Thanks to the thousand or so responses to our survey two issues ago, Roger Titford can reveal, among other things, whether our average reader would prefer to be David Beckham or Paul Scholes
We asked: "Who did you enjoy watching at Euro 2008 and why?" Four countries stood out. Spain at 33 per cent were top – "loved their reliance on playing passing football with skill and control". Holland came second on 25 per cent – "because they are like us and play the game beautifully". Turkey proved it's possible to change minds and influence people through football: "Every game they were in was an event. Such a combination of character and reckless idiocy." And 15 per cent of readers were all in favour.
Russia, England's nemesis, or one of them at least, delighted ten per cent: "Circus football!! Sheer and utter enjoyment, in its purest form." The home nations were not greatly missed by WSC readers – 47 per cent said their absence made Euro 2008 more enjoyable, while only nine per cent found it pretty boring or didn't bother watching much.
The idea of a GB Olympic football team has been in the news lately and that seems to be even less popular. We asked: "Even if there is some risk to the future independence of the four home nations, do you think a Great Britain football team should be entered in the 2012 London Olympics?" Our sample was split almost equally in favour and against (38 per cent versus 37 per cent) with 25 per cent don't knows/don't cares. Three per cent were in favour of there being a Team GB but would not support it. Interestingly among the over-35s – with memories of the Home Internationals – there was a decisive 41 per cent to 33 per cent "No" vote. Among knowledgeable fans who love the game the GB idea is not a sure-fire winner, whatever the sports authorities might think.
Meanwhile, 85 per cent of readers agree that football "has become even more central to national life", but only 15 per cent also agree "and it's great". The kind of people who say this are more likely to be under 25, supporters of a Premier League club and admirers of David Beckham. The surprise here is that so many of them of them read WSC. Welcome, nevertheless.
While 23 per cent of readers believe that "football will get even bigger", only six per cent think it will "crash and burn". But fans of Football League clubs are notably more pessimistic than Premier League ones. They also seem less well served by their clubs – only 42 per cent were satisfied by the entertainment offered (versus 66 per cent in the top flight) though the value-for-money scores were equal between the two leagues.
Scholes or Beckham?
We asked you to ponder: "Whose career would you rather have had – Paul Scholes's or David Beckham's?" There was a distinctly preferred alter ego: Paul Scholes by 65 per cent to 28 per cent for David Beckham, with seven per cent unwilling to step into either set of boots. Scholes was an even clearer favourite in north-west England and among Guardian and Private Eye readers. Beckham found greater favour among southerners, readers who liked cricket, women's football, the Sun and betting. It was loyalty versus adventure, club honours versus country captaincy, dignity versus celebrity – and a surprisingly large amount of very ungentlemanly "not being married to Posh" versus "not being ginger".
Here are some of the pro "being Scholes" comments:
"Played consistently at the top level with intelligence, dignity and professionalism and is still pretty useful. Perhaps because he realises that he earns quite enough by doing his job and sees no need to plaster his mug wherever it might fit."
"A triumph of substance and commitment over superficial metrosexual narcissism."
"He's made a packet, but quietly and without fuss and has stuck to the club. If he ever goes to Oldham, it would just about top it off."
"Because he's a footballer, end of. When he played his 500th game for Man Utd, he spoke on the radio. It was the first time I'd ever heard his voice."
"The joy of belonging to one club and one set of supporters far outweighs the joy of fame and celebrity."
"Total professional, not sure about having to be ginger though. Beckham is just George Best without the alcoholism."
And some reasons why from the would-be Beckhams:
"As irritating as he is, Beckham has at least experienced different cultures in his career rather than being a one-club man."
"More England caps and more goals as well as the England captaincy, and pretty much the same success at Man U, coupled with winning La Liga and making gazillions of cash."
"Overcoming adversity several times and making the absolute most of what is in truth a limited talent. Scholes retiring early from England lets him down."
"He seems to have enjoyed his football more. He's more talented and didn't bottle out of the England team. He has passion."
"He has seen so much of the world and met so many interesting (and not interesting) people. Scholes belongs in the 1950s."
From WSC 260 October 2008