The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Of all the football players who inexplicably moonlight as newspaper columnists, David James is the only one I consistently enjoy reading for unironic reasons. His opinions on the game are often genuinely interesting, and his personality on the page has more life than what you find in the usual one-sentence-per-paragraph fluff. Maybe he has a ghostwriter, but at least his ghostwriter probably doesn’t feel like killing himself every time he picks up a paycheck. Today in his Observer column he offers one of the best considerations of the Croatia-game aftermath that I’ve seen from any writer. It’s ordered, calm, well-reasoned, and admirably un-hysterical. That’s not to say it’s full of novel ideas, but in the current media environment there’s something novel in simply not shrieking. Here’s his take on the motivation of the Croatian players:
Put yourself in Croatia’s shoes: they’ve already qualified, but if they play well there is an opportunity to put themselves in the shop window. Luka Modric is rumoured to be in negotiations with Chelsea. Israel and Russia would also have felt the focus; when else would England pay such close attention to a match between these two nations? A move to the Premier League is a life-changing opportunity. Arriving back in training, Niko Kranjcar was a happy man. Singing the national anthem last week, he had the biggest smile on his face. He must have known something we didn’t.
I’d encourage anyone to read it who’s interested in the game or in where England go next. I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on the state of the current discussion, a partial defense of the England team, and an action-packed roundup of the weekend’s Premier League action. I am Sky Sports.
by Brian Phillips · November 24, 2007