On Thursday night I listened in to Radio 5 Live Sport after the England match had finished. To be honest, it wasn’t to gloat, but I was prompted to listen after reading some online content.
As one would expect, there was the usual toxic mix of substandard performances, lack of passion and poor squad selection. All of these issues come to a head when you’re team suffers a defeat.
Had England, no Roy Hodgson, picked guys like John Terry or Ashley Cole as suggested by many callers, would it really have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not, the thing to remember is that England would still have had the same manager deploying the same tactics.
So instead of complaining about lesser experienced international players, England fans would be calling for guys like Terry and Cole to retire. You’re damned if you do, your damned if you don’t.
For once in my lifetime, England went into a tournament without the hype which we’ve become accustomed to, which in return sees many Scot’s supporting every team England encounter. Because things were played down this time around, I actually found watching England that little bit more palatable and was less concerned (if at all) about the result.
Some might say, “Stevie, you’ve become an English sympathiser in your years down south” but there’s no chance you’ll never find me chanting for England. I’m just less bothered because they haven’t been bigging themselves up as is usually the case.
As one caller mentioned on the radio, Gianluca Vialli was spot on in his assessment of England. What Vialli mentioned in a BBC interview, shown last week, is something all of us know, but most England fans have yet to realise.
“As an outsider, I look and I read and I know English fans and the media, for about four years, have been a bit depressed about the national team and have very little expectations.
“But then the World Cup arrives and all of a sudden you start talking about semi-finals, the final and how this is the strongest team you’ve had in the World Cup for years. It’s quite funny.”
He may only be referring to this World Cup, but this happens at every tournament. I’ve seen better England squads than this one but even then, I’m never wholly convinced that they are potential winners but they’ll tell you otherwise.
As a Scotsman and as one of those Celtic fans who support Scotland but not Ireland, I get international disappointment on a regular basis. When Scotland play I want the best but unfortunately the national side has been on the slide for as long as I can remember.
There have been brief moments of joy but even that was quite a while ago. There is some rejuvenation going on currently but we’ll have to wait until the next Euro campaign to see how that’s going.
England should count themselves lucky that they even make tournaments. Scotland haven’t made a major tournament since France 1998 and even when we have made one, we never qualify from the group phase.
The difference is we know our limitations. What we’ve never been able to put our finger on is what the problem is and how we can resolve it.
One of Scotland’s greatest failings is the domestic game. Sure we’ve still got players dotted around the UK but the standard is pretty low.
England are blessed with better fortune in that there are better facilities and a larger population. In general though, there is more money ploughed in.
Scottish clubs are devoid of serious investors. With the exception of Celtic, nobody is willing to put money to Scottish clubs most likely because its a poor product.
Dermot Desmond is Celtic’s majority shareholder, a very wealthy one, but throwing money at Celtic can only go so far. He is a businessman and despite any genuine interest he has in Celtic as a fan, he must still balance the books and turn a profit.
In England, there is more money than sense. You have all these money men chucking money at overpriced players from other countries, paying English players the same and expecting the same output.
The truth is some of these guys look better because they have the benefit of playing with European and World class players from other countries week in, week out in the Premier League. They play in a league inflated by huge amounts of cash, globalised by a television network who virtually own it and yet supporters lack the perspective to see beyond their “best league in the world”.
England have some talented individuals but I have seen better England teams. If they want to see an improvement, they will need to take a reality check first.
It should be noted that when their World Cup group was drawn, it was widely acknowledged that England would struggle to qualify from it. Tell me something, what has changed since then?
And let’s be honest, is it really that bad? The current World and European Champions are already out so they’re in good company.
Lick your wounds England and come watch the rest of the World Cup from the sofa. Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland and Wales are waiting.