It’s not you, it’s me

by Peter Pickles

Monday, December 1st, 2008
 

I’m only with you for the sake of the kids

I used to love England (the team, not the country—or does that count as the same thing?). I mean, I REALLY loved them. When I was younger, England—as well as Arsenal—ruled my footballing life. I worshipped them, praised them, believed in them, wanted to be a PART of them. I had all of the authorised AND unofficial merchandise: the football stickers; the coins; the flags; the hats; the home AND away shirts, both emblazoned with my surname and number nine on the back; I even had the goalkeeper top. I revelled in anything England related; it was true love.

I looked forward to their games—the qualifiers, the friendlies, whatever—unable to wait until the major international tournaments finally came around. I even made my own football version of an advent calendar, counting down until the World Cup or the next Euro competition, whichever was closest. I watched all of the pre-match interviews and previews and TV segments; I read all of the pre-match articles and listened to the speculation and concerns, soaking it all up, embracing my nation. It was all about England. Nothing could take their place, not even the late night Channel Five watered-down porn, the holy grail of my teenager years.

During Euro 96 I kept a mini-booklet to fill in the scores and I wore my grey England kit almost daily (much to the chagrin of my mother who wanted to wash it at least ONCE) and I supported my team to the end; I would have died for England. My entire summer—or was it winter? I forget—was spent watching my country and PRAISING my country and telling everyone that Alan Shearer was a genius (at least in the footballing sense of the word) and I listened to THREE LIONS on a loop, including the remixed versions with the snatches of Jonathan Pierce’s commentary, and I sung along, and I had my dreams, and then…
CRUSHED.

Gareth Horsegate (I don’t remember him being that ugly back in the day—what happened to him?) missed a penalty and we were out. But that was OK. We played well. I still loved England. I would marry England one day. They were the best. Plus I had the World Cup to look forward to.
Then we crashed out of THAT, as well.

And maybe since then—or maybe shortly after—my love for England has gradually waned and died down until now there’s this little dim bulb of hope glowing somewhere deep down inside me, barely bright enough for anyone—not even my tape worm—to notice it. My problem is that despite having that love for England, I’m no longer IN love with her. She’s lost my respect. I’m tired of her, in fact. I want a new love, someone fresh and exciting, someone to get my blood pumping again; I want someone to look forward to, not dread. England no longer does it for me; she’s lost whatever spark she once had, and my feelings have whittled away to nothing more than an obligatory brotherly love. Even my hate toward her is pretty superficial and diluted. I don’t really care enough TO hate.

I used to listen intently when she spoke or did something, hanging on every action or word; now I merely read a book when she’s around, glancing up if she does anything interesting, which is rarely. Even when she DOES do something spectacular, I find it hard to care; all I can think about is the NEXT GAME when I know she’ll revert back to being a boring wet blanket who I should have dumped years ago. She still has her moments of beauty, I can’t deny that, but there are many beautiful teams out there—why did I get stuck with one who will continually disappoint me? Why did I get stuck with the misery?

At one point England was my life, my love, my everything; my moon, my stars, my sun. She rocked my world. Now I think the relationship is past done. She no longer interests me—emotionally, physically, in any way at all. I’m disconnected from her, no matter how hard I try to plug myself back into the relationship. It just won’t work.

I hope she has a happy life, though, and I hope we can stay friends—I would like that—but I think we’re done.
Sorry, England.
It’s not you—it’s me.

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  • Jamie Farrier

    So basically we don’t like England anymore coz they ain’t won nothing. Boo hoo.

    I was on exactly the same wave as you in the mid 90s, everyone was. Having seen past the misery of failing to qualify for USA 94, England was full of hope. A new manager that made the right choices, and a complete clear-out of the fading stars to be replaced with a vibrant new team including a world-class striker in Shearer. Despite failing to win the competition, we made the world sit up and realise English football isn’t dead.

