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Do You Care Anymore?
Greg (Tottenham Hotspur) 4 years ago
As news filtered in about Fabio Capello, I found myself wondering about the footballing future. I wasn’t thinking about who would be the next England manager, rather I was pondering whether or not I even care about the England football team any more. For the last decade or so, following England has been like watching a soap opera in which none of the characters are remotely likeable (see Hollyoaks).

Let’s take a look at the protagonists in this ghastly soap opera: There’s the FA, a bunch of dithering, joyless grey men who you wouldn’t trust to run a small stationery shop. There’s the players, who increasingly resemble a bunch of primadonnas and thugs who seem more interested in sponsorship deals and leaking stories to the press than winning anything. There’s the (ex) manager Capello, who looked entirely like a temp waiting for 5pm to arrive so he could go home. And then there’s the greatest villain of them all, the English press. It's the press I'd like to focus on.

For the last twenty years or so, the role of the English football press has been to destabilise and unsettle the English football team as much as is humanly possible. Their mission is to dig up enough stories on a manager, lampooning and vilifying him until he is a public laughing stock and his position is essentially untenable. The cycle nearly always starts the same way: a new manager is appointed and given a certain amount of breathing space, depending on whether the press have campaigned for him to be installed (Keegan) or dislike him (Eriksson, Capello). Ultimately it doesn’t matter how much breathing space the manager is given, because it will always end the same way, with the manager leaving, and the press crowing with delight and assuring the English public that the next manager offers a fresh new hope, and that all the perennial problems with English football can be swept under the carpet.

When Glenn Hoddle ended his reign as England manager, the tabloid press started a campaign to get “people’s choice” Kevin Keegan installed as manager. It didn’t matter that he was inexperienced and had a history of walking out on his clubs, after the distant, tactical management style of Hoddle, the press demanded a motivator, a man of the people who would give them a good quote. Of course, Keegan’s career as England manager ended in abject failure, with the team failing to make it out of the group stages of Euro 2000 and then losing at home to Germany in the qualification stages for the 2002 World Cup. Keegan walked out. At no point did the press say: “Whoops. Sorry about that. We got it wrong."

Which brings us onto Sven Goran Eriksson. Sven turned around the England team, steering them to the 2002 World Cup, where they were knocked out at the Quarter-Final stage by Brazil, the eventual winners. We then qualified top of our group for the 2004 European Championship, before losing on penalties to Portugal in the Quarter-Final. Not too bad. We then qualified top of our group for the 2006 World Cup, before being knocked out by Portugal on penalties once again, in a Quarter-Final match that saw Wayne Rooney sent off in the first half. So, overall, any objective view of Eriksson’s reign would say that it was a qualified success, with England reaching every major tournament top of their group, reaching the latter stages of the competitions and then being narrowly knocked out. Of course, that’s not how the English press saw Eriksson’s time as manager. For them, he was a hopeless buffoon, a sneaky, greedy foreigner more interested in chasing girls than inspiring his team. We were repeatedly told that this was a “golden generation” of England players, and that any other manager would have led them to glory. By the end of Eriksson's tenure, he was routinely painted in the press as the worst England manager in living memory. I remember footballing Buddha Mark Lawrensen saying that England “could not be worse” than they were under Eriksson. So the press demanded an English manager, with the passion and belief to inspire the team.

They got what they wanted. Steve McClaren was installed as England manager. How did that work out? (note: we finished fourth in our qualification group for Euro 2008, beneath footballing titans Croatia, Russia and Israel.)

And so we reach Fabio Capello. An odd fish. After the McClaren debacle, the press wanted a strong disciplinarian and were rewarded with Capello, but soon took against him when it turned out that his refusal to mollycoddle the England players was matched by his refusal to pander to the needs of the press. As soon as he refused to leak them advanced details of the playing squads, the knives were out. Still, under Capello, England qualified for the 2010 World Cup, finishing top of their group, thrashing Croatia home and away. Then the tournament itself started and England got stagefright, limping through the group stages before being walloped 4-1 by Germany. If, at that stage, Capello had quit, there would have been few complaints. But much to the disappointment of the baying press, he didn’t quit. Instead he started from scratch, bringing in new players and helping England to qualify for Euro 2012, finishing top of their group once again. Doubts still lingered about his commitment and motivational skills, but the press could not complain too much about the results on the pitch. But of course the press did complain. Having neatly forgotten McClaren and Keegan and all the rest, they continued to vilify Capello. When he quit earlier this week, fans up and down the country were probably concerned about England losing a decent manager just months before a major tournament. In contrast, the press were jubilant. They acted like the departure of an experienced manager, who had successfully steered England to two major tournaments, was a brilliant piece of news. “Bring on Redknapp” they cried, as though Keegan had never happened. As it happens, I was not a huge fan of Capello and quite like Harry Redknapp, but I know my history well enough not to think that the departure of the England manager with the highest-ever win ratio (better than Sir Alf Ramsey, better than Sir Bobby Robson, better than Terry Venables) was cause for celebration.

