Shock horror, turns out all that worrying about the current England squad was for nothing. Victory against Poland guaranteed not only automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup Finals in Brazil but also a much needed and thoroughly deserved respite for manager Roy Hodgson.
All the talk in the build to the final two group games against Montenegro and Poland was about the state of the English game and our ability to compete. Those most likely to blame foreigners made the most noise blaming foreigners while those with a scrap of grey matter laid the blame at youth systems and a selfish culture among our young players.
Whether true or not, good points were made for both arguments but the opinion that I found held the most truth was that players are afraid to don the white shirt. It came, much to my horror, from dreary pundit-bot Michael Owen, who said: “I’ve heard many people in the past leading up to England games or after England games talking about what the papers are going to say the next day about them, or how they’re going to get booed.”
It’s the papers, it’s always the papers. The media’s role in creating the fog of pessimism that engulfs all England games is what’s most at blame for the current state of English football. Every game is dissected to an unnecessary degree, every mistake blown out of proportion and every possible reason to take away from a victory found.
Bad news sells, everyone knows that, but I always saw sports journalism as something better. There are plenty of level heads out there given credit where credit is due but why can’t the media support our team for once? They seem to relish the prospect of failure and build the team up so when it comes it’s all the more painful.
They don’t have to become a propaganda machine – there’s nothing wrong with pointing out the flaws – but how about we champion a good performance when there is one.
Right now I’m listening to Adrian Chiles do his level best to put a negative spin on every aspect of the team’s 2-0 win. Gerrard’s goal was good, but he could have scored it sooner right? Naff off Chiles, it was a good goal and we won the game. That’s all that matters. Somewhere, sometime a room of ITV executives decided that Chiles was the voice of the every man, but in reality every man wants to beat him to death with his own shin bone.
Last August this country proved it could provide wonderful support for its sporting talent without sneering and without sarcasm, and wasn’t it just fantastic?
Against Poland Rooney played well, Baines cemented his place ahead of Cole as our first choice left back and Andros Townsend continued to haunt Theo Walcott’s every waking moment. There was vigour, there was attacking flair and for the first time in quite a while this England team played like they were, in fact, a team.
Of course we won’t win the World Cup and of course we’ll probably go out at the Quarter Final stage, so let’s enjoy the ride for once and not dream so much of a destination we’re never likely to reach.
You never know, we may end up surprising ourselves.