Jonas Thern and Being Delusional about England’s Delusions
Posted on June 14, 2012 9:49 pm
In my Euro 2012 preview blog, I made mention of a certain belief and attitude that football fans hold regarding England. From the lowliest Joe Six-Pack Tweet to the loftiest Alexi Lalas Podcast, it is declared aloud that the English are arrogant about their national team. It is believed that we carry a constant expectation – an entitlement if you will – that we’re going to win it all. In the minds of our detractors, we sit in our pubs with our crew-cuts, tattoos, beer-bellies and room-temperature lager, scoffing about the “artsy-fartsy continental game” and imagining a golden age where the likes of Ronaldo and Messi were marked by psychotic 6’8” skinheads who would shatter their ankles at the slightest hint of a stepover.
Why, were it not for the random roulette of the non-practicable penalty shoot-out, we’d be twelve-time World Champions by now.
At least that’s what they all seem to think that we think. It’s a notion not helped by the tabloid press and overzealous media. After the last World Cup draw, The Sun presented the viewing globe with the headline:
“The Best Group Since The Beatles”
It was almost karmic justice when Robert Green dropped Clint Dempsey’s speculative effort over the line. It also made for little sympathy when we were denied a game-tying goal against Germany. Then again, the way Germany played that day, nobody could deny the better team had won.
However, I urge my fellow human beings to actually engage in discussions about the national team with sensible, grown English people. Not 14 year olds in Bigsoccer’s World Rivalry forum, or drunk men wearing Union Jack t-shirts. Those people are not likely to provide rational discourse on the matter.
Talk to almost any other England fan and they’ll surprise you. If anything, you’re probably more likely to find yourself cradling a distraught man, his shoulders hitching as he sobs uncontrollably, emitting barely-formed phrases such as “youth development”, “winter breaks” and “root and branch”.
Like any team, expectations vary over time. Sometimes we hope to do quite well. Other times, we wonder why we’re bothering to make the flight. The only thing that might be construed as arrogance or exaggerated expectation derives from a simple fact: as good or bad as the England team is, they should really be better.
The nation boasts 60 million people, more-or-less all of which are aware of the sport, most of which have played it and a high percentage of which love it. The modern form was invented there. They formed the first competition, played in the first international and it’s league has existed since the late 1800s. It is a developed, wealthy, democratic nation, with a free press, modern technology and full access to the world’s information. We should at least be in the rotation of contenders.
We aren’t though and you won’t find many amongst our population who genuinely think otherwise. The only time I recall us being particularly bullish about our hopes was WC 2006, which was more a product of the perception that the traditional big guns weren’t as strong as usual. Even then, regardless of what local bookmakers may have said (and you tend to have to offer shorter odds for you national team, so you still have a business should they pull it off) we still weren’t clear favourites.
So I turn to Swedish legend Jonas Thern, who today stated that “The one shot towards the France goal over 90 minutes was all it took to ignite the chronic English illusion of world football supremacy”. I’m sorry Jonas, but who on earth have you been speaking to? Which journo was it and which orifice did he place to your ear?
“Chronic English Illusion of World Football Supremacy”
Yes, I’m sure from Portsmouth to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England fans looked on breathless.
“See how we trick Ribery and Nasri into thinking they have the upper hand by allowing them to hold the ball for minutes at a time!”
“Ah, the talent of Milner! If not for the fortuitously positioned French Fullback, Welbeck would have rose like a salmon to dispatch his glorious cross!”
“Hark! A goal by Lescott!! The natural order has been restored! England once again rules supreme!!”
“A 1-1 draw!!!! ……..Michel Platini!! Eric Cantona!! Rene Artois!! Napolean Bonaparte!! Dawn French!! Jean-Luc Picard!! Pepe Le Peu!! Your boys took ONE HELL OF A BEATING!!!”
I’ve not witnessed any such reaction. From what I’ve seen and heard, attitudes have varied from “Good result” to “hated our style of play”. Generally, the lions-share seem to accept that it was a good, solid, if unattractive performance from a not-so-great England team, under less-than-stellar circumstances. Given the opposition, the final result has been greeted positively and the more optimistic views of the tactical approach note that a talented attack failed to create much.
Thern however, seems to think we’re boasting about our display. Again, I’ve heard nothing of the sort.
“Did you see how we bunkered and counter-attacked? I’ll confess, that despite my wife’s friskiness I had to inform her I was heading straight to the land of nod after such an exhilarating demonstration. I fear I was already spent. Look out Spain! Here we come!”
Indeed, the ironic thing about all this is that Sweden are hardly a footballing interpretation of the Karma Sutra themselves. They’re something of a bogey team for England, but they’re also a long way from the outfit that finished 3rd in USA ’94. Having said that, they’re no whipping boys either and plenty of England fans are nervous, because a strong result is needed.
The truth is though, Mr Thern (and please don’t misinterpret this as me viewing England as a reborn Super-Brazil) we should be good enough to beat Sweden. That’s not a prediction (various jinx-related criteria prevents me from such behaviour) but given your display against Ukraine and the result in our last friendly – not to mention the effect on the group standings – it would be a major stumble if we didn’t.