The whole attitude of the press stems from a very basic fallacy: that England are a brilliant team who regularly compete for the top prizes. Actually, the press has two attitudes towards the England team: the default belief that they are world-beaters, and the lynch-mob belief, whenever they lose, that they are the worst team in the world and are all overpaid, egomaniacal scum. A realistic assessment of the England team – that they are good, but not great, that they can beat anyone on their day, but aren’t consistent enough to get to the final stages of competitions, seems beyond the majority of the English press.

Let’s take a quick look at the reality of the England team. Since first entering the World Cup in 1950, England have failed to qualify three times (1974, 1978 and 1994). In that same time period, they have won it once (1966, at home) and reached the semi-finals once (1990). This bears repeating: England have failed to qualify for the World Cup more often than they have reached the semi-finals stage. England are a decent, top-ten footballing side, capable of moments of greatness but unlikely to really challenge for World Cups or European Championships. In club terms, they are Aston Villa or Newcastle. The English press seems to believe that they are Manchester United or Real Madrid.

So, as the tabloid press bellow for Redknapp (watch them become infuriated that a shortlist is even being drawn up, rather than Harry simply being crowned manager) I find myself struggling to care any way. I wish the England team good luck, but I won’t be too surprised or shocked if in two years time the back pages of every tabloid newspaper are calling Redknapp an idiot and demanding his head. I don't mind watching soap operas, but I'd prefer not to watch the same storyline, over and over again.

Blog by Greg

This blog does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of footytube or its partners.
Rubin (Inter Milan) 4 years ago
You never fail to impress me Greg. I love reading your articles!
Tdsmufan (Manchester United) 4 years ago
I know! Great stuff mate
Surfryn89 (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Perfect, could not agree more with all of it. Media really does make me sick
Otownballer (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Greg, I'll forgive the fact that you support Spurs and commend you on a well written and entertaining article. Speaking of Spurs, what must those who worship at the White Hart Lane temple think about potentially losing Harry Redknapp? He has done a fantastic job with Tottenham, to the extent that he has successfully altered the balance of power in north London
FreeGlass (CF Rayados de Monterrey) 4 years ago
Got a mate back home. Says he's a true patriot or summink cos he'd gladly let I'm go if its for the good of the country. And honerstly, I can't argue. But I know not all spurs are like that so I dunno.
Its really just that case
Peteko 4 years ago
The down scenario could be that he does not well with the national team, while the Spurs go down too after he leaves. So no one wins in the end
Davian (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Wonderful article, Greg I would give you my girlfriend cause of how good this article is LOL. Kudos 10 out of 10...
Liverpool31 (Liverpool) 4 years ago
You'd give your girlfriend to a spurs fan?
IYRud (Lokomotiv Moskva) 4 years ago
Can't stop laughing, is there anything else (except good articles) you would give your girlfriend for?
PaoloG (Sevilla) 4 years ago
Yep. Sums it up nicely
Gullit (Reading) 4 years ago
Yeah, English people need to learn that their footballers are overrated. Learn from the Germans, they might play the same style of football as England, but they have been consistent performers in the world stage since probably 1954.

Frank Lampard has been the first choice midfielder for England for the past 5 years, but come on, let's be realistic a bit, he's s**t. Even Craig Bellamy is better than him
Thrilla72 (Manchester United) 4 years ago
Hilarious! Indeed Lampard great for Chelsea.... Exposed anywhere else. Overrated. Same with Rooney, can't be compared to Messi
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
Lampard is IMO actually underrated. A guy like Steven Gerrard, who is undoubtedly a great footballer, has been overrated in the past, with Lampard rather quietly doing his thing at Chelsea and being just as influential and good for his team. Now both of them are getting old, but I don't agree Frank Lampard is overrated at all.

On the other hand, almost all other England players are in fact rated too highly. Rooney especially. I can not believe many people value him on a higher level as Agüero or Van Persie. Let alone Ronaldo or Messi. Rooney is supposedly playing a good season, but he's scored only 11 field goals this season in 27 games and almost all of them were in the first 5 games. He's a very good player without a doubt, but he can't break open the game when needed as much as RVP, Ronaldo, Messi or even Agüero can. I rate him about as highly as Ibrahimovic, which is high, but not world class high
Manutd4lyf (Manchester United) 4 years ago
Messi is legendary at Barca, not at international level, notice how without xavi and iniesta he is not at his sparkling best
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
This again? ALL the Barça players, even the 12 year olds, pass better than the vast majority of English players. Messi would do well with any of them, but of course the two best midfielders in the world, Xavi and Iniesta, make him even better.

I suggest you watch an Argentina game or two and then come back to me with an apology. Messi is the best player on the pitch in 90% of Argentina's games, Argentina just doesn't have any sort of defence, goalkeeper, working midfield or even a coherent attack, despite all of their top strikers
ZedLeppelin (Arsenal) 4 years ago
I hate it when I have to agree with a spurs supporter
LumpOfCelery (Chelsea) 4 years ago
All your articles do = make people agree lol
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
I read earlier today that Alan Shearer wants Redknapp to coach England but should already bury the hopes of winning it. Of course he's right, but I mistakenly read Shearer was named as head coach. I thought that finally an inspiring, real English coach was appointed and I immediately felt they made a great choice.

