There are many time-honoured traditions to be followed in an international football tournament that features the England team, most of which involve humiliation for England and lashings of gleeful Schadenfreude for the rest of the world. The media’s negative reaction to Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager suggests that many ingredients for another amusingly undignified campaign are already in place, well ahead of Euro 2012. Here’s a taster of what we’ll probably experience during the next couple of months.
It is traditional that before an international football tournament a sense of expectation emanates from English tabloid newspaper offices like a cloud of fart gas and chokes up the country in its noxious fumes. The last time England appeared in a European Championship was no different, but this time there seems to be an unusual mood of restraint. This is probably because in the intervening years the England team has lost to every major team in world football at least once, Wayne Rooney has been sent off about ten times for stamping on someone’s bollocks or trying to put his head up someone’s arse or whatever it is he likes to do, and a couple of goalkeepers have bundled the ball in the back of their own net, presumably to escape from the fart gas of expectation surrounding them as quickly as possible. But give us time. As the tournament approaches, I’m sure people will start using this very lack of expectation to fuel new expectation that “our boys” are going to do it this time because they’re under less pressure than usual. This will duly ensure that our “brave lions” are quivering wrecks by the time the first match comes around. Because scoring more penalties than the other team is boring.
The England boys know how to put on a good show. Unfortunately, they don’t do this on the pitch by winning matches or playing well. They put on the show off the pitch, in the bedrooms of other people’s girlfriends, in low-class brothels or during beer-fuelled fistfights at nightclubs. A couple of managers ago, despite being from another country, even Sven-Goran Eriksson gleefully immersed himself in this aspect of English culture by shagging everything that moves, stoking the team’s vacuous celebrity culture to new heights and getting caught out in an old-school tabloid sting operation. Of course none of this has anything to do with the actual football, so it shouldn’t really matter. But the English papers make it matter, to such an extent that it almost seems as though they want the team to play badly so they can dish out even more dirt. Let’s hope the papers manage to drum up enough scandal to entertain us this time, eh?
The Blame Game
Since Maradona bundled the ball into the back of Peter Shilton’s net like a tubby little volleyball player back in 1986, the blame game that inevitably follows England’s exit has firmly established itself as an amusing post-tournament tradition. Since then, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo have all been caught up in it at one time or another. Even so, the worst of the abuse is traditionally reserved for the England manager. Years ago, in an amusing instance of vegetable-based lampoonery, Graham Taylor was lambasted in one newspaper as a “turnip.” Steve McClaren didn’t even appear in a tournament but was still labelled the “wally with a brolly” for the apparent crime of, um, using an umbrella when it rained. All of this suggests that the new manager, Roy Hodgson, will have an interesting ride in the next couple of months, especially since he has already been subject to a character assassination on the front page of The Sun before even holding his first training session.
The boring truth is that it doesn’t really matter who manages what is at best a mid-ranked international team on par with Sweden or Denmark. We could have Harry Potter sitting in the manager’s dugout, waving his wand and shouting “scoreafuckinggoalicus!” as Rooney approaches the opposing goal and England still wouldn’t win a major tournament. But I guess it’s more fun to pretend it does matter.
Hold on tight, Roy! And look out for the vegetables.