As the countdown to this summer’s World Cup enters double figures, it appears that England’s players, supporters and the nation
As the countdown to this summer’s World Cup enters double figures, it appears that England’s players, supporters and the national media are failing to learn any lessons from past experiences. Superstar youngsters’ hyped-up, other competing nations played down – it’s little wonder why every two years failure is so hard to take.
England never seem to do themselves any favours. The question directed towards Adam Lallana during his run-of-the-mill press conference last week wasn’t necessarily a difficult one, but the answer he provided acted as a springboard for the press to pounce on.
“He’s got such a level head on his shoulders and is so grounded,” the Southampton midfielder opined of his teammate, and the as of then, yet to be capped Luke Shaw. “He’s an outstanding talent and one of the best, probably the best player I’ve ever seen at 18.”
Just why do the English – fans, media and players – look to hype and exaggerate footballing ability at every given opportunity? There’s no denying Shaw is going to be a talented full-back, and he could quite possible one day go on to become one of the finest in his position, but yet again comments of this sort leave a high expectation on the youngster.
Cast your minds back to the days of the ‘golden generation’. Spearheaded by David Beckham, this group of English superstars were to lead England to the top of the world once more – except they didn’t, with failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championships ending in mass-ridicule from the wider footballing world.
It was only six months ago that Andros Townsend, a winger who looks to attack at players and gets fans off their seats, was touted as one of the next big things. He was to be the wildcard, the man who could make something happen.
A glorious goal against Montenegro on his senior debut at Wembley in September sparked the media frenzy. Interviews with the winger’s family, friends and school teachers followed; background features on the player were quickly put together to highlight his rise to prominence.
In the space of one international game, Townsend is not even considered first choice at Tottenham Hotspur, and is struggling to win his place in the national side. Okay, he’s had injury problems, but it is yet another example of a player simply playing well and being lauded as a superstar. England does this like no other nation.
Let’s put this into some perspective. Another of the England saviours at one stage this season, Ross Barkley, is no doubt a talent, but put him alongside, say, Isco of Spain or Mario Gotze of Germany – all three of which fall into the same age category – and you can begin to see just where the problem lies.
Another, and arguably the man who fits into this mould more than any other, Jack Wilshere, may be a great individual talent, but quite frankly he doesn’t even compare to German youngster Toni Kroos.
The Bayern Munich midfielder isn’t pressured into producing world class performances, instead he is asked to play his normal game. If Wilshere has an off-day, questions are asked, inquests begin.
Man-for-man, England are weaker than 10 other teams in this summer’s World Cup on paper. Their position as 15th in the world goes some way to justifying this, but you just know, as the months turn into days, and days into hours, the optimism will build up once more.
Who is to blame for this? The media? The fans? The players? In truth, no-one. In simple terms, the Three Lions simply don’t have a strong enough squad – that’s not truly any one person’s fault.
Lallana’s comments may have just been a standard throw-away quote, but it goes to show that this generation of players will no doubt head down the same road as all those before them.
England are the masters of building up expectation, when instead realism is what is really needed.
What do you think about England’s future? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Geograph.co.uk under Creative Commons licence