By Joe Watson
Ever since Saturday 30th July 1966 the expectation of success for England has been abundantly clear. The little five-point star floating above the crest is a constant reminder of that day, staring at every player who pulls on a white England jersey.
Every tournament England enter it is a standard procedure for the British press to hype and feed the anticipation of every England fan. But when the national team flops it becomes a case of ‘we were cheated.’ Very few England fans hold their hands up and say ‘the better team won and the ref had a good game.’ We created the game but everyone else seems to have mastered it.
Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, England lost once in 18 games – not too shabby. Everyone spoke up our chances of success, but Germany and Italy dashed those hopes. Then most people called for the player’s heads and jumped on anti-England bandwagon. The negativity of the England football fans is apparent. Again penalties and dodgy decisions are get-out clauses for many.
In 2013, England is a different team. Structurally more stable and moving in a different direction – the FA bucked their ideas up. Headed by Greg Dyke, England’s path is of youth and development for the national game, ousting the invasion and suffocation of overseas players, and nurturing the English rookies. Last season, The FA scrapped the Premier Reserve League in favour of an Under 21 competition. Now those rookies have a stage to perform on and put themselves in the national shop window, the only way is up.
Roy Hodgson is carefully easing the next generation of trainees into the senior fold. Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling were all handed their first cap under the veteran chief. Danny Welbeck, Daniel Strurridge, Chris Smalling and Kyle Walker were all taken under the wing of the old-school professionals.
In essence, as Hodgson correctly pointed out, there is no point going to Rio if the chances of winning are bleak. Granted, England will be unseeded and could face old foes Germany. Positively there is one less world-class team to overcome when the Barmy Army advance. What is the point in qualifying when everyone carries a negative mentality and expects failure.
Gradually England fans are subliminally decreasing their expectations pre-tournament and duly the media are running out of puns to pick apart the national team. Maybe now when the boys in white walk out in next year’s World Cup Final there will be no monkey on their backs. They can play freely with only the country’s hopes not expectations. Now you can dream and add that second star to the loner above the three roaring lions who believe. Do you?