Ukraine Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye are playing for France who are we Newcastle fans expected to want to win? The team with the remnants of the tainted Golden Generation or the team with two of our favourite players in the world in it?
Don’t ask me, I shall be supporting India.
India’s not in Europe? So I can’t duck the question? OK if Ben Arfa and Cabaye are both on the pitch I will want a draw and both teams to qualify (despite the fact that I’m sure it was French backpackers who nicked our food out of the communal fridge when Wifey and I were in that hostel in Costa Rica). From then on I shall want England to win every game, safe in the knowledge that they will not do so. I also reserve the right to laugh at them and call them names when they eventually let us down.
Which they undoubtedly will. The useless bastards.
C’mon England! And Allez les Bleus.
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