Another forty years of (self induced) England hurt?

A few last thoughts on the (S&M?) relationship between the English sports press and the English FA. For my part, I’m already hoping (praying) that one or other or (unfeasibly) both of Ireland’s teams make it to the finals (any finals) and continue and their recent tradition of making the team effort add up to much more than the sum of its parts.

  • Friendly Fire

    I have to admit that I found the ITV and BBC commentary sterilised like Pravda for the English games, so I mired in the reality (Giles, Brady & Stevens), pragmatic (Souness) and hatefest (Dunphy) that was RTE’s coverage.

    S&M………..? Sven was crap……….. I wish I was paid that much to do a good job, never mind a crap job.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not sure you are right about Sven.

    If you just look at the stats, he was third most successful of English managers for all time. If you are saying that all England managers (Alf Ramsay) are crap, then you’d be consistent.

    I wouldn’t recommend it as a springboard narrative for future success. I’m just glad the Irish press haven’t (as yet) got to the level of excellence the English sports press has attained in the self defeating stakes.

    I think it is possible Sven was trying to do something that was simply incompatable with Premiership football. But the English Press did not seem in the least bit curious to find out, from him, what he thought he was up to.

  • Nic

    Not that I’m a football expert or geek or anything, and I’m not even sure exactly what stats you’re referring to, but I think stats generally can be a little misleading since the teams play a lot more matches now than before -> Robbie Keane is Ireland’s leading goalscorer ahead of Niall Quinn, but are they really better than Don Givens and Frank Stapleton were, or did they just get to play more friendlies than they did?

    That said, it seems to me that it’s time that England stopped branding themselves under-achievers and accept their lot.
    They’ve tried for 40 years and not won a major trophy, which seems a long time to be merely underachieving. I think it’s time to face up to the possibility that they really are only qtr-final good and anything more than that is a bonus.
    Portugal have players who aren’t as valuable but arguably just as good (IMHO). The overbblown value can probably be attributed to playing in an overvalued league skewed by Sky Sport and Roman Ambramovich. But it doesn’t make them world-beaters.

    Just a thought.

  • English

    I like Sven! However, there is no denying that Sven wasted Rooney and continued to pick his favourites, despite some poor form. The defence was pretty good and picks itself, it was the rest of the team where the problems arose.

    If he went on form alone Crouch should have partnered Rooney, Lennon should have replaced Beckham, and Hargreaves replace Lampard. If he was brave he could have done this and upset the favourites, but if it failed he would have been criticised – his hands were tied in many respects. However Portugal were there for the taking, so he should have gambled, because we would have won!

  • Pete Baker

    Newsnight’s Paul Mason has some interesting thoughts, Mick. The video report may be online tomorrow.

    In the meantime.. his blog has this:

    3) Sven is a poor project manager: winning the world cup is like project management – it’s a defineable and limited endeavour that has one outcome. Those who’ve been telling me that Sven was really keeping in reserve the real energy and strategy of the team are now proved wrong. Sadly that clearly included some of the players, who looked shocked not just to lose but to realise they have lost without ever playing a decent game.

    Which seems to hit the nail on the head.

    I agree with you, though, that the media played their part in this.

    Ultimately, I think, the two parts acted together to influence the psychology of the players – which was dominated by a fear of failure.

    No settled formation; no settled team sheet – partly influenced by injury, a pre-determined selection in part, and Sven’s hands-off approach.. ‘let the players find their place in the formation’; little motivation from the manager; and 40 years of hurt ringing in everyone’s ears.

    It’s no surprise then that, arguably, their most focussed performance occured when, down to 10 men, they faced ejection from the tournament.

  • páid

    Is the terrible truth that the British press is more advanced than the rest; and long ago discovered that in order to survive you stay close to the people and their base instincts?

    ‘Cos I don’t see the tide going the other way.

  • Shay Begorrah

    England (the country, not the team) have no cause for whining. Their national team was knocked out of the world cup at the same stage as Brazil and Argentina and that is not bad company to keep; they did not play a great game against Portugal but it was damn close.

    England (the team, not the country) probably do need to come to terms with their poor international performances and change their approach but this loss was no great indignity and I hope that the press can find some generous words for them. I wonder if the English football press had more love and less expectation for their team would they play a little better?

  • “England (the country, not the team) have no cause for whining. Their national team was knocked out of the world cup at the same stage as Brazil and Argentina”

    I notice you don’t mention Ukraine…..

  • na

    I saw the Newsnight report.

    LOL @ the English. (again)

    It wasn’t Rooney, or Sven, or 90s management speak (worst excuse ever) that lost the competition.

    England played badly with boring players that were shown up by mediocre squads.

