Rumour has it that Steve McClaren will use the Spain friendly to continue his Grand Tour through the non-entities and also-rans of the Premier League. I don’t refer there to Barry, who, if included, will have earned his place for his recent genuinely international class showings, but to the likes of.. do I have to say? of whom Martin Amis could have been speaking when he said:
I have a problem with – I am uncomfortable with – the word ‘personality’ and its plural, as in ‘Modern tennis lacks personalities’ and ‘Tennis needs a new star who is a genuine personality.’ But if, from now on, I can put ‘personality’ between quotation marks, and use it as an exact synonym of a seven-letter duosyllable starting with ‘a’ and ending with ‘e’ (and also featuring, in order of appearance, an ‘ss’, an ‘h’, an ‘o’, and an ‘l’), why, then, ‘personality’ and I are going to get along just fine… (name of player), of course, was known as a ‘clown’ and a ‘showman’; i.e., as an embarrassing narcissist.
Amis was being kind there, of course. Regular readers of The Information will remember his crucial distinction: we are all assholes sometimes, but an arsehole is an arsehole for life. (And re. that novel, if you imagine Gwyn with a comic Welsh accent, it comes together all of a sudden. But if you read Amis for his plot and characterization, I rather think you’re missing the point of the man).
Before Ericksson, there was always one or more English players who could never make the international side despite having what was often astonishing talent. And whoever was in the hot seat took the heat for their exclusion. It’s a sign of how much Ericksson transformed things that he, by contrast, took criticism for leaving out the likes of Andy Johnson, or for deciding that Jermaine Defoe wasn’t quite the kind of personality to have around the England camp for a month.
I’ve argued here that both Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott have shown plenty of reasons for their inclusion in the World Cup squad. I’ve argued especially that Walcott’s treatment by McClaren has been shaming, both for the manager and for the press who lapped it up. The players excluded from the squad for Germany have had two thirds of a season to establish that Ericksson was wrong about them – they had last season too – and they’ve failed to do anything of the sort.
Remember when it was men like this who were left out? I hope you do – because all that’s coming back: