A Welsh fan's view of England
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Daniel Evans is a final year PhD student that writes about football at his blog WittyPlayOnWords.blogspot.co.uk.|
|Twitter : @theenverhoxha|
|Website : WittyPlayOnWords.blogspot.co.uk|
As a Welshman, international tournaments are an unadulterated joy. Free from the crushing hope which hangs like an albatross around the neck of England fans, we are free to lie back and marvel at pundits’ attempts to crowbar tenuous cultural references into football matches; fill in our wall charts without our hands shaking with nerves, and wistfully fantasise about being Swedish.
Another aspect of tournaments that Welsh people are thought to traditionally enjoy is the schadenfreude. It is assumed that tournaments are a chance for us to bitterly laugh at England as they inevitably crash and burn.
Yet this is a misconception. Welsh football fans have a complex relationship with the English team which manifests itself during international tournaments, and it is this I wish to outline here.
I, like many of my peers, journeyed from ‘Anyone But England’ to simple indifference as the team became less successful. Yet this indifference has increasingly been displaced by another position, which grows stronger with each passing tournament: that of morbid curiosity. As a neutral, it is truly fascinating to watch the surreal spectacle of media hype and expectation prior to the tournament, followed by the inevitable on field failings and the violent self flagellation.
The sense of déjà vu which accompanies each tournament prompts deep soul searching and head scratching from a devastated English nation, yet to us in Wales (and indeed to all non-England fans), it frequently feels like the real problem is never addressed. At times, us neutrals feel like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, (or Mike Myers in Wayne’s World 2, or Grandpa Simpson), hammering on the glass of the English footballing church, imploring them to notice.
Numerous exogenous explanations are proffered following the inevitable exit: too much pressure/not enough pressure; referees; wives and girlfriends; having a coach who can’t speak any English; poor training facilities, and so on.
More high minded responses to the failures of the team attribute the English reluctance to learn from mistakes to a combination of a lingering colonial mentality and 1966 success, which have conspired to create a steadfast refusal to acknowledge England’s true stature in world football and a reluctance to acknowledge structural failings within the English game.
Yet this latter view is too harsh, and belies a smug and incorrect assumption that top level coaching and football in England is stuck in the dark ages. It is posited that when Capello wasn’t looking, Stuart Pearce rubbed his complex tactical diagrams off the changing room whiteboard, replacing them with ‘GET STUCK INTO THEM’. This is, I’m sad to say, wishful thinking: the coaching available to English players in academies, right through to the international level, is sophisticated and nuanced.
This is not to say the English game is not without its problems. The fallout from WC 2010 prompted widespread soul searching and an acceptance that the English game is relatively retarded in terms of technical development and grass-roots coaching. It is too simplistic, however, to neatly conflate structural problems with poor individual performances. Indeed, it represents something of an abrogation of responsibility.
The reason that England lose is that England’s golden generation are simply not very good. The spine of England’s team since 2006 has inexplicably, largely been unchanged, both between and during tournaments: Terry, Ferdinand, A.Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Downing (I know), J.Cole. The rest of the squad has been more transitory of course. ‘Solid’ (i.e. deeply limited) players like Milner, Barry and Parker have found favour in recent years, yet the spine remains largely unchanged.
This then, is the issue. If a boxer kept getting knocked out in fight after fight, his promoter would not keep proclaiming that he was the best boxer in the world. England’s golden generation have been consistently indulged and rewarded for their poor performances, and it is this which baffles neutrals more than any other factor. This is what gives international tournaments their bizarre groundhog day quality- the same faces year after year, the same insipid performances. This is what we are yelling into England’s church through the soundproof glass: ‘Get rid of them!’.
International tournaments are strange environments, ripe for underdogs. This is arguably even more so in the Euros, with its small number of teams. In each tournament a ‘surprise package’ will emerge, normally a team packed full of ostensibly average players. The team which plays with verve and wows the neutrals is normally a team full of inexperienced youngsters. Both of these sets of players will be relatively unburdened by expectation, but perhaps more importantly, will not be complacent or bloated with the misplaced sense of self entitlement.
Every 2 years, as part of international tournament tradition, I play a game where I pick an ‘alternative English XI’, comprised of uncapped, inexperienced or unfashionable individuals from unglamorous clubs. I believe this team would do better- and certainly no worse- than the eventual starting 11.
Thus far Roy Hodgson hasn’t responded to my kind letters, but here is a sample squad he could take. As a caveat, Jack Wilshere would be the fulcrum if he was fit.
RM: (Nathan) Dyer /Oxlade-Chamberlain
My friends allege that just because I write down this squad on a napkin which I keep in my pocket and wave at whoever will listen that I am obsessed, or worse, reifying average or young players just because they aren’t tainted with the failure of the spine of the team.
