They're a team full of loan players and ageing has-beens...can Roberto Martinez do better than David Moyes in the long term? Plus, more on Man United and...
Arsenal are on a par with the Invincibles, Man United are so far down on last season, Liverpool have improved everything but their defence and Marouane Chamakh is a marvel...
You may have noticed everybody in the media has jumped on the 'England can't win the World Cup because we're not very good' bandwagon in the last year or two. They earnestly gurn into the cameras or splutter on the radio about this new found religion and have discovered, rather late in the day it would seem, the phrase 'damping down expectations.' Welcome to the party.
Many of us have genuinely known this for decades. We didn't believe in the Golden Generation nor any other generation, not because we were unpatriotic, not because we didn't want to get behind the team, not because were very clever, but because we actually watched England play football with our eyes open. It's been self evident since at least 1974 that England are a second rank side and only now is the idea gaining common currency.
But there's a problem, as there often is when the lumpen, uniformed mass view catches up with the elite, educated view. Our long-held critique of England didn't mean we didn't want to support them, it didn't mean we didn't want them to win and it didn't mean we didn't want to be excited by the prospect of the national side playing for a trophy. We wanted to do all of those things and we still do. When England excite, its a thrilling thing. We're just realistic about it, that's all.
But now there's a sizeable killjoy element who don't want to enjoy anything to do with England. You'll have heard them saying dumb guff such as 'we can't win the World Cup so there's no point in even qualifying'. You hear people glumly going to extremes and saying we're 'total sh*t' or even, in sombre tones, warning us not to get to excited by anything good that has happened around England because bad times are just around the corner. It is infantile.
In fact, because we're now officially 'no good' it means that even a qualifying tournament campaign conducted without a loss, is thrown away by some as 'underwhelming' If we saw England's record underneath another country's name, we'd be very impressed, but under our own, not so much. Our manager and our players are inferior to the best but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy them doing well when they do well, surely. Football success is a will-o-the-wisp that evaporates before your eyes. If you don't enjoy the good days you'll never enjoy anything.
I do wonder if this is a product of the 'Like' culture, where any response has to be 100% in or 100% out. Sometimes it seems as if an England game is like a new Robbie Williams song being critiqued on YouTube. It's all total love or total hate.
It is actually possible to enjoy the good stuff, criticize the bad stuff and still support the team and still get something out of it.
Terry Butcher on ITV embodied this typical English attitude constantly in a siege of worry that we'd cock it up, rather than succeed. Yet such misery goes in the face of the stats which show that under Roy, Fabio and Sven we have lost just two qualifying games - one of those a dead rubber - since 2002. Two losses in 11 years. You can't dress that up as anything other than rather good. If the last two games are viewed dispassionately - if they had been played by say, Sweden or France - we'd all be saying how good they look. Full of goals, tight at the back and rediscovering their attacking intent. We'd gloss over the poorer aspects and point to the good stuff, often in order to highlight how poor England are by comparison.
This isn't a call to arms for the jingoistic 'oi oi' mob to start over-vaunting England again. That was always stupid and destructive. Rather, its a plea to enjoy the moment, say well done to all concerned while realising our true position in world football. Is that just too grown-up for modern football culture though?
It's not that I want England to lose, it's just that I don't care. I'm not particularly patriotic (my thinking is along the lines of where you are born is a random fluke, it seems ... odd ... to be "proud" of that. What did *you* do to make the country what it is ? etc.) They don't play often enough for me to develop any sense of support for them, the tournaments alternate every 4 years for $deity's sake, even if offset by 2. All I really care about when it's "international week" is that the players come back to the club uninjured, and it's a waste of a week where we could have some football that matters.- spacedcowboy