In all likelihood, it escaped your attention, but in the 69th minute of tonight’s ‘Polkraine’ 2012 qualifier between England and Wales at Wembley, a scenario pregnant with possibility was rendered stillborn when the visitors’ manager, Gary Speed, perhaps exercising Annanian levels of diplomacy, pulled off (substituted, that is) his zero-to-hero, self-made man of a striker, Steve Morison of Norwich City, and in so doing threw a huge wet blanket over one of the more eagerly anticipated ‘micropolitical’ intrigues of recent British football. Sort of.
You see, in a frankly bizarre press conference monologue, Morison had gone to extraordinary lengths to assert his position as regards what most had hitherto considered a fairly insignificant and empty ritual: the swapping of shirts. In protestething too much, methinks he inadvertently flagged up the possibility that (a) he could be football’s Travis Bickle, and (b) he had a slight inferiority complex regarding the puffed-up non-cement-bag-trapping straw idols of the Premier League, which he flatly denied between passing an autobiography to John Terry to sign and asking Ashley Cole for a photo to put on Facebook. This is what The Guardian reporter reported:
“At every level you have to feel you belong. I believe in my ability at whatever team I've played with or against. If you don't have apprehension and anxiety that night before a game thinking 'am I going to be good enough?' then you will never be good enough.” Having previously played non-league football for Bishop’s Stortford and Stevenage Borough before moving to Millwall in 2009, Morison could be forgiven for being starstruck by some of his Premier League peers. The striker insists that is not the case, however, and revealed he will not be looking to swap shirts with the likes of Terry or Wayne Rooney tomorrow, and show a feeling of inferiority.“If there was a friend I’ve played against I might swap shirts, as I did in the Championship a couple of times with people I had played with at youth-team level,” he said. “I don’t feel I want to run over to somebody after the game and ask for their shirt because as far as I’m concerned we’re all on the same level if we are on the same pitch. If you go out there and go and get somebody’s shirt, nine times out of 10 you have pre-empted doing that. You have thought before the game that ‘I’ll get his shirt’, and from a personal opinion, if he’s not my friend and I've not known him off the pitch I have no reason why I want his shirt. In internationals I have not swapped shirts with anyone – I have always kept my own. If somebody wants to ask for mine I’ll be more than happy to do so, but I’m not going to be somebody who goes up and asks somebody for theirs. I think you need to be like that. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it. I’m not criticising anybody else who swaps – it's just the way I am.”
OK then, glad we’re clear on that.