It would appear that Wayne Rooney is of the opinion that the England football team (and, especially upon this evening, his performance in particular) is worthy of the undying support of the English people and, in particular, of those that have given up valuable holiday time and a fistful of cash that they may or may not be able to afford to travel to South Africa to watch their national team. That any of these people made actual, material sacrifices to be in Cape Town this evening has, presumably, never occurred to him. There are plenty of criticisms that can be levelled at England supporters, but to assert that they are not “football supporters” only serves to emphasise the unreality of the world in which the likes of Wayne Rooney live.
To be frank, if Wayne Rooney doesn’t want the criticism that comes with a sub-standard performance (especially when he has performed so far below his capability, and at a time during which he is earning more money in a week than most people in England earn in three years – it’s a simplistic argument, but the fact that it is simplistic doesn’t make it any less true), he should probably retire. And Manchester United supporters reading this and chuckling should probably stop laughing now – if you think that he holds you in any less than contempt than he holds England supporters, you’re fooling only yourselves. He may well care more about Manchester United than the England team. Fair enough, if that’s the case. Good riddance.
But there we go. Wayne Rooney is a moron. We already knew that, but we were willing to overlook and forgive that under the flimsy premise that he is a great footballer, and that nothing else matters. What is the excuse for the rest of the team? The only England player to emerge from this match with any dignity whatsoever has been David James. Considering the strength of the microscope under which the England goalkeeping position has been viewed over the last six days, his composure this evening was all the more remarkable. Otherwise, England this evening were a sorry tale of misplaced passes and wrong decisions, a mediocre team with delusions of grandeur. A team that, on the basis of everything that they have shown at this World Cup, deserve no more than the global ridicule that they are currently on the receiving end of.
None of this is meant as any disrespect to Algeria. After a slow opening five minutes, they played as if they were waking up to just how limited these supposed limited these so-called “superstars” are. By the end of the match, Algeria should have been cursing themselves that they didn’t take this slovenly bunch of failures to the cleaners and back. It’s not a matter of anything that has happened to the England team over the last few weeks or months or so. It’s a matter of where they have been for the last sixty years or so – treading water or moving backwards while the world has caught them up and overtaken them. One dimensional, tedious and playing this tournament for the benefit of no-one – neither that of their own supporters nor the neutrals – this team doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever World Cup. They are yesterday’s news.
They may yet stumble through to the next round. The current system of the World Cup is fair and other results have gone England’s way, meaning that a win against Slovenia will see them fall through the door into the knockout stage of the competition. Their position as the fourth favourites to win the entire competition, however, seems even more ridiculous than ever tonight. Under what circumstances could this team get within a country mile of winning the World Cup, it is more or less impossible to imagine. Possibly after the next nuclear war they’ll have a chance, if they are competing against the cockroaches and the undead. But only if no-one has explained what the rules of the game are to the cockroaches.
It is also coming to something when the only mitigation for such a performance is that other teams have done as badly as England have. Spain, France and Italy have done as badly, some will say. It is being damned by faint praise to the highest extent to descend to that level. England’s performance this evening needs to be taken on its own and analysed in its own right. Fabio Capello may or may not have made mistakes, but you would still trust him above more or less anybody in the current team, based on this evening’s performance. It is entirely plausible that over the last few months he has looked upon the team that he is being paid to coach with increasing disdain. Capello is a perfectionist. What must he have thought this evening, as pass after pass ran straight to the opposition or dribbled pathetically into touch? What must he have thought when Steven Gerrard, apparently in all earnestness, tried a headed shot upon goal from the edge of the penalty area? How does he rationalise this? Presumably with the enormous pay cheque that he is being given. In the cold light of day, it’s difficult to argue with this.
Most England supporters could probably just about tolerate the players in the team being objectionable if they could stake a genuine claim to winning the World Cup. They would likely tolerate a decree of mediocrity from the team if the players were genuine, humble and entertaining. It is one of the less palatable trade-offs that the football supporter has to make. What we have now, though, is the worst of both worlds. A team that is singularly charmless, yet can’t justify the billing that it seems to grant itself, fuelled by a ludicrous press (consider more or less every single headline on the subject of the England team that the ludicrous shitrag The Sun has managed over the last seven months or so), which seems to think that waving a red and white flag whilst shouting “COME ON ENGLAND” at the top of one’s voice will overcome the myriad of systematic, institutional defects within English football. All that we want is a team to be proud of, but it seems that we are asking too much. This team seldom seems capable of even thinking and being on a football pitch at the same time.
So, what we need from the England team between now and Wednesday afternoon is a hell of a lot of contrition, and no excuses. If they are going to get knocked out of the World Cup finals (in the finals that they didn’t fail to qualify for) at the group stages for the first time since 1958, then to at least take a chance or two and go out in as near as they can manage to a blaze of glory. If they can’t manage this, they should take their leave and leave the World Cup to teams that actually want to have a go at winning it, rather than boring the rest of the world into the second round of the tournament.
Thanks again to Historical Football Kits for the kind use of their graphics.