by Stephen Tudor (Daisy Cutter)

I recently took part in a Manchester City podcast and had what can only be described as a rant. It was a rant at the stupid.

By virtue of this being a City pod many assumed I was taking pot-shots at fellow Blues but that is only partly true. Really my ire was aimed at those with an insular distrust of ‘other’, small-minded tabloid-brainwashed Englishmen who have somehow found their foghorn bigotry to be the dominant voice of 2016. If the Brexit vote back in June sent me spiralling into a depressive funk then the subsequent jingoistic hollering from those who previously believed their views went against the grain made my teeth itch with fury. Ultimately though, as difficult as it was – and is – for me to accept, that is politics. That is democracy.

But the EU Referendum brought a secondary consequence in that our collective desire to regress back to basics soon bled into football. That I am not willing to accept. That is not politics nor is it democracy.

It was entirely apt that in the same week we voluntarily decided to detach ourselves from mainland Europe the England football team involuntarily did likewise in France. How much significance we can attach to these two things occurring within days of each other is open to debate but without question the celebratory tones of one exit exactly mirrored the apoplectic vernacular of the other. Both amounted to a strong intention to dismiss foreign influence and inspiration and find ourselves again. To pull up the drawbridge and pop down the blinkers.

Usually an early flight home from a major tournament prompts a collective muddle of self-doubt and neurosis. Why are the Spanish so much better than we are? What did the Germans do post-2004 that we can learn from? Why do even the smaller nations in South America possess superior technique to our supposed world class elite?

Now, bolstered by 52% of voters giving Brussels a damn good kicking the debate came full circle. According to common consensus the reason England struggled against Russia and Slovakia before being dismantled by Iceland was precisely because we had abandoned our identity in an attempt to copy others; in a bid to be something we’re fundamentally not. All this passing around at the back and prioritising on ball retention. We’re John Bull not Juan Bull. The displays were insipid and ponderous, or to put it another way, completely lacking in good old fashioned English blood and thunder. Our over-paid pampered superstars simply didn’t want it as much as Mark Noble would have wanted it.

This reversion to type naturally seeped into club football as the 2016/17 season got underway. At a time when the Premier League is more cosmopolitan, mentally stimulating and multifaceted than ever before the dunderheads who yearn for maypoles, craft ale and Terry Butcher statues suddenly monopolised the mic. Like their political cousins they believed their views had been silenced for too long, shouted down by smug, clever types who quoted technical buzzwords and tactical mumbo-jumbo; theirs was a sporting equivalent of political incorrectness that was in actual fact COMMON SENSE that needed to be reintroduced to modern day football. They have been stinking the place out ever since all the while believing they’re a breath of fresh air.

I appreciate that opinion is entirely subjective, that one man’s right is another man’s wrong. I get that.

Yet there is a level of discourse that is prevalent on social media and in our pubs right now that is so simplistically misguided that it’s nothing more than a slick of dog shit on subjectivity’s shoe. It is an echo chamber filled with babbling poppycock. It is a drag of knuckles posing as original thought.


It might seem strange that the vast majority of the erroneous clichés and parroted bullshit centres on just the one club – or more specifically three players and a coach connected to that club – but not when you factor in that this is Manchester City. I am not for a second suggesting there is any agenda afoot here, it’s simply that due to their accelerated rise and lavish spending City have come to represent modern day football more than others and therefore tends to bring out the worst in those whose heroes played for the love of the game and their bus fare home.

Granted the public perceptions of Joe Hart, John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Pep Guardiola would undoubtedly be somewhat different if they played elsewhere but largely it’s the individuals themselves who inspire slack-jawed, half-baked analysis: the fact they’re employees of City is simply the cherry atop a pie of pure stupid.

I’m also happy to acknowledge that it is not exclusively these four who evoke brain-draining ignorance – that is always spoken confidently and at great volume, as if they’re the first to ever utter the hoary old clap-trap; as if the soul-crushing dumbfuckery was formed in their very own mind and not taken wholesale from Robbie Savage’s Daily Mirror column. There is the ‘flop’ Paul Pogba too, and the ‘arrogant’ Wayne Rooney, and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool (“Yeah they’re brilliant right now but just wait until he’s worn them all out by April with all this geggypressy thing”).

But back to the four in question because they have come to represent a whole new substratum of idiocy, a depth and breadth of ignorance so depressingly vocal there is a danger of the floor giving out beneath the rest of us so we all dwell down there. In fact the quartet should be put on a poster by the Remain lot to perfectly illustrate why we need Europe infinitely more than they need us. We can’t thrive on our own, not while a sizable portion of the population believes that Joe Hart’s poor performances at last summer’s Euros was because he was concentrating too much on ‘doing those shampoo ads’. Really? That’s why he got a weak hand on Sigthorsson’s close-range shot was it? Because he was thinking back to two days of filming from six months earlier?

