My New Year’s Dis-Honours List
The gayest team, most po-faced censors and other Football Awards for 2006.
The publication of Britain’s New Year’s Honours list is always guaranteed to spark controversy. When Steven Gerrard, hero of Liverpool’s improbable European Cup triumph in Istanbul, was overlooked for a gong last year, it triggered an almighty, off-the-Richter-Scale cacophony of moaning on Merseyside. In 2006 Gerrard went from hero to World Cup flop and penalty bottler, yet he was rewarded for his international underachievement with an MBE.
Love them or loathe them, it’s hard to deny that honours are dished out far too cheaply these days. World Cup hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst did not receive his MBE until 1975; five members of the 1966 England team had to wait 34 years before they were decorated. By contrast, the England cricket team were all given gongs within months of winning the Ashes.
One problem with premature decoration is that it encourages complacency. Witness England’s cricketers who, as Times columnist Martin Samuel put it, ‘went on a year-long lap of honour’ after recapturing the Ashes. Another problem is that sports stars can go from heroes to zeroes very quickly. This week, former boxing champion Prince Naseem Hamed was stripped of his MBE after his 15-month jail sentence for dangerous driving. I hadn’t realised that honours could be withdrawn and that got me thinking: if we’re going to dish out honours on the cheap, we should at least be consistent and withdraw them just as easily. So, if England’s cricketers can be decorated for last summer’s Ashes heroics, why can’t they be stripped of their honours for their abject surrender in Australia?
Given that the official honours system is such a farce I’ve decided to give out my own awards this year to honour football’s good, bad and mad in 2006.
The Judy Garland Award for Outstanding Services to ‘Gayness’
Despite media rumours last year that two Premiership stars had taken part in a gay sex romp with the aid of a vibrating mobile phone, there are still no openly gay professional footballers. However, while no player will fess up to being the only gay in the dressing room, football itself has never been more camp. The Premiership is awash with alice bands, waxed chests, fake tans, and diamond-encrusted earrings. The Chelsea team are leading contenders on account of their penchant for whipping off their shirts and parading their freshly waxed torsos. However, this year’s accolade must go to Arsenal, whose entire team, with the exception of Robin Van Persie, wore gloves in their Premiership clash with Blackburn on 23 December because their ickle fingers were cold. What a bunch of girls!
The Andrea Dworkin Award for Po-Faced Censoriousness
One of the more depressing features of the new football culture is the apparent inability of some thin-skinned supporters to withstand a bit of ribbing. In February, outraged Liverpool fans were queuing up on Alan Green’s 6-0-6 phone-in programme to complain about Gary Neville’s provocative badge-kissing goal celebration. In October, Everton fans complained to the police after Joey Barton had flashed his buttocks at them. In December, Arsenal banned the flying of national flags in the Emirates stadium after some Gooners of Greek extraction had complained about a lone Turkish Cypriot flag.
Tempted as I am to give the award to all those pathetic fans who are happy to dish out abuse but run crying to the coppers as soon as anyone returns the compliment, I feel that Arsenal FC deserve the prize for trying to kill off what little atmosphere exists at their matches. In a bid to scupper plans to taunt ex-Gooner Ashley Cole in the fixture against Chelsea in December, Arsenal told fans with tickets for Stamford Bridge that: ‘Anyone bringing in inflatable mobile phones or fake pound notes will be ejected from the ground.’ (If you’re wondering why an inflatable mobile phone might offend the Chelsea left-back, I suggest you do a Google search with the words ‘Ashley Cole mobile phone’.)
The Harry Roberts Award for the Most Tasteless Terrace Chant
Terrace chants have been described as a form of folk poetry; two years ago Barclaycard launched a competition to find a football chant laureate. Predictably a Barclaycard spokesperson stipulated that entrants were ‘not allowed to use obscenities’. But, as most football fans know, obscenities and football chants go together like the proverbial horse and carriage. Some chants aren’t just vulgar; they’re downright sick and tasteless. In February, Liverpool fans greeted the horrific leg injury sustained by Manchester United’s Alan Smith by chanting ‘John Arne Riise, I wanna kno-o-ow, how you broke his leg’ (to the tune of DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby’). But this year’s winner is a Spurs chant inspired by Sol Campbell’s mysterious disappearance in February: ‘Sol, Sol, wherever you may be; you’re on the verge of lunacy; and we don’t give a fuck if you’re hanging from a tree; you’re a Judas cunt with HIV.’ Of course it’s unpleasant, but you’ve got to admire the way it ticks so many ‘yuk’ boxes in a short four-line stanza.
The Medieval Painters Award for Things We Got Out of Perspective
The England football team might be serial underachievers, but we’re world champions at losing our sense of perspective. When Wayne Rooney broke his metatarsal six weeks before the World Cup, the nation was gripped by Roo-mournia. ‘It would be a disaster for England if we had to go to the World Cup without him’, bemoaned a downcast Steven Gerrard. However, when Rooney was passed fit to travel to Germany, our valium-munching pessimism gave way to wide-eyed over-optimism. ‘I think we will win it’, declared Sven, with no hint of irony, on the eve of the tournament. And, despite the fact that our strike force consisted of two crocks, a child and a giant circus freak, many of us foolishly believed him. In fact, so many UK punters put money on Sven’s team that England became the bookies’ second favourites to win the tournament.
However, if that wasn’t bad enough, perspective was well and truly flushed down the toilet when we mistook Peter Crouch for an international footballer. All it took was one silly robot dance and a hat-trick in a meaningless warm-up game against a half-interested Jamaica, and the country was consumed by Crouch fever. What the fuck were we thinking of?
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