Apparently I was wrong, but I'd still like to point out that perhaps a figure like Alan Shearer, who I'm sure is a figure everyone in England looks up to, could potentially do a fantastic job. Especially because I feel he can make the England strikers and wingers more prolific
Greg (Tottenham Hotspur) 4 years ago
Jeroen, I'm afraid that most people in England would not want Alan Shearer as manager. In fact, calling for Alan Shearer as manager is exactly the kind of thing the tabloids would do, simply because he is English and captained England. It's true that Shearer was an excellent player but has never shown any promise as manager. In his short time at Newcastle he was poor and failed to inspire the team or get them out of the relegation mire. I imagine that most England fans would dread the idea of him as manager
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
Well I believe good coaching of a national side is a completely different animal than coaching the A-team of a club. You don't have to improve individuals over the long-term, simply because you can't. Your main task is to choose the right players to form a team of 11 men who gel well together and choose the right tactics to make the most of the combination you picked. Then you need the leadership to be authoritative to inspire the team team before important games and to lift morale when things aren't going well.

I still think Shearer would be excellent at that, given the fact he's got an adept assistant by his side, making important decisions with him. Of course I'm Belgian, and I may not know if Alan Shearer might not be respected by all English players. Perhaps not everyone in England admires him the way I do like you suggested
Kayteo (90m haircut) 4 years ago
Shearer is a rubbish manager. A former player is the logical choice, but they need to be sent out to germany/holland first to get their coaching badges
Jeroen (Barcelona) 4 years ago
Who knew about Guardiola's qualities? He was only in charge of the Barça youngsters before and he's been the best manager for the past four years by far.

Sometimes you're just right for a job, given the fact you know the business well (Shearer does know the footballing world) and that you're intelligent and motivated enough to do it (I think Shearer would definitely be motivated enough - whether he's got the knack for it remains to be seen). Of course I can be horribly wrong, but I do feel a former English legend would do better than most other 'qualified' managers
Eric (Manchester United) 4 years ago
In response to the Guardiola comment: Having two of the best players in the world, and a few others in contention doesn't hurt either, hmm? I'm still unconvinced of his coaching abilities outside of Barcelona.... Of course, that doesn't matter unless he leaves Barca for somewhere else.

I still think it doesn't really matter who they appoint as manager. Anyone they find will be DOA since the press just ridicules and ruins any chance England ever has by hypebeasting the team, exposing garbage stories, inciting unrest within the team, etc.... I've really never seen anything like the consistency of the media frenzy surrounding the English national team. It is 100% absurd and 100% detrimental to the team as a whole regardless who is there in charge. Let's be honest here, how good is England really? At best they're a Quarterfinal/Semifinal team. Every time a big international tournament comes around it's always "England's year. " It is just a level of delusion in the national press that is absolutely stunning. Some of the most steadfast, relentless hyping of a mediocre team that I've ever seen. And I'm a fan of England.

100% agreement with this article
[account-removed] 4 years ago
This blog post is probably the best one ever written about the England side. On point on cue. They should have never pressured Cappello into resigning
MrIndonculous (Manchester United) 4 years ago
Spot on mate  
ILikeTurtles (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Perfectly sums up the Media in England. Honestly I think there should be a media blackout on international football, except Team Sheets and Results. Absolutely no journalism allowed, well that is if you call what they currently write journalism anyway
Slippers (Arsenal) 4 years ago
Well said
Peteko 4 years ago
So, the question is what would you advise Mr. Redknapp to do?

Would you choose any of the four that I have listed here? Do you have any better one?

1) Don't bother with England, they're doomed anyway. Finish your work with the Spurs and become a legend like SAF.
2) Try your luck with England now because you already got the Spurs as high as they can ever get.
3) Both Spurs and England will fall, so at least with England you'll have a better excuse.
4) Both England and Spurs are set for a great year, so better to be crowned as a great national manager
Mikesimms (Liverpool) 4 years ago
Whether 'arry believes England is the way to success or not, I don't think it will have much of an influence on his decision.come the end of the season I think he'll be the new England manager. And in relation to everything discussed in the blog above, I wish him the best of luck!
Brucekay (Newcastle United) 4 years ago
I subscribe to option 1) for 'arry to Finish his work with Spurs.

Coaching England is a poison chalice as well as a lost cause. With midfielders like Lampard and Steve Gerrard still hanging around when patently they cannot play together. With aging fullbacks like John Terry still being selected. With brainless thugs like Wayne Rooney thinking he is a football God.... England are uncoachable.

@Greg - your article is very accurate indeed.

England need to do some proper re-building from the ground-roots like Germany has invested in over the last 8-10years
Kain (Liverpool) 4 years ago
Why can't the FA grab redknapp out from spurs to become england manager lol
Brucekay (Newcastle United) 4 years ago
Yep, as a Newcastle supporter, happy for Harry to get the nod

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