Club versus country
An amazing thing happened on Friday night. I didn’t watch a game of football. It wasn’t a case of me deliberately boycotting the England match against Moldova, in fact I forgot it was even on until Saturday morning when I saw the result in the paper. Even then, my lack of interest was surprising. After a 5-0 thrashing you might expect me to rush online and try to find highlights of this emphatic victory. Nope. I still haven’t seen any action from the match.
This follows a summer where I had barely any appetite for the European Championships. Even before Roy Hodgson was appointed as the England manager I was of the opinion that the best-case scenario was the team reaching the quarter finals and going out on penalties – it’s what England do. So I wasn’t at all surprised when this happened. Nor was I surprised by the style of play that was adopted under Hodgson. It’s what he has implemented throughout his career. He is a cautionary manager.
When it comes to supporting a football team, I believe that your club comes first. I would like to be patriotic and get behind the national team. And of course I’d love to see England lift the World Cup. But there have been one too many disappointments and the truth is, I can’t relate to most of the players in the national team. More than that, I don’t like a lot of them. Gone are the days when, as a 16 year-old kid, I was gutted, close to tears, because England had failed to beat Germany in the semi final of Euro 96. So what’s the difference between then and now? Maybe it’s the fact that international players back then were characters? Or maybe inflated wages and falsely being labelled ‘The Golden Generation’ has led to many of the current crop being arrogant, over-hyped tossers? Whatever the truth is, even the most ardent supporters of the England team would find it hard to argue that today’s players are as likeable as Gascoigne, Pearce, Seaman and co were back then.
A while back, Jamie Carragher was castigated by certain elements of the media for daring to tell the truth, that he preferred playing for Liverpool than England and defeat with the former hurt him a lot more. I would have to question why this would come as a shock to anyone. He spends most of his days training with his Liverpool teammates and plays a lot more fixtures with the club. Why would they expect his loyalty to lie anywhere else? If I had a choice, Liverpool win the Premier league or England win a trophy I’d choose the Premier League every time.
Unfortunately, nowadays the international fixtures are seen as more of a hindrance than a break from club football – even when the team are experiencing a bad run like Liverpool have been. No matter how depressing results have been so far, as soon as the game against Arsenal had ended I was already looking to the away match at Sunderland, hoping we could kick-start our season.
I don’t know who schedules the international fixtures, or what the feeling is in other countries, but the timing of these games hardly helps to conjure up support for the England team. No sooner had Euro 2012 ended and pre-season fixtures commenced than a meaningless international friendly with Italy was being played. And now, three games into the season proper, there is a break for World Cup 2014 qualification matches. Ludicrous. How about letting the season gather some momentum? Time and again players come back from these matches injured and fatigued. And the clubs who pay the player’s wages suffer. Not to mention the fans that go to watch their teams. You can almost guarantee this weekend when the Premier League fixtures re-commence there will be some shock results where bigger clubs drop points to teams who haven’t had their squads depleted and their training interrupted.
So congratulations on a good result to England and Roy Hodgson but please don’t be offended by the fact that many fans yearn for a different kind of international break.
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