Friday, 29 June 2012

A Note on English football values

We joke a good deal about England, but England v Sweden was one of the most exciting games of the tournament. By the end England had scored 5 goals in 3 games which is not bad. Goals let in 3. England lost on penalties in the quarter final. This isn't incompetence, it isn't doom, it's something of a pleasant surprise all things considered.

I make glib jokes about the team, millions of us do, then I get bored by the glib jokes and feel somewhat sick of my own. Each national culture produces its own brand of excitement and the team that represents it is bound to reflect it some degree. 

The key values for English national teams have not been guile, grace, art, strategy - they have been courage, heart, commitment and solidity. The fiercest criticisms have been directed at what is perceived as lack of these. That's what we get. We don't like ego so we don't get genius. We don't like apparent lack of effort so we don't get variety of pace.

Individual players and managers alter the balance this way or that but the centre of gravity is what it is. English sports values are essentially military values. Most English sport is trench warfare.


James said...

Yes, and although soccer (let's call it that and see who falls into the usual giveaway trap) predated trench warfare, when trench warfare did arrive on the scene, the connection was made between the two immediately and instinctively.

I don't think it's unfair on Germany to point out that the way England were set up would have prevented both of Balotelli's lovely goals last night.

George S said...

Germany let in two, England didn't let in any. That second Italian goal wouldn't have happened against England. The first is possible. Cassano turns Johnson and Milner inside out and from there on, who knows, though I imagine both Terrry and Lescott might have done better, at the possible cost of a penalty.

I have clear memories of playing football on muddy pitches with a rain-soaked ball. Trench warfare was the both the apotheosis of the English game, and a lasting metaphor for it.

The Plump said...

This caused a little bit of memory searching:

Stan Bowles - 5 caps
Tony Currie - 17 caps
Matthew Le Tissier - 8 caps
Rodney Marsh - 9 caps
Duncan McKenzie - 0 caps
Don Rogers - 0 caps
Frank Worthington - 8 caps

All loved by fans of course, all supremely skilled and all artists. But then Carlton Palmer got more caps (18) than any of them.

The post is spot on.

George S said...

That's the story.

Also, Hoddle not enough caps, Keith Weller, 0 caps, Greaves! Not enough caps. Adam Johnson looks good but doesn't get a call.

Currie and Le Tissier especially underused. Le Tissier was a genius of Messi proportions: got to play for Southampton all his life.

Messi himself would probably be pulled off at half time at Millwall: too self-indulgent.

The Plump said...

Keith Weller actually got 4 caps during that glorious Joe Mercer interregnum when England played with style and different players were chosen. And I was there to see one of them! It was a friendly v Argentina at Wembley in May 1974. Mercer had picked Weller, Mick Channon and Frank Worthington in the same team. Wonderful game.

Hoddle not only got too few caps, he, like Scholes, was picked out of position when successive England teams should have been built around both of them in central midfield.

George S said...

Yes, you're right about Weller. They must have gone by so fast. You're also right about being played out of position.

The YouTube sequence is brief and blurry, but I remember this players very well. The hair, the shorts, the moustaches, the recession, the brewing violence in the crowd,.

We don't have the moustaches, the hair, or the shorts now.