“49 years of hurt”: The English football mentality

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For the past 49 years, the England national team has been without a major trophy, but you don’t need to tell an Englishman that. With football being the national sport of the country it is understandable that the English people demand high level performances, but the demand is taken to the point that it is impossible to please every English football fan.

Every English football fan has their own idea of how things should be run amongst the England set up. Some demand trophies and victories, others prefer to watch exciting football regardless of the result. Some believe we should put more faith in English youngsters, others say we should stick with the experienced players that have been in the team for years; its impossible to get one squad that everyone will be pleased with, despite the efforts of the Football Association (FA). When the majority of English fans demanded good technical football, the FA brought in Fabio Capello. When Capello’s England failed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, most English football fans demanded an English manager. The FA agreed and current manager Roy Hodgson was brought in. Any football fan looking at this without any connections to England would think that the supporters should be pleased with this. However in true English fashion the squad and manager have been given the same treatment by the fans as previous foreign managers have received. 49 years of hurt has clearly taken its toll on the English football fans.

Hodgson’s reign as England manager can only be described as a roller-coaster of success and disappointment. His first big test came immediately after he took over in 2012 as the European Championships took place. A quarter final loss to Italy on penalties gave Hodgson a steady start and healthy reception as it was more than most fans were expecting. But following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – the less said about that the better – Hodgson has faced a barrage of negativity, with many calling for Hodgson to be sacked. Nevertheless, this negativity is absolutely absurd when discussing recent performances. Hodgson’s men have won all 6 of their Euro 2016 qualifiers but this is apparently not enough for English football fans. Roy Hodgson has thrown club bias out the window and is picking players based on form and merit. This has been a breath of fresh air for the national side and allowed more supporters from clubs outside the ‘top four’ to get involved with the national team because one of their players might be playing. Not only that, younger English players not playing for one of the ‘big clubs’ have¬†become more competitive as they have been given the confidence that they could one day play for the England team, the dream for any young English player. But the inclusion of players from lesser quality teams has upset many fans because many fickle and shortsighted English football “fans” don’t believe that these players are good enough, which is often far from the truth.

The problem with this “English mentality” is that it is the amalgamation of dividing perspectives and viewpoints. As an English football fan, you are either full of optimism which is then crushed every time we reach a major tournament, or you’re so negative from the start that watching English football becomes a completely diabolical and painful tradition. The result of which is always despair. What we need to do is put faith in the team and manager, whoever it is. The mounting pressure or draining negativity is often transferred to the players and doesn’t help them in any way. The solution is simple, we need to treat the male national side the same as we do for the women’s national team.

A semi-final in any tournament is almost unthinkable for English football fans at the moment, but the women’s football team defied all the odds at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The support from the English people was also consistent throughout. Win, lose or draw the fans got behind the team and backed them to the hilt, why cant we do this for the men’s team?

Take Laura Bassett, for example. Bassett, an England women’s player, was the unlucky player who had a shot deflected off her and into her own goal in the last minute of the World Cup semi final to send England out. Despite this being a massive missed opportunity for England, the support for Bassett has been huge. Twitter campaigns such as #BackTheBassett were created, and support from celebrities and fans alike were instrumental in the team regaining confidence to win the 3rd place play-off. However, if¬†had been the England men’s side in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals with Gary Cahill scoring an own goal in the 90th minute to send England out, you can expect that he would be slated, ridiculed and booed in every Premier League game for the foreseeable future. Cahill and his image would be tarnished for eternity and it would have huge consequences on his career. Don’t believe me? What memory of Gareth Southgate’s career springs to mind?

There needs to be some consistency; we need to treat the men and women’s team equally. By being positive and maintaining support for England no matter the result or style of play, the players and coaching staff can build a side with time, patience, and the full backing of the country and FA – this could be the key to succeeding at a major tournament.