    And now, 12 years later, I still love England. Why? Because you support your team through thick and thin, even when hope and expectation is crushed and tarnished, so the same should be said for your national side. There is nothing more amazing than hurling yourself headlong in to an international tournament with the blind, raging optimism that this year is our year.

    All the while I have to listen to naysayers spouting the same old rubbish that they’re no longer interested in England. I’d bet any money you’d happily join in the party if we actually won the World Cup this year and tell anyone who’d listen that you knew we were always going to win it.

    The parallels to Euro 96 are scary. We’re about to hit the same wave we we riding back then, now that a fresh new England are set to undertake a new challenge after we’ve got shot of our wally of a manager who deprived us of entry to a major tournament.

    We’re already doing amazingly well in our qualifying games, and we’ve got a manager that knows perfection.

    Sort it out and get behind your nation, through the good times and the bad. Your country needs you.

  • Peter Pickles

    I still support them…and make excuses for them…and whatever…but my heart just isn’t in it anymore. I just don’t care. Even when we smashed croatia 4-1 I was more excited about Walcott getting a hat trick than anything to do with England. I don’t think I can ever feel the way I used to about them, but maybe that’s cos I was only 11 during euro 96 so everything was still new and exciting…I don’t know. I’m just not as invested as I used to be…

  • Darren

    i kind of see where Pickles is coming from, I’ve given up losing sleep over England yes, I do get excited when we go to tournaments but am no longer devastated when we go out, I’m so used to the disappointment, I’ve had my heart broken since 1982. No nation can take u on a rollercoaster of emotions like England do. But that’s why we love them. I’ll be supported us obviously but I don’t expect much

    Saying that, I’ll run down Oxford in the nuddy if we win the World Cup because lets face it, it aint gonna hapen!

  • Jezz

    it’s def you! I love England, no matter what!

  • Dan Church

    “yes, I do get excited when we go to tournaments but am no longer devastated when we go out”

    i think the reason were not so devastated when England get knocked out these days is because we have bigger more important things to worry about, i was 20 during Euro 96 and didnt have a care in the world except England playing in the Euros and which of my mates was going to get the most drunk on a tenner at the weekend. i didnt even have to worry about drinking whilst watching a midweek game cos i could handle the hangovers a lot easier in those days. Nowadays, if England get the boot, sure theres an intensified pang there because, once again, you really really hoped that this would be the year, but hey ho, home to bed, work tomorrow and the mortgage needs paying and the missus wont be happy if you roll home drunk on a school night.

  • Martin Tibbetts

    The problem is that the players don’t care enough anymore. In the past, we all cared because they did, now we have a team of people who think they have a god given right to play, don’t bother to turn up for friendlies then amazingly recover in time to play for their club, and waltz back into the side when they think it matters. When players really believe in the badge then fans will share their emotion. I think we have the best shot in years at the World Cup and will be delighted if we win, but will I be dancing in the street or crying tears with gazza again? I doubt it, because I can’t imagine Steven Gerrard, Fat Frank or Ashley Cole doing that either, they’ll just arrogantly kiss the badge and ask for more money to do it next time.

    And don’t say that its because the Premier League matters more, its not. Fans aren’t as passionate about their clubs either these days, some of you may think you are but you’re not believe me, because they aren’t ‘your’ clubs anymore, they are teams that you support in which you and your community have very little investment, that employ players who will kiss the badge for 3 years then bugger off to jump into bed with a new one, or hold the club to ransom for more money to stay.

    its simply, at the top level at least, not the same game anymore. End of.

  • Peter Pickles

    @ Martin: you’re right… everything you said is basically true. A lot of the pride at club and national level has gone. Ian Wright apparently took a pay cut to play for Arsenal… there aren’t many footballers who’d take a pay cut to be with a team these days, or show that much passion for a club… everything’s about more money so they can have bigger orgies so the whole world can suck their dick… (you said it a lot more eloquently though 🙂 without the swear words)…

  • Martin Tibbetts

    Oh no, I think swear words work well here….

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