First posted MyT March 8th 2009 – revised
Last week I had a sudden, brilliant idea about how to ensure that the English football team wins the World Cup, possibly in perpetuity. Being a Scot, I tried to forget it but it keeps popping back. I feel that I ought to share it with you since it might have the side effect of saving England, which is probably, on balance, a ‘good thing’.
In the sport of bowls, there is no nationality rule or qualification. You play straight away for the country you live and work in, without any need to establish any period of residency. 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 by comparison. Over in Australia, the former World Number 1, David Gourlay from Ayrshire, walked straight into their team as soon as he emigrated. He’s back with us now.
Apply the logic. England undoubtedly has the best league in the word and many of the best players, the vast majority 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 be lodging 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 to the English one.
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 must be feeling a tad guilty about all the 2018 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 be through in time for 2014.
This is where I think it gets interesting. The political correctness of the established parties means that they will surely 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 lights the fuse. The barricades of white vans could be on the streets before we knew it.
The resultant tsunami of outrage could sweep the establishment away and might even swamp the monarchy itself. We know that Her Majesty is on record as saying she is not very keen on football – remember Tommy Cooper asking her for her Cup Final ticket after she told him that?
If you gave a football to her heir, he would only try to engage it in conversation. One of his two boys probably supports Germany and the other one is an Aston Villa fan, which isn’t much better, in my opinion.
If the Windsors are 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 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 as well. I admit that, if there is a weakness in my scheme, it is that the first few England sides will be almost foreign to a man, 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 must mean that the law of supply and demand will bring down the obscene level of wages presently being paid and, therefore, the admission charges. The crowds will flock back to the game and will soon reach pre-war levels with even the Conference attracting capacity attendances.
The recession will be brought to an end by a building boom as stadia are extended and rebuilt throughout the land. The wool, cotton and clothing industries will be revived by the 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.
You might have to rely on the foreigners for the 2014 World Cup, 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 in Moscow in 2018.
The rest of the British Isles will, I am sure, wish you well. The Welsh will still have rugby with a fresh supply of forwards being guaranteed by 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 will 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 aforementioned bowls.
But, I have to admit that I have a hidden agenda. I reckon that we might be able to 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 and sing ‘Flower of Scotland’ through gritted teeth more than makes up for all those future English Word Cups.