First posted MyT March 8th 2009 – revised and reposted tonight to pass the time before the Six Nations kicks off. Revised again for displacement activity on 29/11/11
Some time ago, I had a brilliant idea for how the English football team could win the World Cup, possibly in perpetuity. Being a Scot, I tried to forget it but it kept popping back. I think I should share it with you as it could have the side effect of saving England, which is probably, on balance, a ‘good thing’.
In bowls, there is no nationality rule. You play for the country you live in. Thus, one of the mainstays of the English bowls team for years was Andy Thomson from Fife who still speaks with an accent that makes Naughtie sound Cockney. Over in Australia, the former World Number 1, David Gourlay from Ayrshire, walked straight into their team as soon as he emigrated.Apply the logic. England undoubtedly has the best league in the word and many of the best players, most of whom are not English. You already have an Italian manager so it is no great leap to have an England team that is full of foreigners as well. I think the FA should lodge a rule change with FIFA at the earliest opportunity suggesting that football uses the same qualification as bowls.
The thing is that I think you might get away with it. The other national associations are all going to be too proud to admit that their leagues are inferior. Then you have the Sepp Blatter factor. The man is a complete nutter, ever ready to adopt some off the wall scheme -see Qatar 2022. He might be feeling a tad guilty about all the bid nonsense and he might just agree that you have a real cracker of an idea this time.
If he buys it, the proposal could guarantee England the Word Cup in perpetuity. This is where I think it gets interesting. The political correctness of the established parties means that they will try to interfere with the selection of the team by insisting that the team is representative of our multi-cultural country. The English are indeed a people that are slow to anger but mucking about with their football team could be the spark which finally lit the fuse. The barricades of white vans would be on the streets immediately.
A tsunami of outrage could sweep away the establishment and might even swamp the monarchy. We know that Her Majesty is on record as saying that she is not very keen on football – remember Tommy Cooper asking her for her Cup Final ticket when she told him that? Give a football to her heir and he would only try to engage it in conversation. One of his boys probably supports Germany and the other one is an Aston Villa fan, which isn’t much better, in my opinion.
Were the Windsors forced into exile, you have a ready-made replacement waiting across the water. ‘King David I and Queen Victoria’ has a certain ring, and you would have a King Brooklyn coming up next (good for trying to re-invigorate the special relationship) with the Princes Romeo and Cruz (and now Princess Harper Seven) to keep the tabloids happy. King David could personally lead the team into action so we could all forget the quiz question about George II and the otherwise unremarkable battle of Dettingen.
You’d obviously have to leave the EU straight away to stop them claiming that free movement of labour meant that players living in England could choose to play for other parts of the Union. You’d also have to withdraw from the Convention on Human Rights in order to gain complete control of your borders. The only criterion for entry would be soccer skill. Lob a football at every immigrant and if they can’t keep it in the air for at least a minute, then send them straight back where they came from. You can also test their English by asking them to explain the offside rule.
Tear up the Kyoto agreement. I admit that, if there is a weakness in my scheme, it is that the first few England sides will be almost all foreign, but open up the pits and the traditional industries again and you will soon have a fresh supply of Millburns and Charltons. As a bonus, English cricket could find new Larwoods and Truemans.
Build industrial slums on all the playing fields in the Northern cities. Take away the kids’ mobile phones and computers and issue them with empty tin cans. Then force them to kick said cans around the mean, cobbled streets in impromptu 20 a side games for at least two hours every day, except the Sabbath. This will cut into the alcohol-consuming hours available and tire them out which should reduce their levels of violence to a manageable level. Close all the faith schools and replace them with King David I Soccer Academies. Make everybody under 18 study the Laws of Association Football every day of the week (except the Sabbath, of course).
With these few,simple changes, you will soon have a cadre of fit young English people whose only desire is to play professional football. The standard of the game will shoot up in every League division and the glut of footballers will mean that the law of supply and demand brings down the obscene level of wages being paid and admission charges. The crowds will flock back to the game and will reach pre-war levels. The recession will come to an end with a building boom as stadia are rebuilt and enlarged. The wool, cotton and clothing industries will be revived by a surge in production of replica strips and retro gear such as flat caps. A new generation of artists will, like Lowry, find their inspiration in grim, industrial landscapes.
Starting from now, you would obviously have to rely on the foreigners for 2018 but I am sure that you would be able to field a world-class side that was almost entirely English by the time you retained it 2022. The rest of the British Isles will, I am sure, wish you well.
The Welsh will have rugby with a fresh supply of forwards from the re-opening of their pits. The Irish can concentrate on Gaelic football and that aberrant version of shinty that they persist in playing. The Manxmen can carry on playing ‘Pin the tail on the cat’ and running three-legged races and the Channel Islands may well embark on an ambitious research programme to produce clones of Matt Le Tissier (but the clones will not get as many England caps as they should).
And whaur stands proud Scotia in all of this, I hear you ask? Well, we’ll always have the curling and the said bowls. But, I have to admit that I have a hidden agenda. I reckon that we could get the Princess Royal as monarch of Scotland out of the fall of the House of Windsor – she is, after all, the best man for the job of all of the Queen’s brood. We could then reintroduce the old Pictish practice of passing the succession down through the female line and look forward to the reign of Queen Zara.
The prospect of being able to watch her consort, Prince Mike Tindall of Gloucester and England, having to stand to attention at Murrayfield to sing ‘Flower of Scotland’ through gritted teeth more than makes up for all those future English Word Cups.