22 June 2014

'Arry Redknapp offers comic relief to ease Three Lions' pain...

So England's World Cup ambitions have ended before they even really started, foundering on the Merseyside shoals and ending in a bit of humiliation as Costa Rica—teeny, tiny Costa Rica—can now coast through Tuesday's "clash" knowing that they'll advance no matter what happens. There's some small consolation in knowing that Spain crashed out even more ignominiously and that Portugal were 15 seconds away from joining them, but, even better is the comedy on offer from former Spurs manager and current Droopy-impersonator Harry "'Arry" Redknapp, who has gone out of his way to suggest that various Spurs found it necessary to beg off of playing for the national team. Thank you, 'Arry. Thank you very much for lightening the mood around what was otherwise a dismal trip to Brazil.

As the story goes, one highlight of Redknapp's career was as the manager of an up-and-coming London-based club. Before that, he managed Tottenham. During his time there, a fair few British nationals apparently found it necessary to ask him to help them avoid national duty. Apparently, the embarrassment of mucking things up at White Hart Lane would be quite enough without having to reprise the role on a bigger stage. Still, the request feels similar to a snail asking to be left out of the 4x100 relay, if you don't mind my saying so. It's the kind of request that prompts a bit of a double-take or a spittin' o' the mornin' coffee, for those who like their apostrophes fast an' furious.

As 'Arry tells it:
I can tell you when I was at Tottenham, when full internationals came around, there were two or three players who did not want to play for England. They would come to me 10 days before the game and say: ‘Gaffer, get me out of that game, I don’t want to play in that game.'
Hm. Without getting into the in's and out's around which international competitions these players were referring to, let's admit that certain international competitions matter more than others. An injury in a friendly might loom larger than a cap in a World Cup match. Still, the idea that anyone might back out of a meaningful international match feels, I don't know, treasonous? It's one thing to start limping around a few days before a pointless interlullian match; it's quite another to find ways to avoid helping one's country qualify for, or succeed in, meaningful international play.

'Arry mentions "full internationals", which may or may not refer to the ones that matter. Who's to say? Not 'Arry, apparently, as he's refused to name names or reveal other particulars. Let's just say, for sh*ts and giggles, that he might refer to World Cup 2010. Among those who played under for Spurs and for the Three Lions, we have Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, and Ledley King. Whether any of them offered enough quality to displace other compatriots is for others to suss out. There are others, of course, who might have been looking for ways to avoid other international commitments, but the irony is striking.

Whereas we're wondering whether the Three Lions' collapse might have been due, in some small part, to an over-reliance on Merseyside, our lily-livered Londoners have been looking for ways not to serve. I'm no fan of interlulls or friendlies; they strike me as chicanery more than anything else. However, when your country comes calling, you have to answer. I've been chomping at the bit to see Wilshere and Ox on the rampage. I'm gutted that Gibbs didn't even get the call. Looking further afield, I'm thrilled to see Giroud, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Podolski, Özil, Cazorla, Campbell, Vermaelen, and Chu-Young (yeah, even him) represent their countries.

There's something to be said about pride and self-respect, whether it comes from playing for club or for country. It's not for nothing that Gooners can see what amounts to a starting XI on the world stage while Spuds cringe and hide behind whatever excuse they can conjure: "my girlfriend is having a baby in four weeks, I don’t want to play", as 'Arry relates it. Fair enough. If those Spuds didn't want to play for trophies in 2010, they shouldn't be bothered with competing for one in 2014—oh. Wait. There's not a single Spud in the squad this time 'round. Did 'Arry come up with some lame excuses, or did the players just come out lame?

I'm a Yank, and I'm thrilled at the idea that we might be through to the next round. Over here, where our pedigree is just a bit shorter than it is in England, we have players clamoring to represent their country. Heck, we even left off our all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, for this World Cup, and we're still trying to figure out whether to call it football or soccer. Across the pond, we have a club arguably and ostensibly at the epicenter of proper football whose players looked for any way to avoid international commitments. Whether they were good enough to warrant consideration in the first place is up to the Capellos and Hodgsons—but not the Redknapps—of the world.

The Three Lions' campaign may have gone down in flames, but it won't be due to the absence of certain Spuds. Not because they begged off four years ago, but because featuring for Spurs means you're not serious about competing for trophies. Except Spuropa.

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