Engerland

Well, the fat lady has finally sung and she is singin’ the blues…in German: England are out of the world cup.

As ever, every four years the Great British Public and their shameless media conduct the usual Quincy-esque autopsy and try and divine what is wrong with English football. Because – let’s be honest here – England get knocked out of every World Cup; because of the regularity maybe we should make it a festival, like the hay festival or Glastonbury – get some bands in, have a barbecue? So: being a passionate, loyal supporter of England it is therefor a matter of pride and tradition for me to start pointing the finger of blame and have a good old moan and sulk about the state of the English game.

The usual suspects are:

  1. We wuz robbed Frank Lampard scored (I know that will take a certain amount of blind faith: England, Lampard and Score in the same paragraph). There is no doubt. In real time it looked a goal and on replay it was proven to be a goal. The technology is there and it’s cheap and simple to implement. Or we could get really simple and just dig a great big fucking hole behind the goal. The awarding of this goal would have made it 2-2 and maybe changed the dynamic of the match, who knows? My instincts, though, tell me that Germany were playing much better football and it was inevitable that we would have lost. But, we’ll never know because FIFA live in the 1970’s.
  2. The manager is a muppet My knowledge of managing and coaching a football team is exactly nil so I don’t think I can criticise the manager too much – he knows way more that I do. All he can do – leaning on the depth and breadth of his knowledge – is put out a team that he thinks will most effectively beat the opposition; that much is obvious. I do think – however – that there is massive pressure from the media and the fans to pick the best players rather than the best team. It must be terribly difficult to suggest calling up players from a lower division or the U21 team – mainly because omitting a player who is paid 150k a week (step up John Terry (150k a week. A week! What does he do with it?) would appear to be madness. For that money they must be good, right? I think we need to keep the manager; his record is excellent and we need continuity. Though he really should stop picking Emile Heskey; he hasn’t scored since Gremlins.
  3. The players are shite Oh, behave: the England players are obviously very, very good at playing football. Their clubs and their country would not invest time and money in them if they weren’t. They went through youth systems, were scouted, train every day and earned their squad positions on the basis of their talent. Managers – many of them from warmer climes – chose to include them in squads when money was not an issue. This is a facile argument which stems from…
  4. Them bloody foreigners steal our women and then wreck our football Managers go shopping for the best players they can find for positions they need to fill, if the player they need happens to be Italian…or French…or German then unless there is a superior English counterpart then they’re stuffed. There are too many overseas players, in my opinion, but it’s not the fault of the players or the managers. It’s the fault of…
  5. The Football Association There is a common belief that the F.A is staffed entirely by old public school boys who like nothing better than to go pheasant shooting whilst drinking Claret from the shrunken heads of their staff’s illegitimate offspring (theirs) making sure to not mark their tweed because they’ll be refused entry to their club and miss out on a grand hee-haw at the expense of poor people or ethnic minorities. Although this description is a touch slanderous I pretty much think it is close to the mark. The F.A is an old boy network more about making large licensing deals – thus enabling huge backhanders – than progressing the game to a level the rest of the world are at. The only decent bloke in the organisation is Trevor Brooking, but he is a token ex-footballer and is rarely listened to. The rest of them don’t even know what a football looks like.

My opinion is that there is a different culture of football in the UK than in the rest of the world.

The Brazilians, Italians and the Argentinians play passing football, along the floor and go for slow build up play. This is a cultural construct, borne of generations of playing on hard pitches in hot climates. Germany (who have a far more effective and progressive football association) recognised that this style of play was tremendously effective as a world cup tactic because: if you play high tempo, chasing down football, at the end of a hard season, over six weeks, you will get beat. The Bundesliga teams play very similar football to English clubs, but the German national team doesn’t…because they ain’t bloody stupid. Germany have both tactics in their arsenal and have employed them to devastating effect.

