The London Review of Books is blogging the World Cup, with mixed results. This post, by R. W. Johnson, apart from being anti-vuvuzela (bzzzz) is riddled with odd ideas. England's '66 team 'had a core of Northern grit' - Alan Ball, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, 'plus Jack and Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson.'
Those seven played in almost every game. This year’s team is very different. True, it has three vital Scousers – Rooney, Gerrard and Carragher – but the bulk of the squad comes from the South, reflecting the perhaps inevitable rise of London clubs in the age of giant cheque books. It is not exactly confidence-inspiring that England rely on Heskey and Crouch, both explicitly rejected by Liverpool.Apart from the absurd stereotyping involved in the notion that a squad should be largely born north of Birmingham, Liverpool wanted to keep Crouch and only let him go reluctantly, while Heskey was almost brought back to the club, before he opted to move to Villa instead.
Even more peculiar is the notion that, if London clubs had a financial monopoly, they would buy players locally from the home counties. The logic of unregulated trade, money without borders, means that the big clubs buy the very best, whether they are from Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Ukraine, or Brazil. As for the London clubs' 'inevitable rise in the age of the giant cheque book'... The richest club before Abramovich bought Chelsea was Manchester United. And even now, the richest club is Manchester City. Northern clubs have never been slow to spend: from Newcastle and Leeds' (catastrophic) sprees, all the way back to Sunderland's 1950s nickname: the 'Bank of England' club.
Still, this Diary piece by Johnson for the LRB in the run-up to the tournament is excellent.