When I heard that the FA had amended Fabio Capello's contract to commit him to England until Euro 2012, I had a premonition that I would be sat here now typing the word 'why?'
The England team's World Cup performances under Capello has brought shame to the nation. I can't soft-soap it, they are a national embarrassment and an international laughing stock. There are no positives that we can take from South Africa 2010. We played poorly in every game, and yet persisted with the same boring and unpopular system; not one of our supposedly world-class players shone and set the World Cup alight; and the team failed in what should be their primary purpose, to entertain the watching public and make us proud.
When Capello substituted Defoe for Emile Heskey , you could almost feel the whole of England let out a collective national groan. What the fucketty-fuck was Capello doing; was the Italian a fifth columnist? Heskey cannot even get a game for Aston Villa and in my opinion there's no way that he should even be in the England squad, let alone selected ahead of Villa's far more youthful and exciting Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young. And why, when Heskey has scored 7 goals in 62 England games and Peter Crouch has scored 21 goals in 40 games, was he who could not score in a whore-house given the nod ahead of England's lanky goal-scoring machine? It seemed obvious to me that Wayne Rooney was out of sorts, and by half-time I was screaming for him to be taken off and replaced by Crouch (Defoe and Crouch being a more proven striking partnership). I appreciate that it's a big call for a manager to bring off a player of Rooney's calibre and iconic status, even if he is under performing (in which case why not put Crouch on in place of Defoe and drop Rooney back into the hole alongside Gerrard, with Barry, Lampard and Milner across the middle?), but that is the type of big decision that Capello is paid £5M a year to take, and didn't.
Our other substitutes were equally uninspiring. Joe Cole is an inventive if erratic little player but he's coming back from injury and hasn't been playing well for Chelsea. He should not have traveled to South Africa. Sean Wright-Phillips was brought on at 87 minutes, presumably to inject the pace that England lacked after the substituting of Defoe and the exclusion of Walcott, Young and Agbonlahor, but it was too late to make any difference. At the end of the day - to use the time-honoured footballing idiom - all the Wright-Phillips, Walcotts, Agbonlahors, Youngs and Crouches under the sun probably would not have helped England. We lost the game in the centre of midfield, which was overstretched by the inability of a striking partnership that could not hold the ball (throughout the campaign the ball just seemed to bounce off Rooney), and through the inept pairing of Terry with Upson in the centre of defence. To give them their dues both Upson and Terry gave 100% - it was Upson who rose like a salmon to head the goal that temporarily galvanised the England team - but it is a pairing that did not work and was not given any protection by a disjointed England midfield, and that is a failure of management.
I didn't expect us to win the World Cup, I didn't even expect us to get to the semi-finals. However, I did expect us to play with the passion that every England fan expects from their team in order that we could give ourselves the best possible chance of progressing as far as possible in the competition. Some of the missing passion was evident in the last two games but it was a passion rendered worthless by incoherent tactics and, seemingly, a complete absence of footballing intelligence.
When we failed to top the weakest group, with a performance against Algeria that was the most dismal competitive match that I have ever watched an England team play, we ensured that our route to the semi-final would be as difficult as possible: Germany and Argentina instead of Ghana and Uruguay. Various players and ex-players popped up on our TV screens to say that [at the end of the day] "in order to win the World Cup you have to beat the World's best teams", so it really didn't matter that we had come second. These players and pundits clearly do not understand what the World Cup means to the watching public. We want England to progress as far as possible, we don't want to go out in the last sixteen on the basis that we have to go out sooner or later so it may as well be sooner. We want to participate in the greatest sporting festival on the planet for as long as possible for the pure entertainment of being a part of it, to give our team the chance to lift us and to revel in the joy of flying our politically incorrect flag and celebrating our Englishness. Because for the English each England matchday during the World Cup is an English national day (we alone amongst the competing nations have no public holiday on our national day), an opportunity for a collective, national, celebration of Englishness. It is this nationalistic aspect to England's participation in the World Cup, rather than a hatred of football, that leads Julie Birchill to pray for our elimination and Bruce Anderson to muse upon the end of the Union.