    Get over it.

    They weren’t very good, no player shone, none inspired, none impressed.

    Not a shit team, not a good team.

    Now, can we enjoy watching the talented squads or the workers that grind out results and forget about them while we get to watch the timely passion of France, the grit of Portugal, the skilful determination of Germany and the glimpses of brilliance from Italy and forget about the SKY football hype of English 2nd raters.

    They didn’t make the grade again, others did again.

    Let’s enjoy the football and thank God that boring England are gone.

    Up the WC.

    The comp is more interesting without them. They got further than the mind-numbing contributions deserved.

  • na


    ‘The media played their part’ *laughs more*

    No, the team lost because they weren’t very good and demonstrated it from day one.

    Only England fans and anglo-centric SKY/BBC/UTV watchers don’t seem to realise they were a boring, crap team in qualifiers that got beaten by the first semi-serious competition they encountered.

    You can believe their hype. They were shit and it needs no more analysis than that, its football.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    From my point of view all the hype in every single competition that England ever play in just shows that deep down the English haven’t quite gotten over the loss of the Empire and their relegation to being a minor second-or-third rate power. Britain just isn’t particularly big or important and hasn’t been since the end of WWII. England does not have some sort of Manifest Destiny to rule the world and win everything. England is not touched by the hand of God, divinely inspired to succeed.

    It’s a nation of 50-odd million on an island off the coast of Europe with a middling economy among developed nations. Larger than many, smaller than quite a few. Can reasonably expect a credible show on any front, but unlikely to actually win top place on any measure.

    Would youse ever just get over it already.


  • abucs

    I think world cups are won these days more on disciplined defense and organisation rather than creative talent.

    England are a team who has traditionally been very disciplined and organised, and this is a big reason to why they have done quite well.

    And they have done quite well, results wise.

    They were a couple of penalties away from the semi’s this time, they were knocked out 2-1 by the eventual winners (Brazil) in the 1/4 finals in 2002, they were knocked out on penalties to Argentina in 1998, they were knocked out on penalties in the semi finals in 1990 to the eventual winners (Germany) and they went down 2-1 in 1986 in the 1/4 finals to the eventual winners Argentina.

    Organistion and discipline goes a long way, unfortunately. It’s not how i like to see teams play but it is very effective and if you open your eyes, a lot of the teams are playing that way now, especially against good opposition in knock-out stages.

    Brazil do not play the razzle dazzle football that they used to. They are still more talented than most teams, but it has been their organisation and discipline that have won them the world cups of 1994 and 2002, unfortunately.

    The truth is that it is discipline (and luck) more than talent that gets the results. Why do you think that the talented Africans have trouble getting past the first round ?

    Why are there so many defensive 0-0 and 1-0 games in the knockout stages ?

    If England want to get results then they merely have to keep doing what they are doing and wait their turn again. It would help their cause if the press got off their back and they found 1 or 2 talented players to build a disciplined team around. I think they are lacking talented generals. But then how many talented football generals are there internationally ?

    My preference is for good football and i would like to see any team, be it England (especially Ireland) or anyone else to play attractive, creative attacking football.

    But then you have to accept that they are going to bow out early like the Africans, or the Brazilians and French of 1982 and 1986 to more disciplined teams.

    Depends what is important to you.
    If it’s attractive football then IMHO England, and many others needs to change.

    If it’s results, then England don’t have to do too much more IMHO, unfortunately.

  • Dualta

    England were woeful. As soon as they met a decent team, i.e. Portugal, they lost , and that was their best performance of the tournament.

    They had a dream draw for the group stages. Had there been one stronger team in their group they might not have qualified for the 2nd round.

    I’m sorry that they were knocked out at this stage. I quite like many of the personalities on the team, but, like many Irish, Scottish and Welsh people, any support we give to the English players becomes very strained when the fans start belting out God Save The Queen in the stands.

    It’s a pity the English players are surrounded by the whole ‘Engerlaaaand!’ package.

    On a final note, Sven was mediocre to say the least. They need Martin O’Neill for that job. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot!

  • spice girl

    Lets get a grip, England underperformed, no doubt about it. They are a talented bunch of players – after all they have 2 players in the World’s top 3. Fact is, all 3 favourites: Brazil, Aegentina and England have been knocked out – why is this? First of all, its a cup competition and anything can happen – look at NI v england, in football on their day, any team can beat another. All the top team have vastly underperformed, and I think this is arguably down to fear – fear of defeat and embarrassment. every game gets so much hype, that the players go into it so determined not to make a mistake, they forget to actually play. Italy, Portugal, France and Germany all went into the world cup as string teams but not with a huge expectation. Argentina expect to win, Brazil know they will win and england believes it can win. fact is, only 1 team can win, and to win the world cup is another blog entirely….
    As for english comentators, I’ve just come back from Brazil and you have no idea what 1 sided is!! Not that I could understand the commentary, but all they ever showed was replays of Brazil’s earlier games!! Now that Brazil are out, I expect their world cup coverage to cease altogether!!!
    Finally, love them or hate them, now that England are gone, the world cup is a hell of lot less interesting! Bring back the hype – that’s what the world cup is all about!

