The old adage is that the English are a proper and traditional people. The foundation for how a small island became a world superpower is steeped in customs and rituals that are applied today no matter how foolish or nonsensical they may seem. A royal family in 2012 paraded around and expected to hold the same standards of their forefathers?
But nonetheless it is a successful formula that works for the governance of the nation and culture of the citizenry.
There is one place the stubborn nosed desire for antiquity has hurt the English name. It is quite possibly the one that means the most to the nation as a whole and represents a greater proportion of unified supporters than any other—the men’s national football team.
Here there is the same kind of ritualized approach to the sport that has been the standard for perhaps as long as the game has been played, a begrudgingly direct approach that places emphasis on no particular facet of the game and prefers a kind of mulling around in hopes of scoring and a trust of not conceding. “Wishful football,” if you will.
Only once in my limited knowledge of the team’s history can I see a clear divergence away from that formula. It was in 1966 when Alf Ramsey’s inventive “wingless wonder” tactics gave the Three Lions their first ever World Cup. But since then the trophy case has been as barren as Arsenal’s over the past decade.
Yet England still remains a powerhouse in the game. Why? Well, you would have to go look at another proud English tradition—the media.
It is not as much about overhyping the team as it is heavy saturation. No team in the world, or any sport for that matter, is covered with the type of ferocity and often tabloidesque style the way England is. It is due to a combination of the EPL being the most televised league in the world, English being the game’s dominant language and of course the sultry lifestyles of the men who don the unis, that the coverage is so in depth, while being simultaneously shallow. But the media has written this sort of false history which conjures up a great amount of respect for a team that results show is probably not too deserving of it.
The England team that will take the field in Poland/Ukraine this summer for Euro 2012 will go in the same way every Three Lion side has for as long as I can recall—an enigma. Where a seemingly odd paradox exists that should they be knocked out in the group stage or win it all, there is an argument that would very easily support both, and neither would be an immense shock.
Would anyone be surprised that a team with Joe Hart, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney won Europe’s premier tournament? At the same time, what in any of these players’ international history suggests they have and ice cube’s chance in hell of getting a victory?
The misguided ambition that raises this team to the level of expectations generally placed on much better performing sides will once again lead to disappointment. Injuries to key players Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry don’t help the cause but are also not what will really prevent them from achieving the glory they should.
It is a tradition of losing that hinders Roy Hodgson’s side, purported by the man himself, whose complacency to the banal will leave the team catatonic and hopeless. The lack of fresh energy and a reliance on what has always been done dooms the team to mediocrity in performance and at the mercy of others in terms of results.
I am not suggesting that England cannot win Euro 2012. On the contrary, I see no reason they cannot. At the same time there is little reason to think they would not bow out early as well. What is important is recognizing that whatever the results that may occur—they represent a false proclamation. A trophy does not mean they are great, and an embarrassing exit does not mean they are bad. It is just a tangible snapshot of how a team, unwilling to change, currently fits into the footballing world at this moment.
Once again, it comes down to the fact that this is the same old England team, playing the same old English way and getting the same old English results.
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