I HATE international football. Or, more specifically, I hate England in international football. I’ve found it really interesting to read the various Anfield Wrap pieces about Roy Hodgson’s men in the Euros. I liked, though completely disagreed with, Rob Gutmann’s piece explaining why he quite likes getting behind England to fill the void left by Liverpool not playing any kind of football for a couple of months.
I broadly agree with the majority of what Ben Johnson wrote about why he feels emotionally detached from England. Yet it didn’t quite touch on why it bothers me so much, on why I really struggle to get behind the national side. The ludicrous jingoistic nature of England football fans is a huge part of it, for all of the reasons that Ben absolutely nailed in his piece.
The other day someone parked a van with St. George’s flags on it outside my flat and I was terrified someone would think it was mine. White vans with those particular flags on them just make me think of fat, bald blokes with a cockney accent wolf-whistling girls with a ciggie hanging out the side of their mouth. It’s a ridiculous, stereotypical image, of course, summed up by the fact that I’m not even sure you can wolf-whistle with a cigarette in your mouth, but I can’t help thinking it.
That isn’t why international football winds me up, however. Nor is the needless, frustrating, pathetic breaks that we have after about two Premier League games so that England can host a game at Wembley and the FA can milk their white elephant cash cow for another few quid. Who cares, really? It’s great that some kids get a chance to go to Wembley when they might not otherwise get the opportunity, but it’d be great if kids in Middlesbrough, Sheffield or Leeds got that chance, too. Rob mentioned the London-centric nature of the England team and it is a little bit ridiculous, but if you start getting wound up by how much everything in this country is London-centric you might just sack it all off and do yourself in.
While I’m listing things that wind me up about international football but don’t push me over the edge to hating it, we can add the national press to said list. When England beat Brazil in a friendly, lads (and it’s almost always the ‘lads’), it doesn’t mean that they’re going to go on and win the World Cup. Conversely, a loss to Burkina Faso probably doesn’t mean we need to form a wicker man and burn everyone alive. Just let the friendlies be the complete waste of time that they are and move on. Let the manager be the manager but if, like Roy, he’s a complete waste of space then point it out. Don’t let them get away with murder because they’ve read a book.
I’m not even that arsed about the fact that UEFA and FIFA like to drain every single penny they can from football supporters. I mean it’s disgraceful, obviously, but it’s not surprising. We all know that UEFA haven’t expanded the Euros to allow 24 teams into the group stages because they think that the quality’s good or that it enhances the tournament. The fact virtually no one had a bloody clue who was qualifying shows it doesn’t enhance a sodding thing.
No, the reason I can’t get behind England is actually quite simple: The club bias. I don’t mean that I’m so in love with Liverpool that I can only watch and enjoy them. I mean the way that fans of different clubs who have spent the previous 10 months hating each other are suddenly supposed to forget all that and pretend that we’re all dead good mates and that we don’t really hate the other players in the squad or anything, that was just “bantz”.
Until, that is, the team underperforms, in which instance all bets are off and everyone reverts to the mean.
Some of my non-football supporting mates sometimes accuse me of being pro-Liverpool. They say it like I should somehow be ashamed of it and apologise and take back whatever biased statement I’ve just made and look at football through an entirely objective prism. What they don’t get is that being a football supporter means you’re supposed to be biased. When Liverpool play Manchester United I’m supposed to be a snarling, horrible bastard who claims every throw-in and free-kick and despises everything about them. I’m supposed to call Wayne Rooney a fat, ugly potato in a badly shaven wig; an over-rated no-mark who’s only setting records for United and England because it’s easier to score goals now than it was 30 years ago.
That’s fine, that’s normal, that’s what football is about.
But let’s not pretend that we don’t all do it when it comes to England, too. On the main TAW show this week, John, Ian and Neil made some really good points about the Tottenham players in this England side that I hadn’t really thought about. We all know how it felt almost like a bereavement when the Reds missed out on the title in 2013-2014. The hangover seemed to last well in to the following season. Might it not be reasonable to suppose that the likes of Kane, Ali and Walker are struggling to cope a wee bit this summer? They’re certainly playing like it.
For my money England looked much better against Slovakia than they had against either Wales or Russia precisely because the heavy legs of the Spurs players weren’t on the pitch. As much as I avidly despise Roy Hodgson, the fact that the FA are reportedly angered by his team selection sums up everything that’s wrong with the English game — up to and including hiring Hodgson in the first place.
The most interesting article on the site recently regarding my hatred of England and international football was Joel’s article about the criticism that has been sent Jordan Henderson’s way in the aftermath of the Slovakia game. Watching it with my own eyes I felt, as impartially as I was able to feel, that Hendo was Man of the Match, particularly in the first half. A few stray balls, yes, but he was involved in everything good that England did moving forward. The stats back up what I saw with my eyes, too, as Joel points out.
Yet non-LFC England fans (and probably some Liverpool supporters, too, if we’re honest) were giving him pelters after the game. There’s absolutely no way that that is based on anything other than anti-Liverpool FC bias. Again, I’m not complaining. I’m not throwing my toys out of the pram and saying that everyone should stop being mean to the Liverpool boys. I’m just pointing out that international football is a precariously built straw man that is ready to topple over under the weight of club bias at any given moment.
When Steven Gerrard played for Liverpool he got stick from every single club around the country. Good, it meant he was playing well. When he pulled on an England shirt as captain those very same fans were then singing his name and singing the “Steve Gerrard, Gerrard” song that they’d been mocking us for all season. Do fuck off, hey?
I hate Wayne Rooney. I think Chris Smalling’s a dick. I have spent the season saying Harry Kane’s over-rated and although I’m well and truly on my own in that I still think he’ll be found out next season when defenders stop letting him do exactly what he wants to do. The only lads in the England team I haven’t slagged off repeatedly all season are Liverpool players. Am I seriously supposed to forget all of that just because it’s an international game and they play for England? Sorry, can’t do it. I’m not that hypocritical.
I did support England once upon a time — namely in Euro 96 when I was 13 and didn’t properly get footballing rivalries. Then as I grew older the scales were lifted from my eyes in a road to Damascus-like moment and I saw it for the crock of shit it really is. It happened during one of the games in 2002, actually, when I was watching a game with a United fan who had been singing Steven Gerrard’s name one minute and then, when he missed a relatively simple shot, called him a “Scouse cunt” the next. His true colours had shone through and I clocked that it was all bullshit.
I’ve never actively wanted England to lose, though I absolutely do not want them to win a frigging sausage as long as that owl-faced twat is in charge of them. I just don’t care. I’d rather Wales, Ireland and Norn Iron did well, though I still think Gareth Bale looks like a shaven chimp. I also don’t particularly care if you’re a Liverpool supporter who really loves England. I don’t get it, but I don’t care.
So there you go. That’s why I don’t like watching England in international tournaments. It’s because I like the lads who play for Liverpool and I think everyone else is a dickhead. Supporters of other teams probably think the same way, too. Spurs fans have been laughing at the idea that Nathaniel Clyne is better than Kyle Walker, even though against Slovakia our right-back created seven chances for the national side, equalling the record for a single tournament going back to 1980. United fans are still trying to pretend that Rooney’s a dead good midfielder.
And do you know what? That’s fine. That’s what football’s supposed to be. The sooner we can all stop pretending we’re bezzie mates and go back to hating each other the better. International football’s not for me.