Monday, May 15, 2006

the Walcott Affair, several days on

Like every place else, theories hang heavy in the air here at a pretty move. Is Sven mad? a genius? a cynical bastard? The most interesting is Derek's "smoke and mirrors" scenario: following intimations that Rooney is not nearly as injured as we all think (the photos, the Texan who called into "Football Friday" claiming to have seen Rooney swanning around Old Trafford sans limp or oxygen tent), Sven appoints Walcott to keep us all arguing so vociferously we fail to notice the big bloke is ready to play. The world relaxes its guard, laughing at the prospect of wounded Owen/wacky Crouch/untried newbie carrying the day. But at the half, out charges Rooney like King Arthur, recalled in England's moment of need! Victory is Albion's.

Lynda and I are optimistic, and fond of the "Sven as kingmaker" alternative. The man is opening up room for a miracle. He is allowing a hero to unfold in our midst. As Marina Hyde put it, it's the story we love best, this fairy tale. In years to come the historians will speak of the Walcott Affair and the blockbuster "Goal" in one breath: youngster rises up from nowhere at all to dance England into glory (which suggests a cynical off-shoot, the "this is all an advert for the films" theory--not for consumption by the ordinary human, recommended only for the most hardened conspiracy theorist). When one of us voices cheeriness regarding Theo, Derek folds his arms and stares darkly into an uglier future than that, muttering, "I'm NOT a football cynic. I'm not."

In any case, if there is a good that has arisen from the painful jeremiad of West Ham, it is that Steven Gerrard has unequivocably shown us he can carry the full weight of a hard match easily on his capable shoulders, regardless of who wears the strikers' shoes around him.

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