Tag: England

European Championship Stories: 1996 – A Whole New Ball Game

It almost goes without saying that the near-death – and very much beyond – experiences suffered by English football during the 1980s shaped the game that we watch today. There was a time – a period from the middle to the end of that decade – when the definite feeling that this was a game on its last legs became tangible. Crowds dwindled to somewhere beyond what might have been considered the bare bones, whilst an unhappy trinity of disasters carried both a literal and symbolic loss, with deaths that represented scores of personal tragedies alongside a wider sense of corrosion in what had been the nations number one pastime. Yet well within a decade, the hype was telling us that all was right with the world again, and the 1996 European Championships became a celebration of this rebirth, whether we liked it or not. With the benefit of almost a generations worth of hindsight, it is possible to consider that the most shocking thing about the Bradford fire, the Heysel Stadium disaster and the Hillsborough tragedy is not that they happened in the first place – each of this three had their roots in systematic neglect of the game from those charged with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of spectators – but that they happened within such a short space of time. After Bradford and Heysel, sticking plasters were...

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Hope & Despair, Or, Why Stuart Pearce Cannot Succeed As The England Manager

Amid all the bluster about Englands match against the Netherlands last night (a match already being described by some as “That Thing That Happened At Wembley”), Mark Critchley thinks that he may have spotted the real reason why Stuart Pearce cannot succeed as the England manager. To be English is to be afflicted. History’s ever-unravelling twine simply doesn’t have the courtesy to cut this seat of Mars a bit of slack, and thanks to Western civilisation’s added prejudice against demographics of a largely white, heterosexual and male background, the England football team understand this more than most. Gary Lineker, in his documentary Can England Win the Next World Cup? opined ‘there are all sorts of reasons why we’ve been so unsuccessful for so long’. No Gary, there is only one. It is not because our coaching structures are as unmanned as a Maeve Binchy appreciation evening on Sputnik 1. It is not because our children are told to, God forbid, win the Kelly’s Erotic Cakes Junior County Challenge Cup and liquidise the skulls of any kid tactically astute enough to get in their way. And you know what, it is not because the media in this country chum up to dumb young prodigies, capitalise on any microscopic failure of theirs and then slip them the required change for their final, cortex-collapsing can of Tennent’s Super. No, it’s none of...

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Scott Parker Versus The World

We live in polarised times. Rather than opening people up to new worlds and new experiences, the internet has allowed us to retreat into tiny enclaves of people who feel the same as we do and draw up the barricades. There is little room for subtlety or nuance in our debates any more, since the only voices to get themselves lifted above the background hum of noise are the most extreme from either end. So it was that last night’s friendly match between a patchwork England side and an ominously strong looking Netherlands side was unlikely to be seen for what it was – a curiously unique experiment in which a team is thrown together under the watchful eye of a manager of whom expectations could hardly have been any lower than they were and with a captain for whom even starting international has previously been a rare treat rather than a birth-right. The scale ahead of whoever takes England through to the European Championships was made perfectly clear last night, though. An experienced Dutch team seemed to move out of second gear twice in the entire match. The first time they did this, they scored twice inside sixty seconds, and the second time saw them snatch a winning goal at the very end of the match. Between these goals, England had shown an admirable resolve in pulling themselves...

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European Championship Stories: 1980 – The Decline & Fall Of English Football

On the twelfth of June 1980, England played Belgium in the finals of the European Championships – their first match in the finals of a major tournament for ten years. It turned out to be a match that acted as a barometer for the state of the game in England in several different respects, and none of them were particularly positive. On the pitch, Ron Greenwood’s team laboured to a 1-1 draw against a moderate Belgium side, but it was events away from the pitch that grabbed most of the headlines the following day, as serious crowd disturbances disrupted the match with the Italian police firing tear gas into the crowd behind one goal, leading to play being held up for five minutes during the first half. How, though, had things come to this? Trouble amongst spectators is almost as old as the game itself, with reports of disorder – including referees being attacked at matches – from as long ago as the nineteenth century. Such incidents were relatively low-key, however, and the post-war attendance boom in England didn’t lead to significantly higher levels of disorder. As well as this, it is worth bearing in mind that outbreaks of hooliganism are – and always have been – far from unique to England or Britain. What was different about England – or, in some respects, Britain – was that they exported their...

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Fabio Capello Was The Least Of England’s Intractable Problems

Welcome to English football in 2012. The captain of the national team faces a criminal charge for the use of racially aggravated abuse during a Premier League match. Five months after the event, the FA announce that this player will be stripped of the captaincy without, it would appear, having consulted the manager. Four months before the start of a major tournament, the manager resigns on the same that the man expected to replace him is acquitted in court of tax evasion charges. Captainless, managerless and rudderless, the good ship England will sail on to the finals of the European Championships having proved the one fundamental truth that we all know about the state of the game in this country at the moment – if there is a way of taking a situation and making it worse, we will, somehow, find it. The screamingly obvious question to come from last night’s resignation of Fabio Capello from the England manager’s position us that of whether anybody within the FA actually knew anything about Capello when they appointed him in the first place or listened to anything that he said during his tenure. If there is one thing, one thing alone, that we all knew about Capello when he took the job is that he is a disciplinarian and an authoritarian. It is emphatically not a comment on the rights or wrongs...

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