I’M not a fan of international football. I wrote about why that is the case back in June, so I won’t bother going over all the same ground again here.
I’ve been really interested to watch the press’s reaction to England’s situation recently, though. As a non-lover of the national side (and less of an outright hater now that Roy Hodgson has gone) I believe I’ve been able to look at it quite dispassionately.
The Rooney thing is genuinely intriguing, for example. I’ve personally always been of the opinion that he’s overrated. Or, more to the point, that he gets away with murder. Though he’s tempered his on-field antics in recent years we’re never far away from him going out of his way to elbow someone in the head only to be told that “that’s part of his game”.
When he goes 90 minutes without lashing out at someone commentators are quick to point to his control over his temperament; a bit like the stupid kid at school who gets a gold star for not stabbing a classmate with scissors.
Of course, he’s likely to end his career as the record goalscorer for England and Manchester United, so at some point I may have to admit that my thinking he’s ‘overrated’ is little more than club bias. The reality is that he’s not been one of the better performers for his home or international side for some time now; though that’s a little like saying the violinist on the Titanic was letting the rest of the orchestra down.
Yet the response from the press has been amazing. There was an article the other day asking if ‘there’s any way back’ for the United striker-cum-midfielder. As if the fact that he’s been dropped for a game means he may as well be taken out to the glue factory. Meanwhile the same people writing Rooney off are suggesting that Jordan Henderson is not ‘an international level player’, whatever the hell that means.
Never mind that his performances for Liverpool have been outstanding so far this season, with the minor exception of the game against Burnley – when no one was at the races. Rooney’s never getting back into the side and Henderson isn’t good enough for it.
I find it amazing that every time the England team underperforms the press makes it about the players. Every single time. I can’t remember any newspaper deciding to go down the road of asking whether there might be more substantial problems that aren’t being addressed. The Mirror is yet to run a campaign suggesting that the Football Association is in dire need of a review from the roots up.
When Sven Goran Eriksson was in charge the issue was that he wasn’t enough of a disciplinarian. When Fabio Capello took over the problem was that he was too hard on the players. When Roy Hodgson took over I’ve no idea what the excuse was because my eyes started to bleed every time I watched England play.
When he left his 43.61% career win ratio was deemed not good enough and so Sam Allardyce came in with a win ratio of 39.1%. Gareth Southgate confessed after England’s draw with Slovenia that he had ‘inherited a mess’ and needed to – brace yourselves – ‘steady the ship’. Why is it that no one is asking questions of the people appointing these managers?
How is it that the press constantly blames the players for the problems and never asks whether there is any truth in that whatsoever? Any discussion of England’s failings often gets blamed on foreign imports to the Premier League stopping England players from developing. It’s not the only thing that’s getting blamed on foreigners at the moment and just like on the political stage it’s essentially a complete load of bollocks.
Which player from England’s starting XI last night is being kept out of his domestic team by a foreign import? The only example I can think of is Joe Hart and he actually looks a better ‘keeper after a couple of months in a country where they take goalkeeper training seriously than he did when he was lining up regularly for Manchester City.
The Premier League is meant to be the best league in the world. It is supposed to attract the best footballing talent on the globe to its door, with the obviously exceptions of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s attacking players. On top of that the best managers in the game are also in England right now. How is any of that detrimental to the success of England’s players?
I don’t like international football but the people in charge don’t help themselves all that much, if we’re being honest. Wouldn’t we all be a little bit more inclined to watch an England game if there had been a root-and-branches review of the FA and a decision made to put a talented young manager in charge who could pick players on form rather than on reputation?
On this season’s form was Jamie Vardy really more deserving of his place in the England side on Tuesday than, say, Troy Deeney? Was Marcus Rashford? Hell, was Daniel Sturridge if we’re being completely honest?
They’ll happily let everyone else blame the players and ask whether the likes of Jordan Henderson are good enough to play at international level because if everyone’s looking at the left hand then no one will ask what the right hand is doing. It’s boring, it’s disappointing, but most of all it’s horribly predictable.
Last week I mentioned how I keep getting told off for talking about Liverpool as title contenders. How people keep saying I’m going to ‘jinx’ things. I’ve been thinking about that a bit more in the days since and I’ve realised that there’s a bit of a disparity in the way that people think.
I’m telling everyone who’ll listen that the Reds are going to win the league. I even named my Fantasy Football team the ‘Champions Elect’ before a ball was kicked, such is my confidence that this is the year will be the year that we end our title drought.
I get that not everyone wants to take that approach, though, and that’s totally fair enough. What I find interesting, however, is the panic that ensues when people even talk about Liverpool as being title contenders. Heads fall off all over the place and people say things like, “It’s only October!”
That’s fine. Again, I get it. But what I think is weird is that those same people would likely be furious about the fact that we’re ‘out of the title race in October’ if the Reds had got off to a worse start than we have.
Most people acknowledge that they just want Liverpool to still be in the mix as the season wears on. We’ve had too many occasions where we’ve been out of the running before Christmas trees have even been bought.
Doesn’t it make sense, then, to say that we have a chance of being involved in the title race if we’re not already out of it? I believe that Jürgen Klopp is building something here and that we will win the Premier League with him as manager.
Personally I’m convinced that it will be this year but even if it isn’t then I’m not going to get disheartened for the simple reason that it will be soon. That’s why you should get on board the title train or, at the very least, acknowledge that we’ve got a chance. Maybe it won’t be this time out but it’s coming. I promise.