Watching England: A song of snark and rage


Watching England play football is an awful way to spend time. NoT because of anything that they do on the field, but because they’re surrounded by such corrosive negativity.

The team’s form since the World Cup has been excellent and that, at times, has felt rather contrary. Last Summer can’t be spun, it was the most disappointing tournament performance by an England side in a decade. Naturally, then, Roy Hodgson felt the weight of the nation’s disappointment and before the team had even left Brazil momentum was already pulsing against his continued employment.

Some of that became quite silly. The Mail, for example, launched itself into full campaign mode, amplifying every minor detail into a symptom of institutional crisis at The Football Association. Some of it was fair, some of it was laughably petty.

Hodgson survived, of course, much to Fleet Street’s chagrin. But although Greg Dyke succeeded in removing the short-term pressure from the situation, he failed to quell the appetite for change - and that’s provided the backdrop for the current qualification campaign.

England have almost been flawless this season. Sunday’s 3-2 win over Slovenia ended a campaign which, although not without its creeks, has been superficially perfect. Six games played, six games won; eighteen goals scored, three conceded.

In a way, the side’s form and Hodgson’s ability to guide them out of tricky corners has been almost defiant. Having been so big, bold and loud last Summer, his detractors have been denied the opportunity to restate their position. Had England slipped at any point across that six-game sequence, they would surely have taken the opportunity to return to their Summer cause and to re-build their case for a sacking.

But that chance has never come.

Consequently, even though the reaction to the national team hasn’t been overly negative, the surrounding atmosphere has been acutely toxic: a mixture of unimpressed indifference and frustrated agendas. Wins and goals aren’t celebrated, they’re tolerated. Team-selections are met with derision, substitutions with scorn and every positive England moment this year has quickly asterisked by the residual disaffection from the World Cup.

The standard of the opposition has generally been weak, but a quick glance around the continents suggests that this has very the year of the underdog. All over Europe, qualification groups are being lead by unfancied sides and England’s serene progress through theirs is not only something of an exception, but also a reflection of how efficient they have been.

The removal of an England manager requires a series of catastrophes which are inextricably linked to coaching or selection. Unfortunately for those who spearheaded the movement against Hodgson, in this instance the case against him just hasn’t been strong enough. As a nation, we seem now to be able to see through the Premier League propaganda and beyond the naive belief that coaching inadequacy, isolated mistakes or refereeing injustice are the only obstacles standing between our national side and international glory.

We, to an extent, have accepted our place in the hierarchy and have become cognisant of our infrastructural short-comings. We have grudgingly accepted, after a lot of supporting evidence that, really, we’re just don’t have the talent to compete properly.

That makes the chuntering discontent more grating. The refusal to bestow any praise on Hodgson or to accept that he has, in any way, performed quite well over the past nine months, possesses traces of that old, antiquated entitlement. To belittle the performance in Switzerland in 2014 or to sneer at the come-from-behind win on Sunday evening, again betrayed a lack of understanding of where England currently are and what they can realistically expect to achieve within the international arena.

It’s a self-defeating attitude, really, because if watching this England side is, for you, part of a quest to see footballing perfection or tournament hardware, then this will be a very long, very unfulfilling journey.

Instead, go back to basics. Rather than always having one eye on the bigger picture or viewing isolated qualification results through the prism of what they might mean about the future, maybe it’s time just to judge England on a more simple, immediate basis.

Let’s disband the factions, calm the rage and give up the point-scoring. This is an imperfect generation capable of achieving little beyond solid tournament qualification and the occasional knock-out win. Enjoy it for what it is, because - in the short-term - there will never be anything more.

uMAXit: Ryan Mason & the curse of perception

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1 Comment on "Watching England: A song of snark and rage"

  1. After spending some time reading the vitriol on football-related forums this morning, this article is a great panacea for my frustrations. Thank you once again, Premier League Owl.

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