Why Some England Supporters Are Their Own Worst Enemy

HIGHBURY, LONDON - MAY 15:   Arsenal fans in the streets outside of the stadium after the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Highbury on May 15, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Well we’re almost there.

The future is about to be written.

English football fans are right now full of typical pre-tournament nervousness, arrogance, pitiful lack of self-belief, cynicism, doubt and jingoism. Welcome to England.

The World Cup is the world’s biggest sporting event and captivates almost everyone on earth and even some people in Texas. However, it seems it’s only England that has such a mixed up attitude to its national football team. As a nation – if indeed we are a nation – we seem unable to adopt a unified stance and get behind the side in a manner which is vaguely rational but passionate. So many seem to want to strike an attitude or pose in relation to England.

I’m sure all USA readers are in no doubt that they will be vocally supporting USA in the coming weeks, regardless of how much you like or loath the individuals concerned. It would be unpatriotic not to, right? You want USA to win.

Unfashionably for a Brit, I’ve always loved the way Americans get behind their national sides. There seems a refreshing lack of cynicism behind it. You still believe in your country on some level.

Not so in England.

For some supporting the national side is too wrapped up in the sins of Empire, too connected to beered up racist thugs or just beered up idiots who behave badly. It’s too connected to a mindset that many find abhorrent; right wing, xenophobic and bullying. England has its fair share of whack-jobs who seem to take every game as a re-enactment of some distant war.

We attract a certain kind of fan who seem unable to accept that for 44 years England have not been nearly good enough to win anything and that consequently we should not expect great things. These fans typically think more ‘passion’ will make everything alright. If only the players believed in England like they did we would sweep all before us, would be their view, as opposed to day, better ball retention.

I loath those people as much as any hand-wringing sandal-wearing liberal but it doesn’t make me want to support any other country.

That just wouldn’t be possible. I can’t make supporting a club or a country into just another consumer decision. It’s a non-negotiable contract. I support the country I was born in and the club I was brought up nearest to. I can’t change nor can I walk away. It’s not something I feel I even have a choice over. Even if England were the worst country on earth at football, I would still have to support them and I would do so proudly. It’s my bloody country. For good or ill it made me who I am.

There’s a particularly awful modern trend for some fans claiming they won’t support their home nation because they think the players are all appalling as men. They don’t like them as people so much that they are supporting someone else.

I can’t get with this modern trend at all. First up, since when did we start judging the characters of the people who play for our teams; weighing up if they are good enough for us? I mean, for a start, he who is without sin cast the first stone, baby.

I’m not so morally certain that I want to publically reject a player based on my perception of his moral code. Jesus, what next? Will we not listen to music that’s played by people who we judge unpleasant? Is it so hard to divorce your perception of the person from their art?

I’m sure John Lennon had a dark side and may have been nasty to some people; hell, in ’74 he sat in an LA night club pissed out his head with a sanitary towel sellotaped to his forehead but hey, I’m not going to stop listening to the Beatles because of that any more than I won’t support England because I wouldn’t choose to spend a night out with John Terry. Isn’t that just a grown up attitude?

I suspect the modern media with it’s up close and personal over-exposure of the players has led to a younger generation of fans making these odd decisions. They think they know these men as though they live amongst them because, in a way, they do.

They are life size in their home every week on a big TV. They’re judging them as though they have a relationship with them. I’m not a fan of the likes of Ashley Cole but you know what, I bet if I met him, we’d get on alright. We’d have a love of football in common for a start. He’s not perfect; he might have behaved poorly sometimes but then so have I. So has everyone. I have royally screwed up on many occasions, but the difference is I haven’t been significant enough for the tabloid media to report.

I don’t care about all that. I want him to burn own the left and put in a stunning cross for Rooney to head home. I bloody want that to happen very, very badly. What he does in his private life doesn’t and couldn’t affect me supporting him to do that and frankly I can’t understand why it would do so for anyone else.

So I shall be fervently supporting England. I won’t burn a BMW if Germany beat us, nor will I trash a McDonalds if USA, as I suspect they will, turn us over. This doesn’t means I don’t care. It just means I’m not a moron. It doesn’t mean I’m some sort of wet liberal ponce who is ashamed of his country, it just means I’ve got a perspective and love my country and my football.

So I stand arms aloft, heart-racing and proudly bellow.

“Come on England!”


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