In deepest darkest Hertfordshire (Shenley to be exact) there is a biological laboratory. Surrounded by armed guards and men in track suits, it houses one of the most extraordinary genetic experiments ever seen on British soil.
For it is here, no less, that the Genetic Research Experimental Facility is based. Funded by Arsenal FC the Facility is the home to a series of experiments which have resulted in not just the production of young footballers, but the production of young English footballers who can actually play, err, football. Qute extraordinary.
“We start with a genetic soup,” explained Ivor Lottatalking-Todo as he showed me around the site. “The exact make up of the soup is variable, which is why the players that we produce here is so varied in both nationality and playing ability.
“One of the biggest problem we have had to deal with is the production of players who become classified as English. The essence of being English make up is so muddled, being a mixture of Danes, Saxon, Celts, Norwegians, French and even Belgians from earlier times, plus of course everyone else since the UK had its period of colonial expansion. So it is hard to get the mix quite right. One gene slips and you think you have an English kid and he turns out to be classified by FIFA as being from Chile or China or somewhere else. Take Ramsey – we thought we had an English boy, and it turns out to be Welsh. Beats me.
“Personally I don’t think this nationality thing matters at all – they are all people – but these fanatics at FIFA have all these odd rules about where your mother was born, and the fans of other clubs keep shouting “England England” so we have to abide by the rules.
“Our early experiments showed how wrong we were getting it. We had Francis Jeffers for example – a complete wash-out. We got the English bit sussed, but he had three left feet and a pair of ears that went in strange directions. Then we had that Pennant chap – somehow the mix went strange and it turned out he thought he was a racing driver.
“After that there was that strange Cole fellow. Started out ok, good footballer, quite English, but then his brain went awol leaving his head completely empty. Very odd. Just an experiment that went amiss, I’m afraid.
“But each failure has its value as we change the mix a little to compensate, and of course you can see the difference. As the production of the Fabregas line has shown, we now know how to make players – and the production of the Ramsey format means we can produce British players.
“And now you can imagine how excited we are about the Wilshere line. Of course there were production problems. We originally called him Wiltshire, after the county, just to emphasise his Englishness, but some of the genetic goo got spilled in the tub, and it ran over the name tag, so he came out as Wilshere instead – but who cares. He is English and can play football.”
And so it seems the production line is destined to continue. Now the genetic make-up is known, there seems to be no end in sight.
“We expect to be producing a dozen or more English superkids a year now,” said my guide. “One of the big benefits of working with English kids is that they are at such a premium that even if we get the football mix slightly muddled, as long as we produce someone who is designated “English” then we can sell him on. Again, look at Pennant. Or come to that Bentley. Crazy, insane I know, but if a boy is English someone somewhere will buy him, no matter how naff he is.”
Thus we have the future. Every month a new model player appears, all brilliant, many English. Not be eh?
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