England: Euro fear and loathing champions

Date published: Monday 27th June 2016 9:01

We have a culture of fear and loathing in England. As last week well-proved, it is increasingly a divided country which is glaring at itself over an economic, political and cultural wall, jabbing its finger and shouting “it’s all your fault, you’re the problem, you f**king w**kers!”.

Of course we’ve got a long history of hating each other and many seem to enjoy it. Indeed, it’s one of our greatest traditions, usually perpetuated by people who consider themselves the greatest patriots. Nothing is more English than enjoying being scared of and hating your fellow English, whilst saying how much you love the English.

So it’s no surprise that this rather confused culture which loves fear and loathing is reflected in our football media towards the England team. It is largely a media, especially the papers, that is very ready to stick the knife in, given the slightest opportunity, real or manufactured. There is a definite, easily tapped passion for disliking the national side that outweighs the desire for them to do well.

As we prepare to play Iceland, the players and especially the manager are clearly being readied for a roasting should they do anything other than play brilliantly and win 5-0, in the sure knowledge they almost never do that. This is fear and loathing in action and this is how it works.

You repeatedly declare, “we should be beating teams like this, they only have a small population, if we can’t beat them, we don’t deserve to even be at the Euros. If we lose, It’ll be one of the major embarrassments on the planet,” and then follow that swiftly with a claim that England expects far too much of its hugely over-rated players. Breathtaking hypocrisy is one of fear and loathing’s trump cards.

If we lose, all hell will break loose, the players and manager will be castigated, but eventually much of the blame will be laid at the door of the foreigners taking English players’ jobs, because they’re cheaper and better; cheaper and better because the English are worse because of the foreigners.

But even if England beat Iceland, don’t get excited because fear and loathing will say that “we’ve not played a good side yet” to make sure any achievement by England is disparaged, just as it disparaged emerging out of the group undefeated. But hand in hand with this attitude is the fear of actually playing a good, big side, but you must also feel that having to play the big side is actually a failure for ending up in the ‘wrong’ side of the draw, even though progress by beating only small sides is also disparaged. See, that’s the good thing about fear and loathing; by holding contradictory views simultaneously, you’re always right.

Anything that goes well is only what we should expect, anything that doesn’t is a disgrace. With perfect hindsight, fear and loathing can always say something better would have happened, had the manager done what he didn’t do, and the fact he didn’t do whatever that was, shows how rubbish he is. Fear and loathing relies on the un-provable, and thus the un-contradictable, in order to make its case. So when something fantastic happens, you can still paint it as merely what you’ve been asking for.

After spending a lot of time saying how fearful we should be of a big side, or even just of a good opposition player, fear and loathing dictates you must now criticise the team and manager for playing with fear. Remember, you’re a fan and thus can’t be in any way held partly complicit for the players’ state of mind, nor of the nature of English football culture. You’re are inviolate. If only the players had your passion. Right? It’s just common sense. But one thing we know is that the English people who advocate common sense are often the least sensible, and the most extreme.

But remember, if we do happen to play well and win well, make sure you get totally carried away and pour ridiculous amounts of praise on the players. It’s all part of the fear and loathing agenda, because without the massive over-vaunting after a good result, you can’t give them a proper kicking after the next poor result. Veering from high to low is your modus operandi. Nuance or moderation is your enemy.

This also means you have to compare England unfavourably to the other home nations and say they always have more pride and passion then England. Chastise England for not living up to the standards that you’ve set for them because, remember, it’s all about passing off fear and loathing as rational, noble and patriotic.

If we have a lot of possession, moan about the lack of tempo. If we don’t have much of the ball, moan about our inability to dominate possession. Hard tackling is reckless, not tackling shows lack of passion.

Spend a lot of time saying how poor England have been, but never let that stop you from tipping them to win. Fear and loathing says you must invest in the side in order to be properly outraged when they fail. Then, regardless of results, you must pick on one specific player as especially rubbish, and add in some outrage that a better player was left at home. Remember it’s always the thing that didn’t happen that would have made the difference. You don’t have evidence for this, it will all be hindsight, you can’t prove it, but you will assert it as though it’s a truth.

And above all, no matter what happens, fear and loathing dictates you must paint your ignorant, narrow, blinkered view as that of an oppressed, hard-working patriot, who, like an abusive partner, only hates England because you really love her, and anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.

…and then there’s the football.

John Nicholson

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