Something For The Weekend (285)
So the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne, finally made it to Johannesburg and after a coach trip of sixty-odd miles, we got to see them showing the sort of patience usually associated with Royalty, as they stood bleary-eyed in their dull blue-grey suits, heroically trying to subdue their yawns as the locals conjured up some amateur entertainment, for their delectation and hearty African welcome.
The camp looked very impressive, what with the wonderfully green training pitch and the tennis courts, amidst the African vistas. Nothing but the best for our lads. But I couldn't help but wonder where I had seen it all before? The distant forests? Those familiar huts? And, then I remembered; it was a scene out of Far Cry 2 the computer game. Secure the perimeter, I demanded.
Lock and load!
England are back at the scene of some ancient imperialist crimes, and no
doubt will do their tour of the Boer War museums and buy the odd bit of jewellery made from local platinum and perhaps pick up a few krugerrands, which would make pretty impressive signet rings - a
must-have for all England fans of taste, I am sure. A krugerrand weighs an ounce and an ounce of gold is £800, so very affordable for the Premiership's best. And definitely the blingers' bling of bling.
But obviously a rooneyrand would be even better.
Sadly, England's decline as an international force in football coincides with England's decline as an imperial power. In 1934 England considered themselves too good to be bothered with the World Cup but as a matter of courtesy invited the winners Italy to play, in what has subsequently been known as 'The Battle of Highbury'. England won of course (3-2), a pretty close result being that Italy were reduced to ten men for most of the game, through injury.
This was only Stanley Matthews' second cap and his world fame and personal legend as a player was built over the following decades.
Despite having the Empire and all their power removed by the Americans, in exchange for not having to speak German, England's sense of superiority continued into the post-war years. And, even if the historians will always tell us how being beaten by the USA in the 1950 World Cup and getting stuffed by the Mighty Magyars 6-3 in 1953, changed things; the fact that Stanley Matthews was picked for England at the age of 42, in 1957, seems to indicate that attitudes hadn't really changed much.
Beckham will be only 39 when the next World Cup comes around.
The Germans had their Miracle of Bern and in the face of the English FA's antediluvian attitudes and an FA Chairman who was associated with the amateur game, it seems that England's miracle of '66 came entirely out of the dogged will of Sir Alf, which ultimately left him isolated within the FA and eventually led to his sacking, as England were increasingly eclipsed by the West Germans, and the FA club for old gents asserted who was in charge. We have been trying to overcome that legacy ever since.
Look out - here comes the data dump!
When you start to examine and compare the data between Germany and England, it is quite surprising - in most eras there is only a few percentage points difference between the two nations, when it comes to winning. While Ramsey, Greenwood and Hoddle all managed to win around 60% of their games, with only one tournament-win between them, the Germans actually had the same number of managers who managed to win 60% or higher but actually won World and European tournaments, while they were doing so. Even worse news is that Franz Beckenbauer managed to win a World Cup in a reign in which he only won 51% of his games, which is comparable to Steve McClaren or Bobby Robson winning it.
The stats seem to bear out that there is very little difference between England and Germany when it comes to winning games but they seem to have a much better mentality, when it comes to translating that ability into winning tournaments. Some mental weakness seems to lie at the heart of the England set-up, which inhibits them in the most important matches.
Based on statistics alone, England should have won at least one European Championship and another World Cup, since the war.
The question remains, as to who or what is putting the frighteners on the England team? The Press? History? Our class system? Traumatic child-rearing techniques? Bad teachers? Bad coaches? Moaning fans?
Its anyone's guess.
The good news is that under Capello, England have won an astounding 75% of their games. If statistics mean anything, this should mean England should be considered favourites to get to at least the semi-finals. Annoyingly Germany have won 69% of their games under Joachim Löw, which is also an historical high for a German manager. So it looks once again that England surely must be destined to meet Germany along the way.
So despite all the evidence of recent games, England are better than they have ever been. No matter how bad they can look and how good we remember previous players and teams were, England are in a better position to win the World Cup, than at any time in their history.
They can't pass like the Spanish or the Brazilians. They can't defend like the Italians, They don't have a player who is quite as good as Messi, Kaka, or Ronaldo. But they have found the knack of winning, and they have a manager who will not allow himself to be undermined by the FA, the English press, or the over-familiarity of the players.
In a time of doom, gloom and murderous madness, its what the nation craves.
Will the football gods allow it, and can the players believe it?
Fabio's army are on their way:
Let the nation have faith!