Yet Dyer, Sinclair, Osman, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Johnson et al offer subtlety and movement between the lines which England rarely display. Caulker, Lescott and Cahill offer pace and distribution. Britton and Livermore similarly offer controlled and calm distribution. The strike force offers pace, power and guile.
English fans should be excited by this European championship because it offers an unprecedented opportunity for an English manager to cull the golden generation once and for all. In football, ruthless purges can invigorate nations and catalyse emergent footballing cultures. France’s implosion in 2010 has paved the way for an incredibly exciting young team in 2012, for example.
It is important to emphasise that overhauling the senior team is not change for its own sake. Its impact would reverberate far beyond one tournament and would have a massive impact on the structure of the game in England, from the grassroots up. As is always the case, structural change in England will eventually permeate and influence Welsh football, so I do have to declare an interest here, but hear me out.
The golden generation and their failings are holding back the development of the game in Wales as in England. Just as Beckham is indirectly responsible for thousands of (Welsh and English) youngsters neglecting all other aspects of their game in favour of mastering 50 yard crossfield passes, Gerrard is indirectly responsible for youngsters wildly haring up and down the field, trying to do everything themselves to the detriment of their team. Terry is indirectly responsible for youngsters prioritising big, passionate headed clearances and dramatic blocks rather than controlled, efficient, and understated defending. So long as youngsters idolise such players, it is hard to see England, or indeed Wales, ever progressing. Change must be structural, from the bottom up, yet it must also come from the top, by the example set by the senior team.
By jettisoning the deadwood and prioritising players who are unlikely to star in soft drink or underwear adverts, Hodgson, whilst not guaranteeing success in 2012, may lay solid foundations for future generations.
Inevitably, even if a young and exciting England squad was given a chance, the Celtic nations still probably wouldn’t support England. But perhaps we wouldn’t cheer their opponents either.
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Like you TG, I'm more optimistic now Roy has the reins. But it could be a poisoned chalice - taking on a team successful in qualifying but now having to perform on the big stage. My worry is the strength of England's Group where arguably the weakest team, Sweden, is one of our bogey sides. We need to get three points on the board from the first game. All too often, we think avoiding defeat in the opener is a good result but it just builds pressure and makes the last game a must win. 14 days and counting...should be a great tournament until the semi's...it's always dull from that juncture.
The current squad is fine, it has been for a long time the problem has been a manager that actually gives a sh.. if the country succeeds or not, now England have that. In Roy Hodgson you have not the Glamour man but the true football man with experience gathered all around the world. The so called flops actually perform for their clubs and will perform for England this time around. I dont carry any allegiance to anyone beside's Man Utd but i am exited for Englands chance's of a decent run in this competition especially as all the 'experts' are writing them off, maybe not the win but a decent run and you may have to eat the "destined to fail" words.. GL anyway I though it was a decent read even though I believe England will have a decent tournament.
@anythinggoes, In the article you'll see I state that developments in the English game affect the Welsh game, and that changes to English football culture would mean changes to Wales too, ergo positive change to England should be welcomed by Welsh fans. The squad picked by Hodgson vindicates my article. It's a deeply conservative squad which completely ignores current form or performance, and is destined to fail. This is what I find truly puzzling. Does this reluctance to try something different reflect an innate conservatism within the English psyche? Why are these players put on a pedestal? If 3 managers in 6 years have tried the exact same squad to no avail, why are most journalists in England demanding the inclusion of the same faces? What do you think about the current squad?
I thought it was rather good - the article I mean.
@anythinggoes, it's just a matter of opinion and in this olympic 2012, they are supposedly to an united team so everyone is in the same boat.
Well we dont need condescending articles from a nation that can't even qualify for international tournaments. In England we are well aware of the major deficiences in the development of English players, unfortunetaly that is something that goes right through the culture of English football, but not just England, British football as a whole. There is a reason why England fails to win international tournaments, but it is the same reason Wales, Scotland and ireland almost always fail to qualify for international tournaments. So you should start looking into your own game, before writing patronising articles about ours.
Most of the players I'd take are now out to 20s, 30s and even 50s! Come on Woy, take Leon Britton! (20s)
Remember, Rooney isn't available for first two games...where's the Shearer/Lineker/Owen type spearheading the attack? Carroll not going to get you 5/6 goals... I'd take Bent if he's got a chance of being fit. Could be interesting odds on top England goalscorer - just as likely to be a midfielder.
@TheGame: I just did, was writing it right now. @Scholes: He would probably give the team a great experience boost but I don't see him going. I mean, they must have tolked about it, Hodgson and Scholes, because the coach doesn't want to make the same error and must have wanted to speak with him i advance, wether he is going or not. It is also important that Ferguson just managed to keep Scholes around for another year in ManU so... The more I think about it, the more I believe it could happen, but he was a big name when I was a kid... I'd love him going. The odds are also very nice, 3.75, may take it but I will think about it later. There are some other names I'm liking. btw, for a full price list you can check here: http://www.oddschecker.com/football/internationals/euro-2012/england-euro-2012-specials/to-make-the-squad Just saying because bookies don't agree much on their pricings.
