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).
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:
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):
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.
Premier League: Saturday 11 February (15:00); Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium
Saturday 25 February (15:00); Sunderland at Goodison