In the media coverage of English national football, post defeat and debacle, it’s vital to have someone to blame. In the first 48 hours it was unclear who this would be: Roy Hodgson is affable, good with the press; it was not the younger players but the experienced ones, notably Gerrard, that let England down; the press like to deal in personalities, not tactics. The ever-obliging Harry Redknapp came to their aid with his comment that some younger players do not want to play for England at all, not least for the attendant accusatory publicity. The latter was ignored of course – they extracted lack of patriotism by over-paid young footballers with the added sting of naming names, always popular in a media frenzy and in the social networks . A friend tipped me off on Sunday that a media storm was about to break.
Everyone knows that friendlies are largely regarded as meaningless. The risk of injury is such that players are withdrawn and managers are complicit. It was not unknown for the England manager to request his own medical of a player. The story only has any real meaning if it applied to a competitive game in the Euros or World Cup.
The Telegraph published some of the comments that were published post-exit in South Africa in 2010. Here an Italian overpaid coach was a easier target than a courteous avuncular Englishman from Croydon, but it was the same old, same old of root-and-branch shake up of the tree. Rio Ferdinand said on Sunday that unless something was done England would be marginalised for 20 years. Where has he been these past 20 years? Go back further to the 70s, when Johnny Foreigner was not about blocking the prime of English footballing youth and what do you find? We did not qualify for the 74 and 78 World Cups. Al least we are now in the competition, albeit not for long. The cover of Private Eye, which showed the England plane arriving and players descending with a the caption from the pilot “Shall I keep the engine running?” seems only too apposite.
What is needed is a rational forensic examination as to why England perform poorly competitively. As the press are a contributory element don’t waste your breath in anticipation.