Once again the England football team has been beaten, knocked out of a major tournament and shown up as being not good enough on the world stage. We kidded ourselves that we had a chance this year, but like every tournament since 1966, England have been disappointed.
Quite simply the players are not good enough. Look at Argentina, Brazil, France, even Portugal. All these teams contain players who are comfortable on the ball and can retain possession. England don’t have that. When someone like Joe Cole comes along, a player who can take a ball with him and beat a man, he is hailed as the latest Great White Hope of English football. The truth is that most top teams have plenty of players like that in the side.
A lot has been said about the great goal that Argentina scored against Serbia, 24 passes and a goal at the end of it. Did England make 24 successful passes all tournament? English passing is rubbish but, in large part, that is because our players are wedded to their positions. Christiano Ronaldo thinks nothing of playing on either the left or right of midfield, when the Argentines were building up to Cambiasso’s goal, perhaps every man who touched the ball was out of position. You see it when Arsenal play. They have players who can beat a man but they primarily rely on quick, short passing. When an Arsenal player has the ball, his team mates run to him, into the space, and always give him an easy pass. When Beckham gets the ball out on the right, every England player starts pelting towards goal, arms in the air, waiting for him to lob a long ball in. Again, a player like Rooney, who will travel round the pitch playing the match where he finds it, is an exception in English football.
But if our players are so ordinary, why did the nation fool itself again that we have a chance of winning the world cup? This team has been built up as the ‘Golden Generation’, a team replete with world class talent. But look closer. Paul Robinson is an uninspiring keeper and Beckham is past it. A couple of years ago much was said about the embarrassment of riches at centre back, but when John Terry went off who was his replacement? Sol ‘Wibble’ Campbell. Sven was slated for taking Theo Walcott, undoubtedly a mistake, but who would he have taken in his place? Jermaine Defoe who has struggled all season to get a game at Tottenham? Darren Bent who plays for mid table specialists Charlton? Andy Johnson who has been plying his trade at such hum drum locales as Gresty Road and Deepdale for a year? This Golden Generation had no strength in depth.
But we have been constantly told that these players are ‘great’. Think about the word great. In terms of monarchs, in all British history only Alfred has earned that epithet. In football however, it gets applied to almost anyone who can stand up straight. But, if you are asking people to pay Premiership ticket prices of up to £50, you have to tell them that they are seeing the very best. A fan may well pay £50 to watch ‘great’ players such as James Beattie or Gareth Barry, but if you said to him “Well, actually all these players are really quite ordinary”, who would be willing to shell out £50 to see it?
So English fans are fooled by the players agents, the games administrators and press, into thinking that the vast sums they are spending are being spent on watching the very best football has to offer. It has to be like this because if the emperor ever gets twigged as being bollocky buff, the gravy will plough in the buffers. While ever the ordinary boys of the England team are touted as world beaters to justify the vast sums of money charged to watch them, the fans will continue to be disappointed.