For the first time since I started watching football, roughly 15 years ago, I missed two England qualifiers in a row. Of course I have caught up on what happened, but for the first time since football became the most important thing in my life, I missed two live matches in a row. Why?
Well there’s a few reasons I suppose. The England management saga is beyond a joke. Sam Allardyce, whether he was the right appointment or not, would have had us playing with an actual philosophy and with actual intent. He’s gone, at his own hands, with a lovely assist from our revolting media, of which I am ashamed to slightly be a part of. Gareth Southgate as a replacement, albeit temporarily, is as bland as a night out with James Milner. This is highlighted by the performances against Malta and Slovenia, both of which I have only seen highlights for, or lowlights, whatever you want to call them.
The media, already mentioned, are also a part of the reason why my love for England is crumbling. From setting up our own managers to fail, to rumours, to slating legends like Wayne Rooney, and even putting an obscene amount of pressure on youngsters such as Marcus Rashford, our media is poison. They want sports news and rumours for money’s sake and not for the public interest – the trust is long gone, but people are consumers, and we will continue to read and believe the “news” that is put before us. Investigative journalism is dead, instead “churnalism”, lies and rumours rule.
Lastly, it is the people most responsible for the wavering interest in the England national side, and that’s the players. Afraid to express themselves because of management, and terrified of making a mistake, the passion is lost. The days of Stuart Pearce, and even John Terry are behind us, instead we are stuck choosing a leader from a goalkeeper forced out on loan by his new boss (Joe Hart), a striker who’s position has come into question after constant abuse and underwhelming performances (Wayne Rooney), a midfield engine who is consistent, but rarely grabs a game by the scruff of the neck like a real leader should (Jordan Henderson), and a centre back who is making more mistakes than ever and to put it simply is not good enough (Gary Cahill).
The underwhelming performances have led to less and less passionate crowds. We were once the fans that everyone else aspired to be, but instead we were overshadowed at the Euros by far smaller countries such as Iceland, a side which also completely outplayed us at the tournament.
This isn’t me “giving up” by the way, I will continue to support England, until the day that I die. However, my passion and patience, just like so many others, is wearing thin. It isn’t about winning a tournament for me as much as it is about playing with a bit of pride and attacking with a bit of actual purpose. Get Marcus Rashford on the field, let Theo Walcott take on his full-back, tell Jordan Henderson to do what he does best – pass it forwards, and we might actually give the fans something to be excited about once again.
Undoubtedly though, we will be forced to watch Daniel Sturridge waltz about as if he is more important and more talented than everyone else, while the rest of the team passes it sideways and waits for an opening to emerge out of nothing. Even Dele Alli’s flair seems to be fading when he puts on the England jersey.