Thursday, November 22, 2007


Blame the fans

What can you do when a country of 45 million souls that boasts just a solitary trophy on the world stage and believes its own hype yet again fails to reach the standards it has set for itself? During all the recriminations surrounding our defeat to Croatia and subsequent failure to qualify for the Euro Championships next year we overlook pertinent facts at our peril.

Having what may or may not be the best league in the world is no guarantee of international success as one Champions League success in seven years testifies.

Our supposed golden generation may have shone in our little England minds but they were taken from a limited pool of talent and there ain’t a lot left in reserve.

We have a culture to build something up then when we don’t like what we see we are determined to bring them back down to earth. The Australians call it the tall poppy syndrome.

We mercilessly slagged Sven off because he lacked passion on the bench!

When we have a football club chairman who calls Steve Bruce one of the best managers in the country then we have to worry. Worry that the people who run our game may actually have lost their collective marbles or, even worse, he maybe speaking the truth. Bruce by the way has seen his installation at Wigan delayed as he quibbles of advanced image payments from Birmingham. This is football 2007 when a cauliflowered hooter Geordie has image rights!

We have a footballing public who are part of the problem. Who else buys the books the players produce with tedious regularity? It sure ain’t people with an interest in literature. We have developed a culture of the celebrity and fans buy into it. Mac was scared to drop the big name players because he was scared of the potential backlash from the media and the saps who lap it up.

To be an England fan you must join an England supporters club. Then you buy the shirts, paint your face and sing England till I die to a Salvation Army brass band accompaniment. You pay premium prices for below par performances and if you didn’t then somebody else will, willing to buy into the England/Wembley experience.

You’re Flossie the cow and you’re being milked year round but you have never turned round and said pull the udder one. As long as you fill the seats and buy the merchandise the FA will be happy to take your money and change zilch. By spending that money you’re approving of their actions. Or inactions.

The media hype up the fans. The fans believe it and hype the players, the players believe it and book photo spreads, the fans buy the photo spread and the football gets forgotten. No one wants to break the circle and actually tell the truth.

The fanzine generation was supposed to break that circle. It was supposed to bring a new critique, a new way of thinking about football. It hasn’t. What we get now on the magazine racks is more of the same 20 years ago. Teenager magazines with gloss and sponsored articles but sod all analysis. Compare, someone please, with Kicker in Germany where you find intelligent thought and debate.

In England we have what we deserve. We glorify stupidity and anti social behaviour and call intelligent footballers gay. Publishers sign up some scouse kid with zits for a 5 book deal not because he has done anything of any interest. He hasn’t. They sign him up ‘cos the name Wayne Rooney sells and you are buying it. You are buying in to the whole rigmarole that keeps football debate in the playground.

So blame Stevie Mac (but say nothing as he barters for his 'compensation' pay off). Blame the suits at the FA. Hell, even blame Arsene Wenger. Blame who the hell you want as you reach for the red top and the latest WAG scandal.

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