I finally get 'round to reading Julian Barnes on the World Cup in the Grauniad Reveiw Sectoin. (Yes, it takes me that long to read the weekend papers now. I haven't even opened Sunday's yet. This is perhaps why I am so behind the times. Have the Japs surrendered yet?) Beautifully written and researched, as you'd expect - although the petulant, Beckham-style little kick out against 'white van man' seems a little beneath the great man. He's right that the patriotism that fuels our World Cup dreams is as delusional as that which feeds our wars (could there be any more delusional a conflict than the current one?) - elegantly conflating the two in the Germans' (fictional, I'm guessing) riposte to our "One World cup and two World Wars" - "....three world cups and one Franco-Prussian war..."
(New paragraph:) All of which got me to thinking - what would old Barnsey look like in a number eleven shirt with his name above it? And then, logically, I had to build a team around him:
ENGLAND LITERARY XI:
Banks (Iain M.)
Wilson (Colin) Moore (Brian) Adams (Douglas) Cole (Martina)
Gascoigne (David) Barnes (Julian)
Owen (Wilfred) Peters (Ellis)
Subs from: Defoe (Daniel), James (Henry), Cohen (Leonard), Ferdinand (Franz), Palmer (Carlton)
"Well Brian, though prone to the odd lapse of concentration, usually resulting in overlong, third rate science fantasy tosh and the fact that he's from Scotland, Banks is possibly the best reflex shot stopper in English right now. With a solid back four in front of him, combining grit (Cole), Celtic flair (Moore) and a touch of the absurd (Adams), the literary lions will be hard to break down. In midfield, the elegance of Barnes should blend well with the team's playmaker Beardsley. Playing 'in the hole', fans will be hoping that the decadent, dandified little schemer can weave his pretty patterns around opposing defences this summer. In the holding role is midfield hard man Lee (he walked out one midsummer morning and ended up in Southern Spain - he's that hard!) Gazza is, of course, still as daft as a brush, but his surreal ball skills could yet turn the competition England's way. On paper, the front pairing of Owen and Peters is a little bit of a mystery - a medieval one at that. (Fortunately, they play on grass...) Owen is battle weary after a long, gruelling campaign in France. English hopes could rest on a fresh injection of pace with the introduction of the lively Defoe from the bench. However, he is often prone to being a little isolated so England fans must be hopeful that their top goal scorer can stay free from injury or they may just find themselves sick as a Flaubert's Parrot...."
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