The England Enigma

We are nine months away from the  2018 World Cup.  During the international weekend England took a significant step by beating both Malta and Slovakia.

Not that it feels so.  There remains an overriding feeling of discontent related to the national team.  It’s commonly suggested the England team under-achieves. This perception is in itself questionable because, apart from a few of hours in 1966, England have never actually been a world footballing power.

Our record since 1966* isn’t great. In the last 51 years we’ve reached a World Cup semi, a Euro semi and several World Cup quarter finals. In the same period Holland have reached three WC finals, two World Cup semi finals and won the European Championship. Bulgaria have reached a World Cup semi final. Sweden have got to a World Cup semi final and a European semi final. Poland have reached a World Cup semi final and finished 3rd in 1974.  Soviet Union reached two European Finals. Belgium have reached a European  final and a World Cup semi final. Turkey have reached a World Cup semi final and a European semi final.  Wales were European semi finalists last year and Greece were European champions. They are all middle ranking European teams and their records easily match England’s.

So since 1966 our record, when compared to other European football nations, England rarely rises above mediocre.  Despite this, people get annoyed because, for example, we didn’t ‘win anything with Sven.’ It’s unlikely we’ll win a competition whoever the manager is. We’d all love to but actually expecting England to win a tournament is wishful thinking. There’s no great tradition to justify that sort of demand. In a tournament, if we get past the group stage we’ve fulfilled expectancy. From that point we may or may not make progress but we certainly need the luck of the draw….. as soon as we face a side with genuine aspirations to win a tournament we get knocked out.  1990  was great fun but, with all respect, Belgium and Cameroon weren’t contenders to lift the trophy.  Next year we should enjoy the tournament and enjoy England’s presence… and leave silly groundless expectations to one side.  By any historical measure quarter final is a decent result for England.
*our record before 66 wasn’t great… Bela Horizonte anyone?

Whilst listening to a phone in on Talksport after England’s 2-2 draw with Switzerland it was apparent that legislation was required.  At the risk of being described as narcissistic I named this new rule after myself and hereby announce Joe’s law!  Some may be aware of ‘Godwins Law’.  An American lawyer Mike Godwin created his own law  which declares that as online discussions grow longer, the likelihood of a comparison with Hitler and the nazis increases.  When the aforementioned subjects do enter the conversation the discussion loses all relevance. I have a lot to thank QI for!  The Joe  law hereby states that whilst discussing the England football team, as soon as the word ‘passion’ is mentioned, the comment loses all relevance and is deemed null and void.  Sven was unpopular because he didn’t stand on the touchline with contorted face and clenched fists displaying the ‘passion’ the English crave. What’s the thing always thrown at the  England set up?  Passion. England lack ‘passion’. ‘Passion’ manifests itself by way of crashing tackles and sticking your head among the boots to win a header. These aren’t bad attributes but at international level you need more than blood and thunder. England’s players are lacking because many have never had to consider a wider range to their game. Partly because of the nature of English football.

That’s not to say things can’t change.  Spain have proven that a football culture can evolve.  If England are to develop into a side capable of challenging the worlds best, physical clashes and gritted teeth won’t be the primary requirement.

What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!