Friday, May 26, 2006

I didn't see last night's pulsating B international on account of being out watching the best new band in Britain, but I did return home in time to hear a joyless phone-in on Five Live consisting mainly of people wailing that England have no chance at the World Cup, citing as evidence a match which, once upon a time, would not even have been played in front of a paying audience, never mind broadcast live on TV and radio. Many returned to a favourite theme, that of Why Does Sven Think Owen Hargreaves Is Any Good At All?

The more pressing question, I feel, is Why Do England Fans Hate Owen Hargreaves? What has he done to them? All right, he's had some indifferent performances for England, but he's had some good ones too and when you consider that he has very rarely played in his favoured position of holding midfielder, he's done just fine (anybody critiquing his performance last night should bear in mind that he is not, in fact, a full-back). Yet nobody seems to want him anywhere near the squad. This morning I hastily convened a focus group and I have some suggestions as to how Owen Hargreaves can make himself more popular with the supporters.

Move to a Premiership club. One reason that's often put forward for Hargreaves' unpopularity is that, having played in the Bundesliga since he was a teenager, we don't see much of him and never have. Therefore, playing in England might bring its benefits, especially when you consider that any club's supporters will usually campaign for the inclusion of their best English player in the national side, regardless of how realistic this is (Villa fans can still be heard to talk of Gareth Barry as a solution to 'the left side problem'). However, given that Hargreaves is an integral part of the dominant team in German football, with which he has won the Bundesliga, the German Cup, the European Cup and the World Club Championship, the question 'Why should he?' looms large.

Become one of those showboating players that everybody is impressed by instead of being a hard-working holding midfielder. Even if he could achieve this it would be ultimately pointless. Although English fans have a romantic attachment to surging midfield players (Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson etc) and don't really see the point in holding players, we already have more brilliant surging midfield players than we can fit in the team, so this would make Hargreaves a more popular spare part.

Make a biopic. This is an alternative solution to the problem of not knowing much about him. A movie of his life would allow fans access to the real Owen Hargreaves, recounting his journey from the Calgary foothills to the heights of footballing success. This would, unfortunately, underline a fact about Hargreaves that many England fans find uncomfortable - namely, that he is Canadian - but it would at least dispel the suspicion that he might secretly be German.

Receive honours from the Queen. This was one of a number of suggestions the group came up with to make Hargreaves appear more English (although of course, as a Canadian, he could receive honours wherever his parents came from). Other suggestions included: announce that he hates the French (except Thierry Henry); display an extensive knowledge of Carry On films; lose a semi-final (not necessarily in football, any semi-final will do); go to fight in Iraq.

Become best mates with Thierry Henry. Surely this would have some positive effect by association.

Do a self-deprecating ad campaign. You know, like those ones where Steve Davis played on the fact that everybody thinks he's boring. This could play on the public's suspicion that Hargreaves is not 'really' English: have him stand up for the wrong National Anthem or score a goal for the wrong team or something equally fucking hilarious. If the tone was right, this could endear him to English supporters by making him seem amusingly self-aware.

Cry in the middle of a big match. Surprisingly, this apparently works.

Release a pop single. This could either be a song about Owen Hargreaves a la 'I Wish I Could Play Like Charlie George' or performed by Owen Hargreaves in tribute to the glory days of Hod 'n' Wad. The record should probably not, however, be both by and about Owen Hargreaves as this might seem needlessly self-aggrandising. If successful this could prompt a bout of Hargreavesmania, accompanied by a craze for curly wigs and speaking in a curious Scouse/Canadian/vaguely German-inflected accent. It is unknown whether Hargreaves can actually sing, but the tradition of football records demonstrates this to be a very minor issue.

Score the winning goal for England in the World Cup Final. That'd fucking shut them up, wouldn't it?

No comments: