Monday, October 14, 2013

What does it mean if England don't beat Poland?

England have failed to win a major tournament since 1966, but need some perspective.

Quite simply, if they don't beat Poland, they will face a playoff game - because Ukraine will beat San Marino.

They are guaranteed a place in a two-leg tie where they could face Portugal, Sweden, Croatia or France and others. 

But England don't have the right to qualify just because they invented the game 150 years ago. The problems the English national team have created are largely their own fault. Yes, the media is a huge issue as they only deal in soundbites, but some perspective is needed.

England last won a major tournament in 1966 - their only success. And would they have won it if Pele hadn't been kicked off the park in the early rounds? Maybe as they had some fantastic players, but that was a tournament held in England when they genuinely had world-class players. They could have repeated in 1970 had Gordon Banks not been ill for the quarter-final against West Germany, but that fantastic Brazil team of Jarzinho, Pele, Carlos Alberto etc, probably still would have won in Mexico.

The Premier League is fantastic, the players (of all nations) are a pleasure to see. And I don't blame the growth of foreign players in the league as part of the reason England aren't successful. If anything, it has helped. Kids want to emulate Gullit, Juninho, Ronaldo, Zola et. all - it's much better than them growing up with Carlton Palmer, Warren Barton or Kyle Walker on their wall. These players are distinctly average and aren't the world beaters the nation expects. 

Be thankful there have been 'world-class' stars like Gascoigne, Keegan, Hoddle and Lineker, because there have been lots of awful players to pull on the shirt. We don't need names, but you all know who they are/were. 

I'm not sure how this media coverage helps anyone.

The hype surrounding Wilshire, Rooney, Owen and other 'wonderkids' is stupid - they can never be who the media thinks they could have been. Let's not make Andros Townsend the next 'saviour'. He's not, he's an average player hoping to be part of an average international team that goes to Brazil next summer - which is where every player and fan wants to be - and nobody has the right to be there, you have to earn it.

It's a small country that no longer deserves to be considered a big team in world football. I want them to win as much as the next Englishman, but I'd prefer them to qualify, participate in the big tournaments and maybe pull off a shock or two.

A win against Poland would be great, but then the media machine starts again, placing the players and Roy Hodgson in a no-win situation. Celebrate any win, and enjoy winning. Watching England shouldn't be so stressful that we don't enjoy it. Because there's still a playoff should it be needed.