Reasons For Optimism In Team And Support

Philip Cornwall is still troubled by some of the baggage England take to international tournaments, but on the whole he's optimistic about both the team and support...

Last Updated: 21/06/12 at 07:34 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Football People On TV: Gary Lineker

Post comment

If the world was full of more Gary Linekers, it would be a better place, it says here. The boys are surprisingly fond of the Queen Mum of Football. They're smitten.

Football People On TV: Gordon Strachan

Post comment

Chippy arse? Aye...do you want some? Wee Gordie is never anything other than entertaining, even if he is wearing adult man┬┐s shorts as trousers. Especially so....

All Articles

The Golden Lion, as you have probably seen, was the unofficial English HQ in Donetsk, with the Thomson Sport coaches parking right outside so the day-trippers did not miss out. It was something of a tourist attraction for locals, too, eager to see and hear "Roy-Hodg-son's/ Barmy Army". Ukrainians came to photograph and be photographed, especially with the assorted knights dressed as very English St Georges.

On Tuesday afternoon the pub/restaurant presented an overwhelmingly benign vision to Lenin, watching out of the corner of his eye from his plinth on the other side of Artema Street, as he studiously ignored Ronald McDonald's home on the opposite diagonal. Even the man wearing a "UEFA - Mafia" T-shirt, featuring a grinning Michel Platini and with "Against Mod£rn Football" on the back, came with his wife and babe-in-arms to look at this epitome of the experience the authorities try to make their own in the Fanzone era.

Let no one doubt that this constitutes progress to be celebrated for England. Two weeks ago I was in Belgium, revisiting the scene of Euro 2000, the tournament from which we came closest to being expelled. I wondered at the time what would happen in Ukraine, how an England support diminished to its hardcore by economic circumstances, disaffection with the team and an awful geographical draw would look. And the answer was this: boisterous, certainly, but not threatening - not even the group of lads on the way to the ground who decided that now was the time for "Let's go f****** mental, Let's go f****** mental" and shower each other with beer.

Such behaviour may have been deemed anti-Soviet by Lenin's ideological successors but the rules have been relaxed, certainly for the duration and especially for visitors. And what liberties are taken are done with a smile rather than a scowl. "Duze diakuju" may not always have been pronounced beautifully but the effort to say "thank you" has been there.

England have not lost yet, it is true, and that is always a crucial test but thus far we have built on the advances made over successive tournaments.

There has been a UEFA charge related to a rush to the fence in Kiev, which I cannot claim to have seen. I am a little short on sympathy with the FA here, given the fence-shaking stand-off with Swiss stewards in Basel in the second qualifying game and the stout denials, in the face of reality, that there was anti-Gypsy racist chanting in response to Bulgarian monkey noises last September.

There is still an obtuseness to the chants that can appal. To hear again an almost exclusively white crowd sing: "F*** off Sol Campbell, we'll do what we want," was a depressing refusal to acknowledge legitimate concerns that make many non-whites hesitate to come to eastern Europe, football or not, and lead them to be extra careful when they are here.

There are still the IRA-related songs and those about the Second World War (there were inflatable Spitfires in the stands in Donetsk). There is an extent, though, to which these are increasingly ritualistic, in the manner of the more blood-curdling aspects of national anthems. Consider the call to arms of the Marseillaise or the chorus of Italy's that we will hear on Saturday: "Let us band together, We are ready to die; Let us band together, We are ready to die, Italy has called us."

How much people put aside the pig-headed sentiments when confronted with actual people may yet be tested, for instance in a semi-final against Germany. But that was an exam passed at the 2006 World Cup by many with an atavistic fear and hatred. And while I was grateful that England's absence from Euro 2008 meant the supporters did not find the Salzburg bar that had a Bobby Sands tribute on the menu, Irish pubs generally exercise a magnetic attraction for many without incident.

I am still troubled by some of the baggage England bring along. But I approached this tournament cautiously pessimistic about team and support, and right now I am cautiously optimistic about both.

Philip Cornwall

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

m concerned as I have swore at football matches and whilst watching football on the TV. Am I also in line for an FA charge?

mufc phil
Wilshere charged by FA

I

m a big Rafa fan, but when he substitutes Ronaldo after 60 minutes of his first game, which Real draw 1-1, I don't see the Real fans being patient. He'll be gone before October is out.

the tree
Rafa quiet on Sterling and De Gea

W

hy no blog? that's my summer ruined. Can someone start a petition on change.org please?

myyoot
The New Dawn Gossip

Latest Photos

Footer 365

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke insists he is not guilty

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke insists he is not guilty of any corrupt practices and sees no reason to stand down.

Chuck Blazer admits facilitating acceptance of bribes at FIFA

FIFA whistleblower Chuck Blazer has admitted facilitating the acceptance of bribes over the awarding of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.

Benitez emotional at Real unveiling

Rafael Benitez refused to discuss Real Madrid's apparent interest in Raheem Sterling and David de Gea at his Bernabeu unveiling on Wednesday.

Mail Box

Does Anybody Care About Russia?

Do any of us really care about the decision to give the 2018 World Cup to Russia? We're not sure anybody does. We have mails on Blatter, Rafa and lots more...

Celebrate Good Times, But Hard Work Starts Now

The Mailbox is joyous over the impending departure of Sepp Blatter, but offers a reminder that problems remain. Plus title winners, CL play-offs and Nigel Adkins...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company