The international break is one of those few occasions during a Premier League season when fans can come together and support one team. Individual identities are meant to be cast aside, chests thumped and national anthems sung with gusto, but over the years something has gone very wrong along the way.
The England football team is in trouble. An uninspiring mix of mediocrity and ineptitude on the pitch, the bench and in the tribunals has left a country still beating the drum over the Olympics and Paralympics rather deflated.
The thought of spending money to go and watch the national team hasn’t entered my consciousness for a decade.
Last Sunday I trudged up and down Seven Sisters High Road, alone, made small talk with a chap in a queue and celebrated with other Spurs fans as Aaron Lennon scored a wonderful second goal versus Villa, but I was still fundamentally alone. If anyone other than Natalie Portman and/or Mila Kunis knocked at my door tonight and offered to take me to Wembley, I would decline.
The England national team for me personally has lost its appeal, but even worse it has lost its grip on reality. The hiring of Captain Mercenary, Sven Goran Eriksson, followed by Steeeeeve Mclaren, Fabio Capello and then not hiring Harry Redknapp after he gave up Tottenham’s 3rd place in the PL, has left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Regardless however of how the reporting and coverage of professional footballer’s free time has changed, there is a huge difference from the player that pulls on his club shirt to the one who have done so at Wembley this week.
The managers however, are only part of the issue, there have been problems with every recent group of international players. They have either been way below international standard or they have been so far removed from reality that they pay Council Tax in a Galaxy Far Far Away.
As a youngster I was mesmerized by the Chris Waddle, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne combination at England. As an aspiring goalkeeper even the decrepit Peter Shilton had me pulling off pretend dives across my parents bed, England were technically just as bad then as they are now, but there was a least something appealing about supporting the 90’s version.
How many people other than those that support them at club level will be cheering on the feral Man United striker? Celebrating a left back’s 100th international cap? Nodding their head at the appointment of an England captain, who is a shadow of the man that changed a Champions League final in Istanbul?
When a player pulls on the shirt of his club a connection is made with the supporter. For too long the England version of them have remained out of reach and out of touch. They can be in as many patriotic Vauxhall adverts as they wish, but there is no connection. Rather like dancers at a strip club, you get the sense they are just going through the motions to get us to part with our money. Once the show is over and the lights come on, only the people counting the takings will be satisfied.
Perhaps we are partly to blame. Maybe we are being naïve to judge a modern day footballer by the same standards as those of yesteryear. Times have changed, what was once acceptable no longer is, and what was once turned a blind eye to, is now front page news.
Technology offers us a platform to keep tabs on every detail of a player’s life, should we be so surprised that incredibly wealthy young men act without thinking of the consequences?
Regardless however of how the reporting and coverage of professional footballer’s free time has changed, there is a huge difference from the player that pulls on his club shirt to the one who have done so at Wembley this week. Watch their body language and determination, the player that pulls on the Spurs, United or Woolwich top is a different beast from the one that slips into the England jersey.
The FA must rekindle the passion for the national team. They are the first ones who must act. They need uniformity in all their decisions and actions. They have to stop allowing themselves to be bullied by the press, managers and former players.
The starting XI also has a huge responsibility. The Olympics and Paralympics showed in HD quality individuals who battle against the odds with very little funding to get one chance to represent their country, at Wembley this week there were individuals who have done so 70 plus times and not once have they captured our imaginations.
Until the England team unite the country through their actions and performances on and off the pitch, I will continue to cheer on the Cockerel each time he knocks the living crap out of the Three Lions.