England lost 3-2 to the Netherlands this week. The reaction was very predictable. A swathe of journos and fans shrugged their shoulders and dismissed this as a crapulous England display. They noted that the Netherlands won without exerting too much effort whilst simultaneously not noting that England were understrength.
The common opinion of many fans when it comes to England is that they are a degenerate mass of disappointment barely worth a sneer. Supporting England ranks only slightly higher than respecting Piers Morgan. People think that the red tops expect too much and that we have delusions of grandeur. People also like to blame the failures of the England Rugby team on the England Football team, as if it’s a virus the rugger boys got off those common as muck footballers. I have several problems with this point of view.
Delusions of Grandeur
Firstly I don’t think England have delusions of grandeur. Players like Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, and Ashley Cole have all played in the Champions League and have vast amounts of experience. They are fixtures in some of the best teams in Europe. They are some of the best players in arguably the best domestic league in the world. Crap they are not. To say England are poor and have no hope of success is to dismiss a squad of highly accomplished and talented professionals. No, we are not Spain, but we certainly aren’t Scotland either.
The Press Toy With Us
Secondly, the press are the ones who have raised expectations in the past and yet they greet every game with a barely disguised sneer (the Guardian Football writers are especially excellent at this).
- Most newspapers love a tubthumping run up to an international football tournament.
- Most newspapers also love to eviscerate the England players and coaching staff.
- All newspapers love selling newspapers.
To get around any potential conflicts, most media embrace the hype in the run up to a tournament, and then leap off the England bandwagon just as it’s about to plunge off the cliff…
Here’s a pretty basic timeline:
- We guzzle articles featuring the England captain shrouded in the Cross of St George underneath a Shakespeare quote (usually Henry V).
- We squint in awe at the golden glow of the mile-wide, and semi-naked, poster of DBeck, stretched out like a lazy Sunday morning underneath a Shakespeare quote (usually Henry V).
- We join a patriotic conga featuring Messrs Keith Allen, Russell Brand, and Danny Dyer.
- We draw some games we should be winning.
- We get to the QF’s.
- We woke up, hungover and out of the tournament.
This is the chief way the press mess with our heads, but there are other ways too. The gnashing of teeth after the South Africa World Cup was particularly hilarious with more than one broadsheet implying that the well had run dry and there were no English talents on the horizon. The 2014 World Cup was dismissed as a write-off. Two years on from South Africa and we are bursting at the seams with talent (at least that’s what the same journos who wrote us off would have us think):
- Josh McEchran (Richard Williams: “Comparisons with Brady and Andrea Pirlo are no exaggeration – Chelsea’s precocious talent has skills that can’t be taught”)
- Jack Rodwell (venerated by James Lawton)
- Jack Wilshere (Piers Morgan‘s obsession)
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (eulogised by Amy Lawrence)
- Ross Barkley (adored by Henry Winter and Trevor Brooking)
- Danny Welbeck (drooled over by Michael Cox)
- Kyle Walker (praised by Alan Smith)
- Daniel Sturridge (loved by Dominic Fifield)
- Tom Cleverly (lauded by Danny Welbeck and grovelled to by The S*n)
- Chris Smalling (Paul McGrath: “Smalling, for me, is amazing,”)
- Phil Jones (fancied by James Lawton)
Are these really the very same players that are going to be attacked by press and fans alike for being terrible post World Cup 2014?!
Tactical megamind Michael Cox of Zonal Marking is a little bit guilty of playng to the crowd when it comes to England. On the Guardian podcast his reaction to the game was tepid, not particularly severe. In his ESPN article he lets fly, ripping into England:
…But then, being positive for the sake of it is pointless. Caretaker manager Pearce handled himself well in front of the media but admits he isn’t a long-term option. The FA says it is no closer to appointing anyone on a permanent basis and has not yet approached Tottenham Hotspur about Redknapp, the obvious candidate.
All told, it is a farcical situation just three months before a major international tournament. If England was to even vaguely succeed in the summer, it would send a terrible message — don’t have a long-term plan, don’t have a permanent manager, don’t have a settled group of players. Instead, turn up unprepared and try to fluke your way through.
At this rate, England could do with a real shock in the summer to put into perspective how utterly ridiculous this position is, with the vague hope that it might learn lessons. But then, it is England — the Three Lions didn’t learn in 2000, they didn’t learn in 2007, they didn’t learn in 2010 and they won’t learn in 2012. I suppose we may as well get behind them.
Because of the incessant toying, we’ve turned our backs on England…
The Postmodern England Fan
As a reaction to the predictable and painful timeline above, the postmodern English football fan will express utter disgust with England, deny even a glowing ember of hope for our chances, and burrow into a deep midden of England hatred. It’s a defence mechanism. Or put less kindly, it’s glory hunting. Most fans recognise that switching club teams is unacceptable, but they have a chink of hope with England. Seeing as a vast amount of Englishmen now claim that they don’t support England anymore, it’s easy to join the stampede.
No matter how it’s wrapped up or what excuses* are used, the Postmodern England Fan that prays for England to get slaughtered is a glory hunter. They stopped supporting because we stopped (did we ever start?) winning. I’d gently suggest that they f*ck off and support Spain. But not Scotland.
*Excuses may include – but are by no means limited to – sleaze, sex scandals, over paid whining, abject failure, a foreign manager, an english manager, too many of that team’s players in the squad. not enough of our team in the squad.