The England Experience Isn’t a Pleasant One
England are out of the Euros in familiar style. And while there are some positives to come out of it, not least they have only conceded three goal in Roy Hodgson’s time in charge, I really don’t care.
I gave up on the national team back in the 1980s for one simple reason. It wasn’t fun. OK, football isn’t supposed to be fun but at least when you’re watching your players in your team you have an emotional attachment; the badge. The players are, usually, giving their all for your team and you respond accordingly.
Of course that works the other way as well. Players in the opponents’ team are doing their bit for their employers and not to put too fine a point on it, you loathe them for it.
I grew up loathing Phil Neal for example. The Liverpool full back was part of the most successful English club side of all time but I hated his team. I hated their boring football and I hated his stupid bubble perm. He was an unspectacular player but massively consistent which was of course why Liverpool were successful and he was an England regular.
But he played for Liverpool and I hated them. I also hated Kevin Keegan. Like Wayne Rooney, though without the lurid tales of pensioner prostitutes, Keegan was the media darling. Everything he said or did was minutely picked over like a cat rummaging through a trash can looking for a few scraps.
In fact, I hated the whole Liverpool team.
And as they made up the bulk of the England team in those days, much as they do now, I could never come to terms with suddenly ditching my animosity of those players I loathed week in, week out.
Again, not to put too fine a point on it, I was happy when they were injured; something Neal rarely was.
How could I suddenly start wishing those players well just because they were wearing the Three Lions when the rest of the season I wanted them on crutches? It never made sense to me then and it still doesn’t now.
In those distant days there were internationals at my team, Arsenal, but most of them played for either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. I found myself wanting the Irish teams to win when they came up against England because of the Arsenal connection.
The England experience wasn’t a particularly pleasant one anyway in those days. Crowds at Wembley were often small; I recall several games with less than 30,000, while away games they were accompanied by large numbers of thugs who went through European cities like a whirlwind leaving a trail of destruction that the current generation of England fan is still paying for today as local toughs want to mix it with the ‘fearsome’ English support.
The atmosphere around the England experience has changed but not in ways that I find particularly appealing. The hooligans, thankfully, have settled down and got mortgages or opened up bars in sunnier climes but they have been replaced by a nauseous new breed who call the game ‘footy,’ paint their faces and sing and chant along with a brass band.
As the Euros come to an end at least I can take solace in the thought that the real football action is just eight weeks away.