Interest In National Side At Lowest Ebb
Is there a more unwelcome international break than the first one after a disappointing and underwhelming major tournament?
In a summer where England failed miserably/hilariously (delete as appropriate), the break up after the opening round of games was met with about the same enthusiasm as a lamb has of an abattoir.
There seems to be no end to the parade of rubbish. Not content with subjecting us to three weeks of ordinary football in an over inflated European Championships, eyes now are firmly pressed on two years of dull and ordinary qualifying games for a World Cup that no one will travel to nor likely enjoy.
There are a litany of pieces on blogs and fan sites, TEB included, that will rail against this monotonous and tired format, depriving many the opportunity to marvel at the true footballing love they have – their respective clubs.
The narrative for the week gone has been one of speculation and theories.
As the transfer window careered to a frivolous and surreal conclusion in England, the news and airwaves were dominated by second guessing what clubs would do. Who could be the most ambitious idiot by pissing their new(er) found riches up a wall the quickest. Take your pick – most clubs succeeded in smashing their transfer records this summer.
Ahead of the first round of World Cup challenges this weekend, however, plenty of speculation on the futures of two England players became two of the biggest news stories of the window.
As an Irishman and Ireland supporter, I make no secret of enjoying watching England capitulate time and time again on the world stage. That is not rooted in some sort of allegiance with republican terrorism or hatred for every living English person, but more centred on a healthy football rivalry. Without rivals, football can become a much more boring place. And without England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales wouldn’t have a loud, slightly more successful neighbour to make themselves feel better about their own mediocrity. For England, see Germany or Argentina.
So while taking joy at the ever inevitable collapse of England over the summer, it is interesting to see the cycle that they undertake after each tournament in reaction to failure. It almost always seems knee jerk. The media fall in place, young players are promoted and an unbeaten qualifying campaign papers over the huge cracks that become so brutally exposed in major tournaments.
From an outsider looking in, there seems to be something slightly different about the reaction this time. For all the doom and gloom related to the state of English football, it perhaps won’t be as bad is many fear it will be.
FYP contributor Carl Mortimer (@CarlMSX) retweeted a tweet on my timeline, questioning why with the squad’s England have had in the last ten years, how did they not win anything (or in the very least do a bit better)?
My reply was ‘a combination of attitude, poor management, an inflated sense of self-importance and rotten luck’.
Here is where the transfer window becomes interesting, for so often players make moves ‘in the interest of their international careers’.
Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere played their part in social media having a near meltdown in the final days as speculation on their future whereabouts grew.
Two prominent England players in recent years, injuries aside, suddenly found their status as rare homegrown talents at big clubs in jeopardy. Many look at Hart and Wilshere’s moves to Torino and Bournemouth respectively as an embarrassing fall from grace, but perhaps it signifies the first time English players, fans and media are no longer in denial.
It echoes one of those problems mentioned earlier, that inflated sense of self-importance. It seems to the outsider that the English are no longer in denial.
No longer do they feel that they should throwing millions at big name managers (and Hodgson) to massage their egos. ‘He’s here because the England job is the best job in football, and because we’re paying him 15% of the entire GDP of the UK’.
In Sam Allardyce, England have the manager they deserve – an ordinary, run of the mill figurehead with spells of moderate success and little failure. He’s not flash. He’s not expansive. He’s not progressive. But he seems like the manager that England need at the moment. Sam Allardyce would never have the opportunity to manage an elite Premier League club. England are not an elite international football side.
The fans, so often and quickly swept up in a euphoria of blind optimism, came to accept their limitations after the 2014 World Cup. Barring a splinter of hope (led largely by Spurs supporting England fans), the Euro’s gone were no surprise. Flat, regressive and inevitable.
But perhaps the most significant shift will be that of the players. With acceptance of their limitations, and seeing foreign imports usurp them in once comfortable positions at the top table, English players may start looking further afield for opportunities. If the idea takes hold that they need to work harder, improve or change their mentalities with regards their abilities and the ability of their opponents, then perhaps they will begin to show more courage, and fight to perform.
So often we see smaller nations punch above their weight because the sum of their parts outweighs their limitations individually. Are England about to adapt this mentality?
We may be witnessing the first shift in that. Forget about adapting a German, Dutch or Spanish model – English football might improve with a simple reimagining of ideas and realistic appraisals of their own position.
It won’t be immediate, and I hope as an Irishman I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the English are being sensible for the first time in a generation. They’re words I thought I would never hear myself say!