The English style of play is high tempo, down-the-pitch-in-three-passes football (kick and rush as Franz Beckenbauer calls it – ironically two of Germany’s goals originated from kick and rush football!). This all stems from playing as a kid when a kid (in the UK) is picked more because he is big and strong and can twat the ball very hard rather than his ability to close control or dribble. Those kids would always be picked last or not at all because it’s all about winning, innit? I have always hated this football culture and it’s why we don’t do well in World Cups. It’s endemic and will take a generation to change…if at all.

Finally I would like to start a campaign in which 1966 is never mentioned, ever. You don’t hear Uruguay harping on about their world cup win more than half a century ago, do you? Forget it, the men who won that tournament are either dead or very old.

Lastly, any football fan who dresses up as an RAF pilot or plays The Great Escape on a trumpet should be horsewhipped for being xenophobic and ignorant. It’s disrespectful to the armed forces and makes me ashamed to be an Englishman. There, done.

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11 thoughts on “Engerland

  1. Now I confess I’m not a football fan. I watched this match at a friend’s house, ut I only really went for the BBQ and the excuse to sit down for an hour and a half while strangers entertained my children in the garden.

    HOWEVER… Lampard’s goal was a goal. Totally a goal. How could they not have given that? Not really understanding the rules of football, it seemed completely ridiculous to me that they couldn’t just wait a few seconds, look at the replay, and decide then – why does that not happen?? I was very cross. Obviously we’d have lost anyway, but that was hardly the point.

    That’s it though, that’s my interest in football over for another four years.

    1. Even though you watch football every four years, are not a football fan and ate half cooked sausages you have successfully distilled most football journalists conclusions into one paragraph.

      Jo for The Sun!

  2. Maybe we should do what we did all those decades ago, and just invent new sports. That way, we stand a chance of winning them. At least for a few years, until everyone else masters the bizarre rules. And even then, we can send players off for not realising that socks should be worn exactly one inch above the ankle, apart from on Tuesdays. We’ve done the odd-shaped ball thing before with rugby, so that could be a start – what about a throwing game using a triangle that you can only whack with your elbows while hopping? Just off to start training the kids – quite fancy being the mum of a £100,000 weekly pay packet.

    1. That is exactly what we should do. A triangle ball is a great start as it adds a completely random quality to the game. It should also only ever be played in the rain – as this would give us a natural advantage.

      If your kids earned 100k a week they would just splurge it on Bentleys, birds and mock tudor mansions…

  3. I think you’re right not to jump to the obvious conclusion and blame Capello. He made some mistakes, but if the tabloids want us to believe it’s all his fault while continuing to worship the players because they want to keep getting the exclusive interviews and soundbites from them, they underestimate many fans’ intelligence.

    The fact is we’re not a great team. A good team, yes. But not a great one. You’ll find some analysis in the post below that shows just how mediocre we are when in comes to progressing through the knockout phases of tournaments over the past 20 years:

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-england/

    It’s one of a series of three posts analysing our disappointing World Cup campaign, Hope you like them!

    1. Capello steered us through qualification without any stress whatsoever, but our players seemed to get extreme stage fright.

      The other thing that shocked me was Wayne Rooney, interviewed before the Algeria match, could not name an Algerian player and had no idea of their style of play or record during qualification. My opinion is that he is a professional and when he is not playing XBox or talking to his gormless wife he could do a bit of bloody homework – just for personal gain!

  4. Great article Shev, best bit of journalism I have read since the debacle!

    I would only like to add two things: one, they need to educate kids that we do not have to score or move in a forward direction whenever the ball is in possession and secondly Gareth Barry is not a holding midfield player he is a player who has not even had a good season for man city!

    Next time let’s respect them Germans (and Algerians for that matter) a whole lot more!!!!

    1. Gareth Barry, before he was fit, was being touted as if he were Cruyff – when he finally turned up he was like Andy Townsend without any pace.

      Saw the Spanish tonight and they look very, very good indeed.

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