Which England World Cup footballer is your college?
It’s coming home
It could come home. The FIFA World Cup, the pinnacle of football and perhaps sport itself, really really could come home. It could. I am not in a position to argue about this. England could bring football home.
If you had asked me, say, two months ago, whether England could bring it home, I would have looked at you in dismay.
But the World Cup is funny like that, isn't it? Most of us go about life in notably unpatriotic fashion, cold to the very idea of nation states, even colder to the idea of England playing three at the back. But when Harry Kane heads home an injury time winner in the opening game, will I suddenly scream “GOD SAVE THE FUCKING QUEEN!” at the very top of my lungs and then immediately get an England flag wrapped around a bulldog tattooed on my calf.
And so, in that spirit, before all hope bursts when Panama win 1-0 on Sunday, here are the England players who best resemble your college.
Derwent – Harry Kane
Kane is England’s best player, their leader, their most potent goal-threat. And there is nothing I want more than for Kane to be knighted upon returning home a world champion, just staring blankly with those dead eyes at the Queen as she moves her sword, the hall erupting in cheers behind him.
But this does not exactly mean his comparison with Derwent intends to glorify the latter. Kane is like Derwent for a couple of reasons. The first being that, simply, Derwent comprises of the highest percentage of Kane-looking types: strong British lad, likes his football and his Fortnite. Tall, strong solid no-nonsense British lad haircut, drinks his four-can stash of warm Carling, black collared shirt and strong aftershave, relatively quiet unless around a bunch of other lads, almost visibly simple (this is your MCM, isn’t it?).
Another reason comes down to Derwent’s centrality to the university. Think about colleges and you think about Derwent. Think about England and you think of Kane, banging in goals at the far post. And with that there has to come an element of haughtiness, a belief in supremacy over the rest.
Derwent loudly brands itself as the centre of York’s universe, elevating itself way beyond its actual ability, holding themselves up as the pinnacle of student life, so we can tear them down while shouting things about asbestos and Derwent fuckboys at them. And, basically, this is the role Kane will play at this World Cup: as a crucible of Englishness and footballing perfection, the Main Man, only to ultimately let us all down and become Public Enemy No.1 when he misses a penalty in the knockout rounds.
Alcuin – Jack Wilshere
The sharp ones among you may have realised that Jack Wilshere was not selected by Gareth Southgate for his 23-man squad following yet another season of being Jack Wilshere: mainly anonymous, left on the bench or on the treatment table, angry, seemingly pointless, haunted by a gloomy past and empty future.
And this works quite nicely with Alcuin because the college is forgotten about by most, as Southgate forgot about poor Jack.
They are both entities inextricably linked to the past, viewed with a tint of pity-fuelled nostalgia, and have now been left behind, soon to be forgotten forever.
Constantine – John Stones
Constantine is a college with an air of aristocracy about it. It's sat in the far corner of Heslington East, looking polished and expensive without any particular character. It is where you go when Mum and Dad want you to have your own bathroom; it is where you can conceive of getting an Uber to the library.
Most England players do not fit this polished type of aura. Most England players hoof it long and run hard and look like that lad you know who does a sports coaching degree. But John Stones is different.
And most of the watching population finds this confusing, alien to their footballing intuitions. Everything about him seems caressed, almost regal. And yet at the same time he has that look of someone whose Mum still does the laundry for him.
Stones is a player with smooth edges: tranquil, calculated, homely, expensive. In the end, though, Pep Guardiola ultimately forgets about him. Constantine, for all its niceties, is the immaculate yet forgotten college in exactly the same way.
Langwith – Danny Welbeck
I have a theory about Danny Welbeck. I have watched him for many years, from his senior debut against Stoke in 2008 to a useless sub appearance at Old Trafford in April, and I have concluded that, actually, Danny Welbeck doesn't really exist. Danny Welbeck is an illusion this country needs, a collection of aimless arms and legs cavorting across the pitch, occasionally spiralling into the box at just the right time to meet a Mesut Ozil cross. Danny Welbeck and what he represents are necessary for binding the fragile fabric of our universe together: a figure who tries and tries and seems like a good honest player but ultimately fails, failure becoming a constituent part of his character, failing so we don’t have to.
