Today I’m going to try and nail down that very serious and long-standing debate of fans of football and literature: who would make an All-Star Shakespeare Football XI? I’m ready for the fierce and bitter debate that will follow, but here goes:
Based at The Globe Stadium, Forest of Arden, Warwickshire.
Coach: Will “All the players are merely people” Shakespeare.
We all know goalkeepers are crazy, so this superstitious Scot will fit in nicely. Sure his hands may be bloody, but a man who can’t be beaten by any attacker “born of woman” is likely to lead to many clean (tartan) sheets. We just have to hope he keeps his eye on the ball and doesn’t get distracted by floating daggers.
A true adorer of the number two, this feisty young Italian, now just breaking through at the strive-ridden Verona club, is packed full of energy for charging up and down the line, and combines an elegant touch with fierce passion and a willingness to make the ultimate self-sacrifice. Good lad.
This magic little man, Robin Goodfellow, adds a spark to the left-back role, with his ability to hoodwink and confuse opponents. A tendency to merrily wander and a lack of height could provide defensive danger, but you just know he’ll pop up at the right moment. A natural jester, he’s also a great boost to team morale. (We considered the Fool, but he just gets a bit morbid for the dressing room, you know?)
This powerful Moor is a natural bulwark for the central defence. Widely traveled and hugely experienced, he was become even better than the Italians themselves at their beloved catenaccio defending style, and is a naturally commanding leader of the line. And his paranoia, coached by assistant manager Iago, means he is always on his toes, on the lookout for possible sneak assaults.
Completing the all-Venetian centre-back pairing is the clever Jewish-Italian. The grumpy veteran is a skilled man-marker, not afraid to grab his “pound of flesh,” a fierce tackler of all comers, and wears down referees with his constant complaining.
6. Henry V
The one legitimate king in the side, this hardy and well-groomed Englishman with the clear ability to inspire is the team’s obvious captain. At the base of the midfield, he may keep it rather blandly simple, but he’ll win the muddy midfield battles, with a ruthlessness that cuts down past friends, nevermind opponents.
Yet another Italian in the team, this Milanese maestro has as much magical ability as any great number seven. His tendency to be rather adrift on his own in the game is less noticeable out on the right wing, where he can create all sorts of storms for the other team. Some say he’s too close to the coach, but we know that bitter sense of not getting his due will drive him on to the release of applause at game’s end.
8. Richard III
Critics may scream that this box-to-box midfield role should be taken by a stronger physical specimen like Coriolanus, but while this Englishman does have his injury problems, he can cover the distance with surprising speed (as anyone who saw his clash with Lady Anne will agree) and he can utterly clean out opponents. Confident and well capable of a vicious strike, Richard should cause other teams discontent.
9. Lady MacBeth
Controversially the only woman on the team, but that’s no big surprise from this regal girl who’s not afraid to break the rules. Fearless, fast-moving, decisive and cunning, nobody else in the squad can match this dark lady for being goal-focused and her certain ability to strike the killer blow. She’s also good at cajoling our goalkeeper, which is helpful. Sure, she tends to go a little mad towards the end of matches, but don’t we all?
The control-freak Danish prince, trained in the German way at the famed Wittenburg academy, has the intelligence, creativity and cultured right foot to take on the trequartista playmaker role. He has the crucial vision to see things other miss. Yes, at 30, some may consider him “fat and scant of breath,” and there is the danger of his much-commented tendency to hesitate on the ball, but ultimately this man can be relied on to create a play that breaks the opposition’s nerve.
This much-beloved left-winger is full of big ideas. Yes, he’s not likely to do much on his own, but he’s a definite team-player and can put together the kind of movement that brings down the big guns. He does have a tendency to peter off later in games, so planning to substitute him with natural right-winger Marc Anthony would be tactically smart.