How strange then that the keeper’s focus on follicles – not to mention how woeful he had supposedly become overnight – was instantly forgotten the moment Manchester City’s incoming coach decided to bring in a number one of his own choosing. Do you think I’m referring here to two-time La Liga winning 110-cap Claudio Bravo? No, this is 2016 and a nation has relapsed back to the 1970s in their perception of anyone born outside of Albion.  I mean Claudio ‘He’s from Barcelona’; Bravo the clown. Having made a mistake on his debut he was instantly reduced to a caricature of foreign incompetence whose every touch is now greeted with excitable anticipation for a prat-fall. Watch these moron’s dopey faces when the ball is passed back to the City keeper: it’s the same expression yer da had when Manuel walked out of the kitchen carrying a tray full of plates.

Suddenly the good solid Shrewsbury lad Hart ceased being the world’s worst goalkeeper – a cock-sure, over-hyped hair model – and became the personification of common sense. “Joe would have saved that” should nestle alongside Michael Gove’s dismissal of experts on this year’s headstone, a headstone placed atop a grave we’ve dug for ourselves because a couple of best-selling newspapers started insisting that the sky was falling in.


Yet nothing screams red, white and blue Brexit more than the poisonous disgust aimed towards John Stones and his ‘continental’ defending. If Bravo brings out the Basil Fawlty in our contingent of stupid Stones stokes the fire that burns and rages inside a million Alf Garnetts. They watch him play all European-like on our British telly for a British club and view it as an affront to our war dead. Each dalliance yards from his own box is a slap in the face to Her Maj and Diana’s memory. Every turn by the touchline is a lentil-muncher moving in next door and putting up a Greenpeace sticker in their window. Or worse an immigrant living within a ten mile radius.

Just who does he think he is, this poor man’s Beckenbauer? Coming through our ranks and believing he knows better.

Yet the staunch Little Englanders are nothing to the fence-sitters who can clearly see the exasperating contradiction between desperately wanting a home-grown ball-playing defender to emerge only to then castigate him remorselessly for not finding row Z enough. “I like what he’s trying to do but he needs to learn when to play it safe,” they solemnly intone. Strange how they don’t demand such compromises from any other player – “I admire Aguero’s strike-rate but he should drift to wide areas more”.  Or any other walk of life come to that. Should Radiohead release a three minute pop song between each album? Should Hartleys knock out the odd jar of mint sauce? He is who he is and he plays how he plays and fundamentally it amounts to going in with both feet on an Englishman for not being English enough. Pure Brexit that.

As is the treatment dished out on the terraces and in the media towards Raheem Sterling, a player so vilified for being young, black and ambitious UKIP missed a trick pre-referendum by not putting his face on one of their posters. Hated by away fans and those who drink in flat-roofed pubs simply for doing what 88 others have done since – namely moving from one Premier League club to another – the witch-hunt on this clearly likeable and shy kid fell just short of suggesting he has multiple offspring (y’know, because of his ethnicity) and rinses away his complete disregard for England’s failings in a diamond-encrusted sink. Oh wait, they actually did happen.

There are depressing parallels to be drawn between the negativity aimed towards Sterling and how John Barnes was perceived back in the day by football’s ‘silent’ minority. Both born in Kingston, Jamaica; both fantastically gifted wingers who struggled to replicate their club form on the international stage; both booed as a consequence and subjected to abuse with racial overtones.

We may look back at that famous image of Barnes back-heeling a banana off the pitch, shake our heads, and delude ourselves that we have progressed as a society. But we really haven’t. It’s just the language has become perniciously subtle in real life and perniciously farcical in the newspapers.

Lastly there is of course Pep Guardiola. If any one individual personified Gove’s dystopian comment on no longer trusting experts it is the Spanish grandmaster. It was fine when he reimagined what was humanly possible with eleven players and a ball in Spain and Germany. We were happy to laud him then as a genius. But coming over here intent on straightening out our fruit? Give over. This is England now sonny Jim, the land of Ryan Shawcross on a wet and cold Wednesday evening; four-four-two and a protestant work ethic; jumpers for goalposts and abusing our wingers for switching clubs in the transfer window. Don’t you dare try to show us how to play the beautiful game. We invented the beautiful game then took great pride in making it resemble Steve Bruce and that’s just how we like it muchos fucking gracias. We’ve seen off those pontificating MEPs and you’re next Pep FRUADiola.

I’ve written elsewhere that it is perfectly legitimate to criticise Guardiola, for his self-defeating tinkering; for his stubbornness; for his, well anything you like really. The man is of course not untouchable.

But the giddy delight taken in his initial struggles is another matter. What victory exactly is being celebrated here? It should be factored in too the intelligence of some who are revelling in his supposed failings:  they are Fast and the Furious fans watching a subtitled European arthouse flick exploring themes beyond their comprehension and decreeing that it’s all a load of shite. If that sounds supercilious then I’ll gladly admit that I too cannot fathom his methods. But I’m clever enough to know very, very clever when I see it. And I would never dismiss it as nonsense chiefly because it’s spoken of in a foreign accent.

A win for Brexit facilitated a dumbed-down, post-truth, intolerant, and spiteful political arena. That has now polluted the pub-punditry towards our national game as the stupid among the 52% think if their opinion on immigrants is now legitimate we might like to hear what they’ve got to say about inverted wingbacks and player’s wages. We don’t and we’d quite like the mic back please.