England in Russia 2018 put into perspective.
Living in a country whose national team isn’t anywhere near the World Cup can be very frustrating. It usually means that football addicts in those countries pick an adoptive nation for that one-month long footballing extravaganza that comes along once in 4 years. Neutrality by its very essence is redundant in football because there is no point in being a fan if you’re not in it for the rip-roaring emotional rollercoaster that is football. And so there comes the point where those left out of the race to the highest prize need to choose their “Second Nation,” and though we get stick for it, we are quite sincere in our support. So when it was my turn to choose in the 2000s, I picked England.
Although I mentioned something about a rip-roaring roller coaster ride that is football fandom being an England fan has become an exercise in futility. Most unattached observers could predict everything about England. It starts with the “Footballs Coming Home” and “We’re definitely winning this Lads” and goes on to “you’re not fit to wear the shirt.” Why do they fail? Why are they the perennial underachievers of international football? The answer is frighteningly simple. It begins at home. The only thing stopping England from winning…..is England.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS- THE TABLOID MEDIA AND THE LACK OF TEAM SPIRIT
There came a time when the national team was a crown laden with Jewels the world envied. The golden generation glittered but brought home no gold. Scholes, Beckham, Rooney, Owen, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Ferdinand, Carragher and Cole. If this were the German National team, they would win the world cup with relative ease, but this is England. They just failed to translate all that promise into silverware.
The truth is they never won because they didn’t have a coach good enough to win since Bobby Robson in Italia 90’. They lacked the chemistry needed to succeed as a nation. They sat in groups of football clubs instead of one unit bidding to bring joy to a country. They were haunted by the twin ghosts of the repulsive Tabloid Media coupled with our lofty expectations. Which that same Tabloid Media exploited. This one was the fatal blow that made winning impossible and failure inevitable. They created such hype and positive rhetoric that in turn blew expectations way out of proportion and made us believe that winning was a given. Back in England, it awoke feelings of entitlement, as though it was still the heady empire days and the sun would never set on their supremacy. In the England camp, all it spread was fear.
Why fear? A nation is behind you, the press is behind you so what’s the excuse now? The truth is its what happens when they fail. That same press picks on our hurt and anguish. Attacks get personal, and the heroes that went out to a world cup are pulled apart and abused. As a player when you know all this is coming it creates tunnel vision. Take Raheem Sterling who is one of the most talented wingers to grace the Euros in 2016 under Pep Guardiola or Pellegrini, as it was, in 2015-16 he really wouldn't hesitate to try something ambitious, but as soon as he wears the England shirt, he suddenly seems one dimensional.
Its a recurring theme with England players, it always seems like they don't care or don't want to work hard enough. But watching Kyle Walker candidly open up about how well they know they can play and how that loss to Iceland felt shows that it does affect them much more than we even thought.
ENGLAND GOING INTO RUSSIA
It is 2018, and on the day of the world cup, England fans seem more subdued than ever. For once the Rhetoric is not over the top, and we've already braced ourselves for failure. But what is refreshingly different is that this young England squad is in much better shape than most people expected. They seem to have bonded better. They know each other's playing styles. They genuinely get along, and most importantly, Southgate has a recognizable plan. Maybe this time the subdued rhetoric will help ease the pressure on them, perhaps this time they actually play without fear. Dele Alli was quoted as saying, "we have nothing to hide." Heres hoping they play like it here's to the New England.