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The Growing Disillusionment With England’s National Team

It’s long been a debate about what is more important to players and fans, club or country? With the explosion, especially in the last ten years or so, of the Premier League as the most exciting, well-watched league in the world, and the riches and glamour offered by the Champions League, international football has very much taken a backseat. In fact, it’s become an inconvenience for managers who don’t want their star players injured in some pointless friendly against a small island nation. And it’s an inconvenience for fans, too, which see the momentum of a new season coming to a grinding halt several times a year.

English players will still tell you there’s no prouder moment than pulling on the famous Three Lions shirt, but even their priorities must surely have changed. Unnecessary, money-making friendlies to help repay the debt on the new Wembley have not helped with the fans’ disillusionment of the national team. Neither have misbehaving players and the endless, unfounded hype surrounding the team every time England goes to a major tournament and the inevitable failure in the quarter-finals. The England manager’s job has also become a poisoned chalice, turning Steve McClaren into the ‘wally with a brolly’, tarnishing Glenn Hoddle’s management career, and even transforming the respected, fearsome figure of Fabio Capello into a clueless, jabbering wreck. Still, it doesn’t stop managers wanting the job, which is bad news for Tottenham fans as Harry Redknapp has openly expressed his interest in taking the job once not-so-Fab goes.

The main problem is that England fans can’t connect with the players in a way they used to, when Gazza was lauded as a national hero, and Stuart Pearce was flying full-blooded into tackles. There’s also that iconic image of Terry Butcher soldiering on with a bloodied, bandaged head. Now there is a perception that football is all about money and the players don’t care, which is unfair, but it’s hard to warm to players like Terry, Rooney and Ashley Cole if they’re frequently in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Their misdemeanours wouldn’t matter so much if they did it in an English shirt when it mattered, but the Golden Generation has never been able to handle the pressure in big tournaments.

Another reason why club football has become more important is it’s often more exciting, with high-tempo, end-to-end matches performed in front of vociferous, passionate crowds. By contrast, England games are often dull and one-paced and it’s hard to get excited about what’s being seen on the field. Perhaps the corporate seats at Wembley have it right, coming out late for the second half because they know nothing of any value will have happened. The Premier League creates controversy, incident, intrigue, passion. International football, until it gets to major tournaments, fails to conjure up these emotions.

Certainly, in my case, I want my team Tottenham to win every game regardless of how they play, and if they don’t, I get a little bit depressed. With England, I just don’t seem to bother as much. If we lose or draw, I don’t really care. And if we win, but don’t play well, instead of celebrating I seek to criticise every aspect of the performance. I’m sure many fans probably feel the same – we’d support our clubs through thick and thin, we’re tied to them. It’s like a marriage, whereas supporting England is an unwelcome distraction, something you feel obliged to do.

On the other side of the coin, there is no doubt that the World Cup is still one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Only the Olympics is bigger, and most fans, deep down, would like to see England prove them wrong and actually do well for once. Until then, club football will dominate for both players and fans.

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  1. Broom_Wagon

    November 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    We have an English Pub, in this city and when England plays, about 90% of the people come in wearing England shirts, no loss of patriotism there. I think unfortunately, people are use to England failing. I was there on that dramatic day England were eliminated from going to the Euro, but chin up, lots of countries have had problems, Spain for the longest time, did not have a distinguished record. I’m a big Ronaldo fan and cheer on Portugal but I think there is a good chance Bosnia is going to defeat them in next week’s playoffs and you know what? Bosnia will fully deserve it if they do. Being a fan is not about being able to cheer them on when they are winning but supporting them when they are losing but some of the players is what drag people down as they’ve become spoilt millionaires as the original post alludes to. Like I’ve said, put players in with real hunger, take from the heavily Brit teams in the PL and the Championship league, you might get a better team.

  2. Ian

    October 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I know 1966 (and only ’66) still sticks in the national craw but …

    –Euro 2012 — qualified
    –Brazil 2014, Euro 2016, WC 2018, etc, etc. — will have every chance to qualify due to comparatively easy groups
    –Most/All players for the national side play in the EPL

    The “disillusionment” about the manager, about the style, about the connection with players … climb down and be fans of most other countries in the world for 5mins.

  3. Juvenham

    October 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Olympics bigger than World Cup!? I won’t ream out a fellow spurs fan but please check the stats…you couldn’t be more wrong.

  4. Jon Sharp

    October 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    In the seventies I used to relish the home internationals (England, Wales, Scotland, N Ireland) which presented an opportunity to see some of the top players duke it out in a feisty local derby setting. They were always exciting and passionate affairs. England games were a ‘curtains-drawn-huddled-round-the-telly’ special occassion and an opportunity to see how our best players stacked up against the best players in the world. The top international teams in the world were the top teams in the world.
    The advent of the Premier league and the free movement of players around the top leagues in the world has meant that we see the best players in the world playing against each other on a weekly basis. The top international teams in the world are no longer the best teams in the world. If Barca could somehow play Spain, Barca would likely win.
    Under these circumstances I have found my interest in England, and internationals in general, wane in favour of watching the best club teams compete in the national leagues and Champions League. (Plus supporting my home town team Birmingham City, to which I have been shackled since birth.) For me it’s not disillusionment, but the globalisation of football that has fundamentally altered the relevance and appeal of the international game.

  5. Broom_Wagon

    October 27, 2011 at 10:38 am

    The World Cup suffers too from a lot of other elements, the injury feigning, diving, things like even though I liked the Netherlands team last year, that DeJong’s kung fu kick was too much in the final vs. Spain and he should have been ejected, red carded but he stayed in the game and it was early in the game so it might have been too big of a game changer. Portuguese fans swear Spain dived against their team. I don’t know. We know about the Lampard “no-goal” versus Germany, we can take one call like that but then to have an equally inept call in the following game of the Tevez offside goal allowed in Argentina vs. Mexico was too much and made the spectacle border on being a farce to some, the whole stadium knew it was offside from the replay but the referee could not change his mind is just typical of what we see in the World Cup, one could go on, the disallowed goals the USA scored in the group stage. The officiating and acts of outright cheating severely mar the World Cup though South Africa was a very good host last year. Again, people would laugh but there was little of this in the Women’s World Cup and yes, the Men’s World Cup is where the big money is. With all the problems FIFA has had, I seriously question the World Cup, the last Euro Cup was reasonably good and the Euro seems to have much less of this.

  6. Trickybrkn

    October 27, 2011 at 6:53 am

    England and the FA don’t deserve anyone’s support if Terry is captain. Did you read that Capello and the FAAre saying that Terry will remain captain until after the enquiry. I get a man has the right to defend himself, but it’s on video… How many lapses is common sense does he get?

    I still prefer England matches in big tournaments over league play… But could do without the useless friendlies that dilute the occasion of the team being put together.

    Two words
    Terry Out

  7. coachie ballgames

    October 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    great post, i get the problems with cheering for the national team, but i still love the international games. It’s about context. For so many Prem sides it’s just about consolidation, staying in mid-table. Step back and look at the big picture and what glory are most clubs really fighting over? Sure, week-in, week-out, the Prem offers the most exciting football on the planet, but still hard to compete against the context of Euro or WC glory.

  8. Aaron

    October 26, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Another one of these? Story is getting old.

    • The Gaffer

      October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

      It’s another example of a disillusioned England fan.

      The Gaffer

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