And this, I think, ties in with why Langwith is still around. It is a college preceded by its reputation: the Hes East college, the expensive college, the college met with a disapproving raised eyebrow when mentioned, an entity whose role is essentially to enhance the appeal of Hes West through being shit. We appreciate Raheem Sterling more because he isn't Danny Welbeck, shanking a pull-back miserably over the bar. We appreciate Courtyard because getting there from the library takes five minutes – rather than an intercontinental hike. Thank you, Danny Welbeck, for being Danny Welbeck. Thank you. You are a true national hero.
Vanbrugh – Raheem Sterling
You would think Vanbrugh, given its location and facilities, would reign supreme in York: walking distance from the library and bus stop, packed full of offices, studios, lecture theatres and canteens which do burritos, right next to the lake, right next to Nisa. Lovely.
And yet, somehow, it disappoints. There is just an emptiness with Vanbrugh, isn't there, of being sold a promise which cannot be kept, somehow becoming a metaphor of itself. Vanbrugh is like a muffin with sprinkles and chocolate on top but without any filling – just endless, bland, dry, utterly disappointing cake.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Do you see what I’m getting at here? Did you see Raheem Sterling, 23 goals and 17 assists for City last season, miss an open goal against Tunisia and run like Velma from Scooby Doo and do fuck all else?
Just like how Vanbrugh’s beneficial surroundings fail to mask its own inherent mediocrity, having De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva and Leroy Sane alongside you doesn't make you any less shit, unfortunately.
Halifax – Jamie Vardy
Halifax is its own little messed up ecosystem, unshackled from the main body of York and not part of some Hes East wasteland, left to blossom into its own thing, unchecked, brazen, viewed by the rest with heady scepticism.
This is also how I like to think of Jamie Vardy’s role in the England squad. Slightly removed, impossible to pin down, always painfully banterous, either the butt or purveyor of jokes: Jamie Vardy having to be reminded to eat dinner by Southgate because he ‘sometimes forgets’, Jamie Vardy never making eye contact as he talks with anyone, Jamie Vardy getting in fights with Russian bus-drivers, Jamie Vardy somehow winning the Premier League title.
This is Jamie Vardy and this is Halifax too. Not part of the main island but nonetheless crucial, slightly twisted, ambiguous in its character, loveable yet always chastised, and never, ever boring.
Wentworth – Ashley Young
Ashley Young is the oldest player in the England squad at the age of 32 and therefore merits comparison with Wentworth, the college for postgraduates. He also aligns with Wentworth due to his lack of memorability: his last England appearance before being called up by Southgate was in 2013. Students also only remember Wentworth is a thing every five or so years on average.
But Wentworth doesn't care. Wentworth is happy to quietly go about its business and let the rest of us guzzle Efe's pizza, down doubles and shag your flatmate with terrible repercussions. Young, in similar fashion, will not Milly Rock with Lingard outside Buckingham Palace once it Comes Home™; Young doesn't fancy accompanying Eric Dier and Vardy to a Saint Petersburg brothel; Young isn't going to be streaming Fortnite on Twitch with Dele Alli. Young is quite happy getting some tea from the canteen and heading up to his room for an hour of Netflix and then bed, thank you very much.
Goodricke – Marcus Rashford
I have literally no information on Goodricke college. I have asked people and they too have nothing they can tell me. I’m pretty sure it exists. I’ll assume for the sake of this article that it does. I know two people from Goodricke, I think (although that probably says more about me).
The bottom line is that Goodricke is in the unique position of being something of a blank slate. No reputation for asbestos and fuckboys, no dirt aside from being just a typical Hes East college.
Looking at the England squad, the only player who can be viewed as a similar tabula rasa, yet to be effectively tarred in some way by the media, is Marcus Rashford. There are no ulterior motives with Rashford, no complicated layers or hidden duplicities. He just wants a chance to play up front.
And so, I ask, let us leave Rashford alone like we do with Goodricke over this World Cup. Please don’t pollute sweet young Rashford or Goodricke with your opinions and slurs. Making fun of Derwent is much more fun instead.