This piece was originally written for Those Feet. It was written on the train home from England’s friendly with Hungary. I may have had a drink.
I’m going to start off with an apology. This article is not going to be for the faint hearted. This is full of bile and misguided anger that has built for a good long while. If you disagree with me then fantastic, opinions are a great thing. Leave a comment and we can discuss it until the cows come home, but for the moment strap yourselves in and welcome to the world of my anger.
Let’s start with some positives from last night. First and foremost England won. Gerrard once reverted to his favoured central role finally performed like the world class midfielder that he can be, Terry and Jags made for a solid enough partnership in the first half, Kierran Gibbs came in and gave a very competent performance that was full of future promise. They are the positives, but this article is not really about the performance or the result. Its about the event so bare with me.
A lot has been made about the importance of giving youth a chance, but it wasn’t the youth on the pitch that impressed me it was the youth packed into the stadium. Last night was the seventh time I have been to Wembley in recent years and never before have I seen so many kids attending a game. You just don’t see this enough at football anymore, let alone at an international match. This is a huge positive. It’s just a shame that the experience was spoilt by a bunch of mindless cretins who should know better, and that’s not a reference to the England players.
What’s the point? Honestly. You sit there and you think, just what is the point? Sat in a magnificent stadium surrounded by a bunch of fans, most of whom I really would not urinate on if they where on fire, I would however probably happily urinate on them in any other situation though.
It wasn’t just the booing that got to me, it wasn’t just the painfully embarrassing club loyalties that exist, it wasn’t just the guy sat to my right blowing a bloody vuvuzela in my ear for the entirety of the game, it wasn’t just the grumpy Aston Villa fan sat to my left who kept on getting Ashley Young confused with Kierran Gibbs, it wasn’t just the guy in a Stone Island jacket who threatened to knock out a seventy year old Hungary fan for celebrating their goal, it wasn’t just the guy who took a piss in the sink of the toilets, it wasn’t just the bunch of piss heads sat in front of me who barely watched three passes get strung together because they were to engrossed in their pathetic xenophobic chatter. It was the whole lot. All of it together. This is England? It was sickening. For the second home international in a row I felt the need to apologise to a group of away fans, with my very embarrassed and beffudled “oh I’m so sorry, we’re not all like that”. This is England. This is England United. Its a disgrace really. The press make a lot of the fact that the players are bad role models for the kids because of their off the field antics. Bull. The kids don’t care what happens off the park, they don’t understand what happens off the park and most likely they don’t know what happens off the park. I grew up with Gazza in his pomp for England, he was no saint but that didn’t matter to me at all. I didn’t know what he did in his spare time and it didn’t matter to me. What mattered was what he was doing on the pitch. When he celebrated with the dentist chair I wasn’t thinking “ooo I could really go for a bit of a booze now” I was thinking how brilliant football was. I discussed this with fellow Those Feet writer Luke Edwards and he made the brilliant point that when he grew up it was his parents that where his role models. That’s how it should be, if you don’t set the example yourself and expect some young sportsman with more money than sense to set the examples of how to live then you can’t complain when they grow up like thuggish cretins. The bloke in the Stone Island jacket, whom I referred to earlier, at one point picked up his son, who could only have been five years old at most, and kissed him on the cheek after Gerrard got his second goal. For a moment it warmed my heart, I thought that maybe their was still hope. This was until he turned around, son still in his arms, and yelled at a Hungarian family a few rows away “have that you stupid c***s, now f**k off back to where you came from”. This is England.
But who’s to say I’m any better than the people I berate? I’m sat there with my notepad and my holier than thou attitude and my snarling looks and my bitter resentment. I’m no better. I’m just the flip side of the coin and neither of us can be right in the bigger picture. Perhaps I’m too weary and perhaps I don’t communicate in the passionate grunts that seem to be in vogue with these cretins. But I’m English. We’re all the problem and I’m tired of it. Once we’re back on the same page then we’re moving in the same direction. Unfortunately half of us are studying Ulysses and the other half are still confused by Spot The Dog.
The same is true of the England team. The lack of genuine communication throughout the team that has been apparent for a number of years now is unnerving. Each department connect well within each other but the link up between, say defence and midfield, is non existent. Fabio seems to have tried to instill a pass and move mentality in the team, but like with the fans in the stadium we have some players quoting Plato and some sounding out each word of the Mr Men series. Our Italian correspondent, Andrew Buonocore, spoke of how the mentality of the Italians has already moved on from looking at the national team in terms of shame and anger and have moved on to think in terms of change. We have yet to move on from that. As a team and as a set of fans we continually live in a state of shame, and with 44 years without success you think we would have got over ourselves. In a certain way it’s very much like The Emperors New Clothes. We drape ourselves in the surroundings of a state of the art stadium telling all the world that “don’t we look marvelous, aren’t we brilliant, don’t we deserve success now, just look at us”. Take a step back and we’re all just naked and the fancy vestiges we think we drape ourselves in are nothing.
I’m not sure what it is about England games which brings the cretins out of the woodwork. I’ve been to league games up and down the country and not experienced anything like it, and it’s not about the quality of football that is on display. I’ve seen some abject performances and still had a brilliant time at a game. For example, despite not supporting them myself, I have attended many many Walsall games. I’ve witnessed some stunning games at Bescot Stadium. One that jumps to mind is the 2003 game against West Brom, in which the newly promoted Walsall faced a West Brom side that had just come down from the Premier League. Thanks to an inspired debut performance from Paul Merson, before he went all boozy and (allegedly) druggy again and pissed it up the wall, Walsall won 4-1 and for a brief moment sat atop the Championship. Now despite games like this I have also seen a few displays at Bescot that were hardly trouser tighteningly tantalisng, and the saddler faithful won’t really disagree with me there, but the experience can be fantastic. The banter, the jokes, the commeradorie. You just don’t get that at England games and it’s a crying shame as this should be the time when we all come together. But attitudes, over important club loyalties and an over inflated sense of worth always get in the way.
We’re not an awful team, we know that. But we’re not a great team either, and it’s that which we need to grasp now. The fancy stadium and large pay packets belie a huge and ongoing problem. We don’t really have history, we had a good tournament 44 years ago. This doesn’t mean a god given right to success. Hopefully the kids in attendance will grow up knowing this, hopefully the kids coming through in the team know this. Then we can rid ourselves of this albatros that has hung so heavy around our necks. Football is a wonderful thing but the experience shouldn’t make me feel like this. The continual Americanistion of the game has got out of hand and the press have rammed it into our heads that we deserve success and that we can achieve anything we want as long as we rid the league of foreign talent. The whole thing is an endemic. This is England now and I just don’t know what to think anymore. I’m too young to feel this much bitterness and anger at a meaningless friendly. Perhaps the passion I feel towards this is a good thing, then again perhaps this is exactly what is wrong with fan mentality.