This England generation must ignore blizzard of bullsh*t

John Nicholson

Looking forward to the England game? Me too. Scared of the Germans more than Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Denmark or anyone else? No, of course not. Some of us don’t indulge in the oh-no-it’s-the-Germans nonsense. But then, plenty do.

Remember when Billie Eilish, aged just 17, said she didn’t know who Van Halen were? A whole generation of middle-aged men were astonished and indignant at this gaping void in her musical education. How could you go through life not having heard of one of rock’s greatest ever bands – the 19th best-selling band of all time in the USA, no less?

The answer was, of course, because she was 17. Why the hell should she have heard of Eddie, Alex, Mikey and Diamond Dave or even The Red Rocker, let alone that under-powered 1998 outing with Gary Cherone?

There’s nothing quite so reactionary, unpleasant and outright stupid as older people not appreciating why young people don’t think or see the world like they do. Of course they don’t; they came in through a different door at a different time.

This came very much to mind when reading Marcus Rashford being interviewed about the upcoming game against Germany. “There is no point fearing the past. You can’t go back and change it. What we can change is the result of the next game and put ourselves in the best possible position to win.” Not a mention of a sun lounger, not a ‘herr’ pun in sight. No paranoia about Germany at all. Just another good team we have to try and beat.


But despite this perfectly rational perspective, too much of England is either still obsessed with on-no-it’s-the-Germans, or are encouraged to be. It’s less intense than it once was, as the demographics shift, but one look at a Brexit-supporting newspaper will show you they haven’t forgotten the war yet, 82 years after it started. I thought this narrow-minded attitude, which has been present all my life, was in retreat, but now it’s in government.

Someone of Rashford’s generation must look upon this blizzard of bullshit as though it is a bizarre circus of idiot clowns talking a foreign language, rooted in something that happened an almost impossibly long time ago. If you’re 23, 2010 must seem like forever ago, 1939 inconceivably so.

It’s just another game of football, this time against Germany. That’s all. It’s not and it never has been war.

England must ignore Germany past to make their own history

Young people are not weighed down by all this nonsensical, cretinous baggage and look upon those who are with a semi-bewildered, ‘yeah, like, dude, what are you going on about?’ puzzlement. But still it goes on. And it’s big. Really big. 52% big.

If you listen to late 60s and 70s German electronic music by the likes of Tangerine Dream, Can and Kraftwerk it doesn’t sound like any other music and was quite deliberately a new artform, created as a year zero – a dividing line between the present and the old hated fascist past: starting again.

But England never started again, never moved on. It sat in the stillness of a forever drizzly suburban Sunday afternoon, eating potted meat sandwiches, dozing off while watching Trevor Howard and Dickie Attenborough still fighting the bloody war, endlessly reliving the past and mostly not even a true version of the past, but a semi-fictional one.

We all grew up in the long, dark, gloomy shadow of the war and some never put the big light on. This is what informs, feeds and keeps the oh-no-it’s-the Germans attitude alive. Scratch the surface and with some, it’s always there. It holds us all down, mired in the mud of a great imagined history, instead of being free to write a new chapter for ourselves. People forever looking back, because they’re afraid of the future.

Let’s hope our footballers are no longer affected by it. They deserve to be free of this destructive strain in our society. We all do. But some keep pushing it, addicted to the toxicity.

English media have an embarrassing Germany obsession

We commit enormous self-harm servicing this dysfunction. For example, from July 1, everything the UK sends to the EU has to have the VAT paid by the customer in order to get it delivered, or we have to set up a complex admin system to pay it in advance. It will put a lot of EU customers off buying from the UK, it will affect every small business’s profit and make some businesses unviable. It used to be so simple, but now it’s so hard. That’s oh-no-it’s-the-Germans for you.

Add to this absolute shame of the £2 billion fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU already this year, the loss of £900 billion of financial sector assets, the ruination of the shellfish industry, the evaporation of EU labour to work in picking fruit and work in care homes, and so much more, as all the while, in a move which would be too extreme for the most dystopian fiction writers, tiny trade deals are hailed as though a huge economic success. Lies have been so routinely passed off as truth that decent people begin to assume they cannot all be lies: they are. This is the oh-no-it’s-the-Germans fear in action.

The future belongs to good, decent, honourable people like Marcus Rashford and his generation and I hope to God they write a better version of it for themselves, free of this stupid, tired old bigoted shit, heaved out of the guts of stupid, tired old bigoted politicians, to placate the stupid, tired old bigoted people who elected them. We must help them do so. This is a war we must not lose.

Germany is just another country to play football against. We’ve played West Germany or Germany 32 times, won 13, lost 15 and drawn 4. We played East Germany four times, winning three and drawing one.

At no time has any game been a replay of the Battle of El Alamein, the Battle of Britain or the Dam Busters. They just beat us in some games and we beat them in some. The Germans rightly care far less about the match-up than the English that do. In that, they seem far more grown up and sophisticated, while we’re still an angry version of a Donald McGill cartoon seaside postcard; a half-naked shouty fat bloke with a Flag of St George painted on our massive belly singing 10 German Bombers and no surrender to the IRA, even as the government puts a border in the Irish Sea.