There isn’t a football pitch the length and breadth of Britain that, come Sunday morning, doesn’t resound with an encouraging blast of highly tactical advice. “Fucking get rid of it!” it bellows, startling nearby dogs. If in doubt, kick it out.
Yet, somewhere between the park over the road and the stadium on the telly, that naïveté – the binary simplicity of it all – gets lost. Stick a long ball up to the striker on Wandsworth Common and you’ll receive a silent appreciation from the touchline. Do it in the Premier League and you’re considered an ill-mannered oaf. Like you’ve just ordered a Big Mac and fries at Claridges, or put brown sauce on your Salmon ceviche.
But in the art world – and let’s not forget that football is an art form – if you ignore the boundaries of perception, or dare to challenge them with your uncompromisingly broad strokes, you’re hailed as a genius. Jackson Pollock might have been shit at football, but he knew how to shake up the establishment.
And that’s the nub of it, right there: snobbery. Route One football is accused of not being pretty. In fact it’s ugly. It’s win-at-all costs, and, the worst of all the criticisms levelled at it, it’s desperate.
Pundits love to see mini-men dancing around the final third for hours at a time, nudging endlessly sideways six-yard passes, watched by a sagely nodding professor in the dugout. Arsenal do this. It’s “pretty” but they haven’t won anything for five years. Nearly six.
Capello has seen that when Sven was directing Terry, Neville, Rio et al to heave scuds at Emile Heskey for 90 minutes, we had major tournament quarter finals coming out of our arses.
So as football hobbles into 2011 on its bent Aaron Ramsey-ed legs, the bloke at the side of the Sunday league pitch can see what’s wrong. It’s obvious. They need just two players. Both 6’5”. One at the back and one up front. HOOF! BOUNCE! ELBOW! GOAL!
The same goes for England and, fortunately for us, Don Fabio knows it. He’s seen the mess of South Africa and the new “passing” England. He’s seen that when Sven was directing Terry, Neville, Rio et al to heave scuds at Emile Heskey for 90 minutes, we had major tournament quarter finals coming out of our arses. His solution? Calling up Kevin Davies. This is more like it! Eat my nil-nil, Montenegro! No banana skins here. Finally we’ve a bit of proof that Capello is a visionary. A man who sees a brave new football on the horizon.
Of course, so far it’s not perfect. They have the basics right, but the personnel is all wrong. Karl Henry and Killer Cattermole should be brought in to protect the back four; Tony Hibbert, Titus Bramble, Ryan Shawcross, and, for old time’s sake, Phil Neville (c). This would free Titus to launch bombs so Davies and James Beattie can bundle the balloon over the goal line.
Subsequently, there’s space in the midfield to dig a fucking great hole into which we herd The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen along with the Tories and fill it in with a JCB.
So, you see that Long Ball football is footballingly successful, culturally revitalising and politically sound. Success, my friends, is guaranteed. DING! DING! All aboard the Route One to Goalsville!
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