  • nmc

    I’ve spoken to a number of England fans, going back almost a year, and for some bizarre reason they all seemed more or less certain that the England team were going to feature in the final. How incredibly bizzare this is comes into perspective when I think that England were beaten by Northern Ireland in September last year.

    Every four years it’s the same hype, the same bull, and as much as I don’t want England to win anything, ever again, I actually feel sorry for anyone in the squad. The pressure put on them by the media, is probably worse than if they (the press) were constantly talking about how shit the team was/is.

  • GrassyNoel

    I would also caution people on their level of expectations in regard to Wayne Rooney. He is indeed a class act and invaluable to the team when he is capable of performing to his peak, but no matter how much people hoped when he first came along that things wouldn’t turn out the same way as they had with Gazza, it’s looking more and more likely with every few months that go by that this will be the inevitable outcome. There seems to be a deeply ingrained flaw, in my opinion, in the whole structural foundations of English sporting/media/celebrity ‘culture’ (if that’s the right term for it and it is ruining English sport, particularly football.

  • Occasional Commentator

    NI had (one of) the best players in the world in Best, but nobody expected them to win the World Cup. Performing well is more than just picking 1, or indeed 11, good players. It needs good tactics, good management and merciless player selection.

    Looking at everything, England were probably lucky to make it to the quarters in the first place. “England have good players but they didn’t work well as a team” is not a valid excuse – Imagine if somebody said “The reason Team X did badly is because the players were rubbish – otherwise they’d have made it to the final”. Either excuse is just invalid.

    England are just pants. They’ve got to sort out their real problems, not come up with invalid excuses.

  • GrassyNoel

    As regards our lovely little Emerald Pile, I know I’m just being stupidly optimistic and feeling a little over-eager, over-excited and over-enthusiastic from watching a month of international football, but I’m looking forward to our qualifiers for Euro 2008 beginning. Hopefully we can catch an aging, transitional Czech Republic squad on the way down and cheerfully escort them into the footballing wilderness for a couple of years.

    Although let’s face it – we’re too hopelessy naive and not nearly ruthless enough for that to be a realistic expectation, when you consider that we had France and Switzerland dangling over a cliff in the last qualifiers and all we had to do was cut the rope, but think we’d do it?

    Naaaah. Let’s drop loads of points against Israel, throw away two cushy leads in games we should have gone on to win easily, struggle against the Faroe Islands and Cyorus, and make it a really ‘interesting’ finish to the group instead. Here ye go lads, take our place in the World Cup. Ah no, no, seriously, go on now. We made the last one, schur that’s more than enough for us for the next 6-8 years or so. No, honestly now lads, we’re grand. Go on. Ah, go on. All right, ah no, schur ’tis nothing. Schur ’tis only the least we could do for ye, and schur we only managing to scraaape an aul’ bit of an economy here for the last few years, schur haven’t we enough to be getting on with now ourselves. Go on now lads, enjoy yerselves. Good luck now.

    What’s that lads? Ye made the semi-finals??? Well Begorrah, Begosh, Begob and Bejaysus, Hah? Fair feckin’ play to ye.

    *Doffs cap, sticks pipe in mouth and starts to clap hands while doing drunken ‘jig’*


  • Shay Begorrah

    I scored with:

    “England (the country, not the team) have no cause for whining. Their national team was knocked out of the world cup at the same stage as Brazil and Argentina”

    Nicholas Pugachev equalised with:

    “I notice you don’t mention Ukraine….. ”

    But then with seconds to play I put the fact in the back of the internet with:

    “No disrepect to Ukraine Nicholas but a three nil defeat is a little different to a one all draw at the end of extra time.”

    I feel people are being a little heartless to our English cousins on this one. They qualified, they got to the quarters and we did what exactly? Stone throwing requires stones, this reads like angry arm waving.

  • bean counter

    Has noone else noted the irony of England’s defeat on the anniversary of the Somme. Lions (3 lions on the shirt) led by donkeys (Field-Marshall Eriksson and General McClaren)
    Quote from Frank Skinner “At half-time Scolari notices a flaw in the English defensive system, Sven notices a girl with big tits in row G “

  • English

    You can’t beat twelve men!