@ Joe good pick man @ Crator, you can post the pick also bro should be easy profits..
@danielevans - Understandable that you are for the Great Britain team. However, no matter who you are, it is a great occasion for the player itself to represent welsh flags in the Olympics? @Crator - Maybe, just maybe, he might go and ask him to return. The golden era of English football assemble in Ukraine. Think about that.
Scholes is at 3.75 at BetVictor, definitely great value too. I don't know how the coach will feel about it... He refused Capello two years ago and although he admitted his error, and maybe Hodgson doesn't dare to even ask. Has he played for England after his retirement from the national team in 2004? Can't remember but I don't think he has, please correct me.
I'm just quick and within the rules. It's not too late to take it and the more the merry if it is a winner!!! Or take a punt on someone else? I think Paul S. at 2-1 might be a good one.
So while I had this open and not writing Joe went in front of me and said he also did it! Screw you Joe! haha
TheGame, yesterday after the english Premiership coming to an end I put up a medium-high stake bet on Andy Carrlo to be between the 23 players to go to Euro 2012. Want me to post a tip about it, or you want to do it youself? Check StanJames, current odds are 1.67 for this to happen and he is 26th favourite, but some names in front of him won't make it. I didn't see any other good value bet, but you can try with a combo and get some good odds.
Guess what? I've just done that, @1.66 to see Andy Carroll on the England sqaud, not bad from Stan James, it was lower with Betfair and BetVictor. Now let's see which big man will go into the squad, Carroll, Holt or Crouch. Good Luck.
I agree big changes need to be made but don't know who will be brave enough to do it and teams which have come through youth tournaments can perform very well at major tournaments take Germany at the world. Enjoyed the read, will take a look at the piece about Gerrard next, but before reading even though he hasn't been great this year or for England for a while but he is a game changing player as only Milan kno.. Will probably change my mind after reading, good article anyways.. GL
Joe, personally I am against the TeamGB idea. I think it will undermine Wales' status within FIFA.
Thanks for the comments lads, England's squad selection is always fascinating. TheGame, I would under normal circumstances take Rooney because I feel he is a game changing player. I would also ideally take Young for the same reason, and also Sturridge if I could fit him in. For the Euros though I would leave him at home, I don't think bringing any players in at someone else's expense is ever good, especially if the other strikers had performed well in the first two games. IMO England need to stop relying on individuals and begin thinking about the collective. It's obviously not going to happen come Wed, but I would consciously try to avoid taking any of the spine, so absolutely no JT, Lampard, Ferdinand, Gerrard or Cole. There is an interesting article on Gerrard (which I agree with) which might interest you: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/apr/10/the-question-steven-gerrard-liverpool I think it's absolutely vital that these players are dropped, along with Barry and Parker. No Wilshere and an unfit Cleverley obviously make this harder, but I firmly believe that Britton, Livermore, Murphy etc would do a better job than Lampard, Gerrard etc What I should've emphasised more in the article is I think that youthful teams who have come up through the ranks together seem to thrive in tournament environments. A massive generalisation obviously, but in 2010, Germany, Chile and Spain had some of the youngest teams, packed with players who had formed the core of their U21 squads; England, Italy, France etc, all the teams who choked, were heavily reliant on their big name established stars.
Joe the way Carrol has been playing in the last few games he could well have secured his spot to the Ukraine & Poland. I would take him, cant think of a better English option to fill the void left by Rooney in the first few games.. If you can find a book offering it, i would take it cause Andy Carroll should be in the team, I didn't include him above cause i was going with the first 11.. GL
I bet you that Roy Hodgson will take Andy Carroll into the Euro2012. @Daniel Evans - Whats your view of Great Britain Olympic team?
My England team would have what all world class sides have something England have lacked in years, pace and sound technical ability upfront. A warrior, a creator and a genius in the middle of the park supported by a strong defensive platform (that they have had).. My England team would be a team consisting about 5 player which were first team regulars in the last tournament: 3 man attack: Young, Rooney, Johnson (Man City) / Aaron Lennon... Big shame Gareth Bale didn't choose to play for England otherwise there would be a need 2 choose between Lennon or Johnson..lol Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes & Scot Parker Defence: Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry & Kyle Walker Goalkeeper: Joe Hart For me England biggest problem besides a manager that wants the team to succeed is what to do with Gerrard and Lampard. A number of managers have tried but they are not able to play together and why would you ask Steven Gerrard, one of the best home grown midfielder I have seen in my time to play out of position for Frank Lampard.. Now there's a twitter discussion, good work man enjoyed the article..