Imagined Communities

Any kind of nationalism is disturbing. It brings out excessive patriotism, separatism from other nations and unquestioned loyalty.

Benedict Anderson wrote that nations are “imagined communities.” In his eyes, a nation is a community that is socially constructed. It’s constructed mainly by the media and politicians who create imagined communities, through targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public. This makes people imagine that they are part of a large group that have common interests and culture.

Mark my words, if you are born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, then you have next to zero in common with an American Puerto Rican from Harlem.

The British media have xenophobic tendencies. Arsene Wenger was the first foreign manager to win The Premiership. That hurt a lot of people, mainly borne out of jealousy and realization that English coaches are not world class. It’s their coaching methods that have brought through players like Carlton Cole, Stuart Downing and James Milner. Average Premiership players that will face up against the European champions Spain tonight. The statement below speaks volumes:

No English manager has won The Premiership.

The last English manager to win the title was Howard Wilkinson, when his Eric Cantona led Leeds team pipped Manchester United to the old 1st Division in 1992. The closest since then was in 1996, when Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle team finished runners-up – that was 13 years ago.

In today’s Premiership the only English manager that has impressed me is West Brom’s Tony Mowbray. That may surprise a lot of people because West Brom lie bottom of The Premiership and look certain to be relegated.

Mowbray was a no-nonsense defender for Middlesborough, Celtic and Ipswich Town. During his time at Celtic his wife died of breast cancer – an incident that influenced him when he sacked West Brom goalkeeper Carlo Nash for cheating on his wife after filming a threesome on his mobile, while wearing a West Brom top.

Mowbray started his coaching career with Ipswich Town before taking the manager’s job at Hibernian, where he won the Scottish Football Writer’s Manager of the Year award in his first season. Hibs finished 3rd that season and 4th the next. It was the first time Hibs had finished in the top four in consecutive seasons since the 1970’s. They were known to play fast flowing, passing football. Season ticket sales almost doubled, while the team progressed to the semi-finals of the Scottish cup and qualified for Europe.

In October 2006, Mowbray took the West Brom job after they were relegated from the Premiership. That season he took West Brom to the Play-Off final, where they lost 1-0 to Derby County – even though they dominated large periods of the match. The next season Mowbray guided West Brom to the Football League Championship title and an FA cup semi-final, in which they were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Portsmouth.

Mowbray’s footballing philosophy is to play attacking, passing football that is attractive to watch. His career interests me. He seems to have been bypassed by the managerial radar. Teetotal since 19, Mowbray would be an excellent number two to Wenger – a position Mowbray probably would never accept. Nevertheless, his philosophy matches that of Wenger’s.

At Hibs he inherited excellent young players, the best of which were sold to Celtic and Lokomotiv Moscow. At West Brom, he got rid of disruptive, high profile players such as Koumas, Kamara and Curtis Davies. He replaced them with the best young talent outside of the Premiership.

But the English media ignore Mowbray. He manages an unfashionable club that are going to be relegated. He wasn’t a big name player. He lacks charisma and ultimately he’s not the manager of Blackburn, Bolton or Aston Villa – teams full of English players, managed by English managers that play the English way.

The English have suddenly made Martin O’Neill their own – even though he was born in Northern Ireland and was raised by a family of Irish nationalists. If Ireland becomes one nation, O’Neill’s family will explode with joy. Yet O’Neill loves to revel in the media acclaim of Villa being a mostly all English team.

O’Neill played Gaelic football when he was younger, a game similar to that of Aussie rules football. A sport that is pure Irish in origin. An up and at them game, where players kick long balls from the back for fast players in attack to catch. Villa play a similar game under O’Neill.

On paper, Villa are the British underdog who are upsetting the established order with the attitude of a snarling Bulldog. Managed by a man who seems to have all of the attributes that the English love: grit, fight, determination, doggedness, passion and graft. Milner, Agbonlahor, Barry, Davies and now Heskey all typify this spirit, thus making the English classify O’Neill as one of their own. This is despite the fact that O’Neill is Irish and that his nationalist sympathies lie with a foreign country that has fought a guerilla war against the British for 30 years.

The English die hard fan hates teams like Arsenal. They’re not English. Neither are Chelsea or Liverpool. Not with coaching staffs, managers and squads full of foreigners. Arsenal, however, will always be No.1 on Xenophobe Hate List. They were the first club to have gone foreign in the sense that they had an entire squad that was non-English. At Arsenal, English players don’t stand a chance.

Liverpool have Gerrard and Chelsea have Terry, Lampard and Cole. This English contingent gives them xenophobic immunity from the English press.

Arsene Wenger is a frog who makes Arsenal play continental football, which has helped create a diverse fan base from across the globe. Arsenal have more nationalities than Benetton and always sulk and complain when things don’t go their way. English lads never complain. They just get on with it. Just ask ex-Villa and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore.

For every Milner that Villa have, Arsenal have a Gallas or an Eduardo – “Martin Taylor didn’t deserve to be sent off.” (Radio 5 Live commentator Allan Green)

But Villa are not an English team. Their style of play is similar to that of Gaelic football team – crosses and long kicks, to big, pacy strikers. They are owned by an American, thier captain is Danish and they are managed by an Irishman whose patriotic loyalties are with Ireland. But we are told otherwise by those who create these imaginary communities.

So imaginary in fact that we are led to believe that Martin O’Neill’s team play great football and that Aston Villa are going to play in the Champions League next season.

Imagine that.

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