England World Cup 2014 – Rise of the Iron Generation
The lions roar on!
After much hype, anticipation and apprehension, they have finally done it. Qualification for Brazil was never in doubt. None of us ever second guessed Roy’s appointment or the ability of this squad of fine men and now we can rest easy, vindicated in our stout self-belief and pride in our nation.
If only any of that were true. The truth is that we are English football fans and they are the England football team. With these imposing titles come two default mindsets: incredible optimism and extreme pessimism. As night follows day the two are forever chasing each other and never seen in the same room.
A wise man once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So I’m not sure if I’m being predictably insane or surprisingly on the ball when I make the following statement… This time it will be different. Let me immediately qualify this by saying, I do not believe England are going to win the world cup in Rio next year. When I say “different”, what I really mean is that England will be as good as they really are.
Although the golden generation of english footballers are still around, they are in the autumn of their careers. They remain big names, they are able to do a job, but they no longer strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. In a way, the pressure is finally off.
Previously, England have rolled into major tournaments touting much heralded young talents. Messrs Owen, Rooney and Walcott – princes of the pitch, carrying the collective hopes of a nation on their shoulders. Surrounded by battle hardened warriors and proven winners on the domestic stage who have embodied the english way of playing; fast, hard and with a disregard for facial features rivalled only by Rocky Balboa.
This time we are, on paper, carrying only a couple of past-their-best pugilists, some able squires and an iron monger or two. By no means a rabble, but rulers of the free world they are not.
Joe Hart is seen as the only option in goal, to say there was little competition would be an understatement
Jageilka and Cahill, seemingly promoted by the voluntary retirement of two of our finest ever defenders (minus the odd drug test missed and alleged racial slur)
In the Middle
Carrick, a man who, until recently, wasn’t even rated by his owns clubs fans. He still has the England coaching staff, 50 percent of the fans and 30 percent of the media to win over. Elder statesmen Gerrard and Lampard are immovable names on the team sheet, based on tradition rather than ability.
The ever predictable Rooney. Paddy power must have stopped taking bets on Rooney scoring and getting a yellow card in international games by now. Despite being a spritely 27, has been playing international football since before Ryan Giggs hit the big 30 (which is a very long time ago!).
Now, the above might seem like I’m criticising the team, but that’s not actually my mesage. You see, all of the above has lead to an unprecedentedly low expectation for England coming into the summer. What sane man could think that Rooney and his merry men would have any chance against the dastardly Spanish with their strikerless formation, or the Brazilians beguiling fluidity?
And it is this that makes things different, this that actually does give England a chance. For, with no stars and no wonderkids, the focus has once again fallen on the joys of a collective, where the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We saw this yesterday in the performance that catapulted England in to that World Cup final draw on December 5th and, with any luck, we will see it again when they arrive.
The Baines, Townsends and Sturridges will take their game to new highs as part of a cog in a much larger machine, one in which the burden is shared and therefore halved. In 8 months time, as they step out into the scorching heat and commotion of the Brazilian stadium in their crisps white shirts with a swoosh on one side and 3 lions on the other, there is a chance that one of these lions will have been lauded by the media as the latest Messiah – cue Ravel Morrison (he’s a very naughty boy) – but until then, I rest assured that for the first time in years, I have seen an English TEAM performance.
WORDS: Michael Thomas