England to World: Can We Have Our Ball Back, Please?

Remarkably, Israel have just beaten Russia 2-1 in Tel Aviv. So it’s now quite possible England will sneak into next summer’s European Championships after all, and the last week of handwringing over the quality of England’s footballers will be forgotten and replaced by gibberish about the “golden generation”.

Then we’ll lose on penalty kicks in the Semi-Finals and we get to enjoy another two years of Steve McClaren’s miserable football.

The refusal to learn from history, and instead to blame everyone else for our unending misfortunes, reached perhaps unparalleled heights this week. The “blame the foreigners in the Premiership” game took over the football media; sensible folks like Brian who point out there isn’t much of a correlation between the number of foreigners in a domestic league and that country’s success in international tournaments are blithely ignored.

England Tattoo

And Brian’s further point that pitting Micah Richards against better players is surely likely to make him, well, better reminded me of something Nick Hornby wrote before last year’s World Cup in his “England” piece,

The foreign imports have dragged the cream of the English players, sometimes reluctantly, toward something approaching competence. We used to be very game, and very limited (and by “we,” I may be referring to every single inhabitant of the country); we didn’t have to worry about other countries much, because we only played them every couple of years anyway. Now the English players play with or against the best in the world every single week, and they’ve had to learn very quickly just to say in the game, and in the profession.

That fact is behind the hype given to the likes of Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney, yet somehow it’s supposed to help to have them playing with and against worse opposition week in and week out?

White Cliffs of Dover

The post by Little Dotmund at 200%’s blog, The Ten Most Significant Figures In The History Of The England Football Team, reinforces that this myopia is nothing new. Brilliantly, two of the selections are great English managers who never even managed England. No man with the tactical nous of Herbert Chapman or with the maverick genius of Brian Clough has ever been given power by the F.A. Sure, Alf Ramsey won the World Cup — but it was at home, the winning goal wasn’t actually a goal, and we benefited from Pele being kicked out of the tournament. And now we’re getting to relive the Graham Taylor era for a second time, this time with the added joy of McClaren being an amazingly dull nonentity.

In England, we don’t talk about tactical innovation or youth development and bringing in people from other countries who could teach us a thing or two; instead, we talk about kicking out Johnny Foreigner off of our little island to solve our woes. We want to take our ball back, and not let anyone else bloody well play with it.

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