During the 2010 World Cup, Booker Prize winning novelist Howard Jacobson wrote an article in the Independent (the London one) entitled 'Where's the Culture in our Football?'
In one of the few articles on English football to incorporate references to Lady MacBath, the Myth of Cassandra, and German film director Werner Herzog, Jacobson opined;
Why must football as the English play it be so plebeian? Elsewhere it has moved on from its roots in deprived communities. Dutch players look and talk like linguists. The Swiss who tamed the Spaniards bear themselves like brokers. But though our players earn a banker's bonus every time they mis-kick a ball, we go on insisting that the game express the spirit of a proletariat that probably exists today only on television.
And now a work-a-day football writer, Martin Samuel (a Daily Mail employee but a good football journalist nonetheless), has made comments which chime (somewhat) with this critique.
I do think there is a failure of intellect in English football - we do not think about the game as Germans do and our player almost seem to take pride in their low academic achievements. How many times does a player tell an interviewer, 'I was useless in school - all I was interested in was football', as if career success was now vindicated that absence of general interest in the world.
Neither writer is suggesting that English footballers need to familiarise themselves with the 19th century English novel or the genesis of the Norman conquests (though Jacobsen did suggest in one brief, slightly fanciful paragraph, that it wouldn't do any harm) but both allege that there is a general doltishness in English football both on and off the field.
A doltishness that is absent among the playing corps of other nations.
Most notably, Germany.