The Monday Profile: Matt Phillips
My friends and I often indulge in extended debate on the club vs. country issue and how so far, it’s ‘OK’ to support England. We eschew the jingoism, the hooliganism, the sheer repugnance of many of those called on to sport the jersey, the overreaction to defeat and over-anticipation of victory, the arrogance and the aggression, but still wish for a team we can support.
Recent events have led many to fall out of love with the England team to an even greater degree. It was bad enough back in 2006 when the so-called ‘golden generation’ proved incapable of coping with a spot of balmy weather in Germany. Then, in 2010, a crowded Cambridge pub in which I was stationed reacted with deadened disbelief to the dreadful dirge of an abomination of a game in Cape Town against Algeria. Then there are the wages offered to two of England’s last three managers, a captain who refuses to do the honourable thing and admit that his time as a role model abated long ago and the steely hauteur of Fabio Capello.
If the England rugby team’s 13-6 win at Murrayfield on Saturday was stuttering at times, it nonetheless represented the kind of new broom mentality that is long overdue in the round ball game. True, fans of egg chasing still do their best to irritate us beyond belief, but with Mike Tindall and his dwarf-tossing brethren finally – finally – jettisoned, we can now perhaps peek from around the back of the sofa and watch England play with less grimacing.
If only this were true of the football. We now have five months to recapture our enthusiasm and withdrawal of support for the national XI now looks less like the nuclear option, more a sensible life choice. A few years ago, a friend and I attended an event at Bar Kick in Shoreditch where Billy Bragg and others made a call for a recapturing of the England footballing flag from the bigots. At the time it seemed convincing.
But now, as In-ger-lund scramble around for a new captain and the manager breaks ranks from his bosses, my enthusiasm has waned.
Where does hope lie? If Chris Nee’s new website The Stiles Council has thus far taken a measured, realistic and clear-headed approach to the countdown to Poland-Ukraine, he has nonetheless devoted space to the suggestion that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain be called up for the jamboree.
If Theo Walcott’s selection after a handful of Arsenal appearances in 2006 seemed foolhardy at the time, this new dauphin’s case now seems clear and present given the ignominious events of the past half-decade; all the more so after his sparkling performance in the 7-1 rout of Blackburn on saturday. In short, AOC’s exploits practically insist he be picked.
But one youngster alone would not constitute the revolution needed: the kind of root and branch reform enacted by Stuart Lancaster across London.
I urge Capello to take a look at Matt Phillips of Blackpool. He’s twenty years old and has already etched up 124 league appearances; he’s big, strong and quick; he’s adept with both feet; he was an integral part of a tough, gutsy campaign for the England under-20 squad in Colombia last Summer; he scored within minutes of coming on in his Premier League debut; he has plundered two hat-tricks in the last six weeks and he performed astoundingly on foreign soil in the Tangerines’ 3-1 win at Cardiff City on Saturday, swooping twice and in typically unerring fashion.
Put him in.