It's not football that our woeful team have deprived us of, many of us will continue to watch and enjoy the World Cup out of a love of football; nor have they deprived very many of us of the prospect of being world champions, for very few of us ever entertained that prospect. No, what our England team have denied us is the opportunity to revel in a national celebration (Downing Street has already replaced the Cross of St George with the Union flag, and as I type England flags across the length and breadth of England are being packed away until next time). Rugby Union and Cricket have been known to unite the nation in patriotic outbursts of Englishry, but it is the unrivalled popularity of football that makes it so important for the movement towards a popular English nationalism. Our team's abject failure is a political set-back for England.
It's impossible for me to articulate the anger I felt when I heard Fabio Capello offer the opinion that "we played well" but I'm sure that millions like me will have felt their blood boil. If he truely believes that we played well, then Capello must be the only man on the planet who does. He has to go because England deserves better, and longer, at the World Cup.
If he doesn't go then, as BBC Radio 5 Live's Alan Green suggests, England should be booed onto the pitch the next time they play at Wembley:
"I hope the players are embarrassed and slink away in misery. And in economy class. But I fear they'll just jet off to Barbados, and it will all be a vague memory to them in a few weeks - unless the English public remind them. They should be booed onto the pitch at the friendly against Hungary in August."
Recommended Further Reading: Alfie, two WAGS and Fabio..... (Waking Hereward)
The Edmonton Journal carries an interesting account of the England victory as it was enjoyed by drinkers at my old watering-hole, Elephant and Castle on Whyte.
Typically though the Canucks just don't get it.
On this day the people rejoicing were not Brits, they were English. You can bet your bottom loonie that that the majority of Scots would have been honouring the Auld Alliance and supporting France. And as for the Welsh, well, they would rather die than see England win the World Cup.
Peter Preston, writing at Comment is Free, sums up:
So it came to pass that, yet again, the standard, slightly self-serving lecture on Britishness was duly shredded and scattered all over a foreign field (called the Stade de France). "This is a proud day for the country," said our sort-of elected leader: but he could only clamber aboard such a patriotic podium because Scotland had fallen off it already. And, in truth, there was no way of disguising what had actually happened. Not a Welsh moment or a Scottish moment, but an English moment that - in the winding way of these islands - had somehow morphed into another National Moment.
There he goes again with the 'the country' routine.
I have been referred to as a hooligan on several occasions in Canada. Not because I am (everyone knows that hooligans are Irish) but because I am English, and that's the stereotype.
Talking of hooligans, I shot this video last night down Whyte Av.
There's a moment when the crowd disperses, backing away from the fire, booing and throwing bottles. The object of their contempt was the guy up the lampost. Not sure what he did, but I don't think he'll be doing it again.
Pictures to follow.
I'm not a hockey fan (ice hockey, for all those outside Canada, is called just 'hockey' here) but watching the Edmonton Oilers take on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks has been quite an emotional thing. You don't even have to be a Canadian to be moved by a scene such as this.
Remember, this is a club game, and not the Canadian national team that is arousing these passions. Remember too that this is Canada; a nation, though proud, not renowned for overtly patriotic fervour; a nation, it also has to be said, not renowned for the quality of its national anthem. Yet here we see the lusty fans of the Edmonton Oilers belting out O'Canada for all they are worth. Imagine the same happening in England, imagine the barotone in the middle holding the mike up to the FA Cup crowd for them to sing God Save the Queen. Difficult isn't it?
I don't think Canadians are any more patriotic about their country than we are. If anything they probably have more of the healthy cynicism towards overt displays of patriotism than we do in England (it comes from living next door to the dewey-eyed star-spangled Americans). The difference is that they get to sing about their country and display the pride that they have for it, whilst we in England sing in dreary monotone about God and the Queen, not England.
Let us know what you think we should be singing in the anthems poll.
Little Man in a Toque is not a dedicated follower of cricket but he is delighted that England have finally won the ashes back off Australia, if only to witness scenes like this:
As previously reported the whole of England was asked to sing England's unofficial national anthem to support the English team. Over at the Campaign for an English Parliament they have a poll on what England's national anthem should be. Me? Well I voted for Jerusalem.