Chennai, India. 10:20pm. Despair.
So the England football team have lived up to the darkest secret that all Englishmen know in their hearts. We are shit. Not just poor. Not bad. But truly abysmal. Every football fan knows that England is a team of individual superstars that just can’t play together. And yet every tournament the English media builds up the team and raises the expectations of the nation to a point where we briefly, foolishly, willingly, forgo reality and allow ourselves the faintest of hope, the smallest of dreams; this could be our year to finally shine and we heed the call…
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Henry V – Shakespeare
You know, we don’t (or try not to) get carried away or anything. That’s not the British way. We don’t expect to come back with the trophy. If we are beaten by the likes of Brazil or Argentina then fair play, they are the greatest teams in the world. But if we are to be beaten, then at the end of the 90 minutes not a single England player should be able to stand. They should have given absolutely everything as they played with the pride of the nation resting upon their shoulders.
2010 Is An Epic Fail By The England Team
So how can we accept the utter lackluster approach by our players? The complete capitulation in the field of play? England have just received a master-class in football by a team that should be playing for the Youth side, not the national team. Yet England were out-classed, out-played and humiliated time and time again as the players showed no desire, no effort and no heart to even suggest that they cared enough about their country.
The entire 2010 World Cup has been shameful and painfully exposed just how little it means for the players to be representing England. A nervy affair against the Americans (who count
football – sorry – soccer as their 6th most popular game) resulted in a nail-biting draw, a shocking performance against Algeria, a country ranked 30th in the world, and an uninspiring and unconvincing win against Slovakia (ranked 34th and have a population less than 10% of England) provided ample ammunition for England to be ridiculed.
Roots and Branches
When Capello was hired, it was after what the FA declared a “root and branch” review of English football was required. What they failed to focus on is that the common denominator in our last decade is the players simply aren’t fit to wear the 3 Lions on their chest. There is not one player that can be singled out from this embarrassing World Cup who can be held up high for his commitment, his passion and who has given his everything for the team.
Even Rooney, normally the lion heart, failed to spark. Us English fans, and other nations, can’t figure it out. How can a team of some of the top players in the world fail to beat teams that until a few years ago didn’t have a national side? How can teams like Serbia, population 4m, beat a team like Germany and then when England have a crack at it we are left looking like a side of Sunday leaguers?
There is no doubt that the blame is probably going to fall most on the shoulders of Capello; but that is entirely unjustified, we have had manager after manager trying to coax a spark of life out of this team of individuals. Capello doesn’t need to go – I think he’s a bloody good manager and is as confounded by the team performance as everyone else – it’s the over-paid players themselves that need to be shown the door.
Hold On Lads, I’ve Got An Idea!
What I think England needs is something radical. Forget taking players from the top league, they earn their millions of pounds each year, if they lose a match, they are still loved by the club fans. They still drive off in their Bentleys, Ferrari’s and Aston Martins. They still go home to their impossibly attractive model / actress / singer wives. There is no incentive to play for the England team like there is for their club; not one single player can be said to play better for country than club.
So here is what I propose. Forget these over-paid darlings, let them draw admiration and respect from their club fans. Let’s take the England players from the lower leagues – the young men who make the same amount of money as you and I. They suddenly have everything to play for, they will play with passion, with drive and with the battling spirit that the English love.
Sure, we’ll probably lose even more than we do now, but bloody hell, when we can’t even beat USA and Algeria with a team of multi-million pound stars who are held up as the finest examples of footballing ability in the world, what difference does it make? By fielding a team of lesser players who will play with heart, the expectations of the nation will not be raised and destroyed in a mere 90 minutes. If we win, we will be euphoric. If we lose, hey, they played their hearts out, we can’t ask for anything else.
Why Can’t England Be Like This?!
I watched North Korea play against Brazil in one of the early matches. Sure they lost
2-0 2-1 (thanks, Ed!), but by God they played their hearts out as if playing for the team actually mattered to them. They then went on to lose 7-0 to Portugal and 3-0 to Ivory Coast, but you couldn’t fault them for passion and desire. For 90 minutes in each match they ran their legs off, and that earns the respect of fans.
Or how about New Zealand? Ranked a measly 78th in the world, their star striker is a full time bank employee and had to request time off to attend the tournament, and yet they didn’t lose a single match, narrowly missed out on getting to the knock-out stages and came above Italy (winners of the 2006 World Cup) in the group stages.
England last won a major trophy 44 years ago in 1966. To be frank, after watching teams from emerging nations like Ghana and Paraguay and non-footballing nations like USA and Japan, I don’t think England are going to have a hope in hell of winning anything ever again.
It was Nelson who said it best when faced with an enemy that was superior in numbers at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was simple, it was to the point and it was oh so British…”England expects that every man will do his duty“.
Likewise in football, England expects every man to do his duty, but when the players show complete disinterest and unwillingness to get stuck in, it’s time to take some radical action.
As the Lightning Seeds once said of England back in 1996…
Everyone seems to know the score,
They’ve seen it all before,
They just know,
They’re so sure,
That England’s Gonna throw it away,
Gonna blow it away,
But know they can play
Possibly never a truer word was spoken of the England team.
I’ll be here again for Euro 2012, and I know it will kill me to watch England play so badly, but I will continue watching them. It’s become a bit of an English tradition, it’s like pay back for the Empire or something, now you must sit and watch how awful your national team is. See how they look like a Sunday league side, squirm as they fail to break down the minnows of Europe, despair as qualification for the next tournament goes down to the last must-win match in which we must also rely on another team doing us a favour.
But There Is A Silver Lining To Every Cloud
But still, all that said, it could be worse. We could have had a 2010 World Cup like France. Now THAT is a team that needs to do a lot of soul searching.