Monday, 28 June 2010

Heskey isn't the problem

"There's a sense of relief when England go out of a major championship, like the end of a short but crap relationship," wrote Charles on his twitter feed. In truth, there is little to love about the "golden generation". Lampard does everything to conceal his reputed intelligence; there's an air of mealy-mouthed cruelty about him, as if he's fresh from reducing someone to tears at a nightclub. Gerrard has a kind of feckless fatalism. But it's Terry, with his slow, animal-stupid eyes, lumbering frame and brute malice, who sums up all that's loathsome about the England team, and indeed English culture. It's no accident that Enric Gonzalez singles out Terry - who mocked American tourists after 9/11, was arrested for brawling, parked his car in a disabled bay, all before the business with Wayne Bridge's ex - in his piece on how Thatcherite individualism has wrecked England's capacity for collective endeavour.

Heskey's being scapegoated, but he wasn't the problem. Yes, it was mystifying why Capello put him on yesterday when England needed goals, but the general thinking behind the inclusion of a player like Heskey is sound. He's the exact opposite of Hollywood - a player whose role is to allow others to play. The same is the case for Barry - a player of limited ability for sure, but one who can play short passes to team-mates and who will work for the team. (Yes, he was caught in possession for one of the Germany goals, but that was in the opponents' penalty area: he might legitimately have expected his team-mates to cover for him.) Millner, too, who at his best in this tournament resembled his Villa mentor John Robertson - his loping stride meant that he looks too slow to beat the full-back, but suddenly, inexplicably, he's past the defender and putting in a deadly cross. Germany has far more Heskeys, Barrys and Milners than it does Lampards or Gerrards; it's just that their equivalents of Barry, Heskey and Milner are fitter and faster. (The one England superstar who did live up to his reputation in my view was Ashley Cole - solid defensively when not exposed by Terry, comfortable on the ball, and a threat going forward.)

One of the pleasing trends in this World Cup, actually, has been its underming of the cult of the individual. It's as if the games so far have been an answer of the Real to capitalism's obsessive individualism.
Despite the punditocracy palpably willing him to excel (Digital Ben has pointed out the absurdity of newspapers making him man of the match even when they score other players in the Argentina team higher in the match ratings), Messi has yet to really impress in the required way. As @andrewspooner acidly observed on twitter yesterday, "Drogba, Canavaro, Walcott, Evra, Ribery, Rooney, Ronaldhino - all suffering from Nike advert curse - only Ronaldo left."


  1. I actually think the closest thing to an achievement Messi can claim in this WC is occupying defenders so that his team-mates have had more freedom to play. In other words, he's been Argentina's Heskey...

  2. Good joke above aside, I think this post is a little harsh on Messi in reaction to the pundits perhaps. He's hit the woodwork twice, set up at least 2 goals, made a major contribution to another, and is a consumate team player - which is why he's good. After the first three games Opta had his pass completion as 9th best, and he had made as many dribbles as anyone apart from two players + he rarely loses the ball.

    Pundits want hollywood and individualism, but Argentina will be happy for teams to double up on him, or man mark him, as pulls the defence and creates the space for Tevez, Higuain, Di Maria, Veron etc

  3. And with the Real always comes, in part, an experience of horror!

  4. Messi has yet to really impress in the required way

    Yeah, except not really. He's played sumptuous football, a threat and a treat every time he touches the ball. And he may not have scored yet, but he's opened up whole pampas for his mates. I can't wait for the game against Germany, it could be a classic.

    Also: Luis Fabiano is still in the running for the Nike ads. I had a post in the works about that, bugger me.