Written by Henry Clark
Is it just me or is the English national team a bit of a shambles at the moment? There’s no point beating about the bush or kidding ourselves. Do we really have the talent that we think we have? Or do they just look good playing against ‘average’ teams? There are some quality young players in the England side that perform regularly in the Premier League but continue the English tradition of going missing at the major tournaments (or just away to Slovenia).
English sports fans are patriotic – you only have to look at the support that fans put in at every major tournament and even meaningless friendlies played on a midweek October night. We like our sporting teams to do well, whether that’s winning the Ashes or watching the England women show how it should be done on the big stage.
From a young age, all children who love football dream of playing for England. Whether that was the Gascoigne era, the Beckham era or the Rooney era, every child dreams of emulating the success of their heroes one day themselves. But as careers of the most talented take-off, wages soar. Our footballers become detached from the normal struggles of life for the average fan and forget some of what it means to see your national team do well. Do they lose some of their patriotism in the process of becoming young millionaires playing football for a living?
We hear all the time, whether it’s Venables, Capello or even Allardyce, that the players wearing the Three Lions are proud to do so and that they care. We are told that players are desperate to do well every time they pull on the shirt. So, what is going wrong?
When players come out on Twitter in the public eye apologising for their ineptness to break down teams like Iceland do they truly mean it when they say ‘it was an honour to represent our country and it’s just a shame for the fans’? There’s only so much unwavering support we can give them. With media being so widespread and the public so eager to pick-up on any slip of the tongue players are shackled into a PR bubble. They have no freedom, no expression, and this shows on the pitch.
Boring, boring England
Far too often in the last ten years (or since the famous day of 1966) I’ve seen an expressionless English side take to the field. Players look scared to play for their country and seem to be so self-conscious that every move, or slip, they make will be analysed to death. Football shouldn’t be about that; we envy teams like Germany and Italy, sides that glide around the pitch and play attractive and successful football – win or lose.
Their players come out of their shell and spray 40-yard cross-field balls when called upon by their country, whilst ours seem to quiver and pass the ball backwards. There is such a lack of attacking intent in the England side and this is the root cause of the problem. If you don’t take risk in the modern era of football you cannot win a game – even if you let two in by taking the risks you should score three more.
The fear factor
It’s hard to understand our footballers’ difference in form for their club and then for country. If you asked a German what is more important, the Bundesliga or the national team, they’d answer national team. If you asked the same to an English person they’d have to think. ‘Oh but we have the best league in the world’, ‘it’s more competitive in the Premier League’, ‘it’s more entertaining’. This is exactly where our footballing culture is flawed nowadays.
We so often claim to have the best league in the world that all our national players play in. We think this is a winning combination that should equate to national success. But it doesn’t. Players have picked up this culture where the league means more to them, a culture where the Premier League is the be-all and end-all. This is wrong. This shouldn’t be the way. International football should still be the pinnacle of football in this country like it is in Germany. Therefore they are successful. Their players want to go to these tournaments and do their country proud. English players are frightened to enjoy and express themselves as they fear the backlash of fans and the media if (and when) it goes wrong.
Players need to go back to enjoying their football fearlessly for England. And if that means we lose 3-0 to the Faroe Islands along the way, I don’t care – we have to get back to playing football with a purpose. This culture has been installed in our footballers for generations and is not going to change overnight. Players aren’t in touch with the English way of life anymore – our academy players don’t wash the boots of their senior teammates. To earn the respect of the supporters they must value playing for their country and show the world what they can do. And until this changes teams will continue to play fearlessly against England as they know that they are playing a side crippled and stifled by fear.
Do you agree? When can England fans realistically dream of winning the world cup again? Comment below or tweet you thoughts to us @AllOutFootball_ or @HClark_hcafc