Thursday, 11 September 2014

England must win back hearts and minds to avoid becoming subservient to the Premier League


Article by Peter Swallow

English football lost on Wednesday night. Regardless of the final result all indications point to an emphatic defeat. “Who were England’s conquerors?” I hear you ask. Well they included an elderly woman with a cacophony of recipes seemingly older than time itself, a middle aged baker, a group of contestants and a couple of comedians.

As a collective they’re known as the Great British Bake Off and on Wednesday night they wiped the floor with England’s national football team.

England vs Norway garnered 4.5 million television viewers, while BBC’s admittedly gargantuan baking competition reigned supreme with 8.3 million television viewers. This combined with the record low attendance for an England game at the new Wembley stadium (40,181) and it’s easy to see why those at the FA are shaking with fear at the prospect of a rapidly decreasing bank balance.

How were those lucky enough to watch the game rewarded? With yet another turgid England game completely devoid of enthusiasm and ingenuity, politely disrupted by rare moments of quality. Like the tedium of an awkward family meal, those in attendance appeared desperate to be excused from the monotonous torture.

It does seem that English football has lost its way somewhat, previously crushing disappointment turned into hope anew; no matter how faint, that England could achieve greatness. The golden generation was not only an object of which we could eventually be hugely disappointed with, but the title itself was something that gave us a great sense of hope.

Every two years England fans believed once again that fame was just over the horizon, but this time all hope appears to have vanished.

In reality much of it had dissipated during England’s completely unremarkable World Cup qualifying campaign and subsequently disastrous tournament, but it appears that the usual propaganda of an imminent building job seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Unlike Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, and even Germany, English football appears unable to build itself back up to it’s former glories, and when looking upon our recent past without the illusion of Rose tinted glasses, it becomes apparent that apart from that summers day in 1966, our past has been anything but remarkable.

Monday night therefore, represents more than a simple qualifying game with simply 3 points at stake. It is an opportunity for Roy Hodgson and his men to win back the hearts and minds of the British public.

England’s foe’s are of course Switzerland, and despite their penchant for neutrality it would be very surprising if Vladimir Petković’ charges didn’t go for the jugular in front of their own fans on Monday night.

So much has changed since England last visited the central European nation, back in September of 2010 the ‘3 Lions’ ran out comfortable 3-1 winners. This time, it’s the hosts who will rightfully consider themselves as favorites, they sit 9 places above England, and are coming off of a very credible World Cup.

Regardless of the histrionics, The Swiss are vastly improved and have arguably the better starting lineup, while England will be without Daniel Sturridge and possibility Gary Cahill due to injury.

The road ahead is going to be a long one, but it’s important to remember that England’s most difficult qualifying game is this one and without intending to be disrespectful, the other the sides in the group should cause England little problems despite our rather auspicious form.

It’s well known that this particular international break is generally the one of least interest, but a bad performance in Switzerland would not constitute a disaster in terms of tournament qualification, but
it may be the final nail in the coffin for any lingering excitement towards the national team especially considering the impending flaccid fixtures to come.

Roy’s response to his teams’ performance against Norway was the definition of defensive, and while purely a natural reaction, it was the vessel in which all the obvious pressures were revealed.

The nation needs a shot in the arm, whether this sets of Lions are capable of administering is yet to be seen. At this point the general the in the FIFA World rankings, 11 consensus is one of performance over result. Another unconvincing enactment and it will be a long time before every Englishman truly
relishes an international break.

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