Team Profile: England

June 1, 2012 in Euro 2012, International

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Plastic England flag top hats decay in their bargain bin baskets. Custom-made red and white garage door paint moults in its cans, holding out some vague hope that some moron will need it to repaint his car to run from the police. Novelty vuvuzelas are loaded up back in their trucks. You know that reliable hysteria that we recognize at tournament time, the kind that sees a full profile shot of Rooney, accompanied headed by ‘WE CAN DO IT’ knock the latest genocide to page 5, and bookies rub their hands together while idiots bet 100, 200, 500 pounds on England to win it because you’ve got to BELIEVE? WHY AYE THE LADS. ATTICA! etc? Nowhere to be found. The hype machine, such a reliable source of income in any economy, has stalled in first gear. We enter Euro 2012 with our heads held low, simply hoping to do enough to save face.

This isn’t probably what you want to hear, or what you came here for, and I respect that. But it’s been such a tumultuous build up to the Euros for England, beginning with the shock resignation of Fabio Capello, the delayed appointment of his successor Roy Hodgson, an appointment that was inevitably met by a synchronized ” I guess so” by the entire population. The numerous injuries and selection disputes (WHERE MICAH AT?!); the negativity and bleak horizons look pretty endless. So I’ll bite, and here’s your olive branch. This England team is going to be different. It has to be different. Through the twin forces of time and injuries, we can’t  just roll out the golden generation again, and watch their squabbles, disharmonies and arrogance lead to yet another under-performance. Terry, Gerrard, Rooney and Ashley Cole will be the only starting survivors from the 2010 team, and that’s a start. To move on, England had to blow up the establishment, they hesitated, and we were paid back in failure.

Now we’ve got some positive signs. Joe Hart, who’s outperformed the foreign imports to claim the Premier League’s golden glove two years in a row, is quite possibly the best English goalkeeper since Gordon Banks and can meet the gaze of any goalkeeper in the world right now. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott are risks for different reasons, but both are capable of tearing the world apart if things go their way, and Ashley Young, while United fans seem to have turned on him, has been excellent for England and has quite the recent scoring pedigree.  Anyone who watched the Champions League final saw a world-beating performance from Gary Cahill, who could anchor the England defence for years to come. And then there’s Rooney. Suspended for the first two games, he’s nonetheless one of the world’s best players, and while he had an absolute nightmare in South Africa, if we can just play him off a centre-forward instead of by himself, then maybe, just maybe, he can do what he’s capable of at the greatest stage.

This will undeniably be a tournament to lay the foundations though. We won’t win it. We don’t expect to win it. Let’s function as a team, as a unit, play some decent football and get to the quarter final stage, and lose gloriously to Spain. I’d take that. The next time, once Terry, Lampard and Gerrard are off the books, maybe we can talk. I don’t want to slam Gerrard too much though, as I think of all those famed players he under-performed the least, and was at least good at every major tournament, while Terry and Lampard were pretty much embarrassments last time out. Which brings me to the cloud that hangs over the team - JT. Nationally despised, the boy who played for the shirt but mostly for himself, has single handedly thrown the team into disarray. I thought it was funny when he lifted the Champions League trophy in a triumph he hindered rather than helped, because that seemed to define several of his actions of late. He is quoted as saying he’ll do anything for his country. Well, as long as its not surrender the captaincy when the nation deems him too much of a disgrace to wear it (and consequently get the manager sacked in his name), or withdraw from selection consideration when his presence both undermines and actively exaggerates tension in the ranks. The man who would do anything for his country would have bowed out with dignity, but no. We’ll have to watch the scumbag look out of his depth one last time at a major tournament, as better defenders with lesser names miss their chance again.

But enough about that tosser, England are in a tough group with some tough games, playing France and Sweden sans Rooney seems a lot to ask, and will probably be too much. And right now, England can’t honestly cite themselves amongst the European elite. But we want steps in the right direction, and I feel like through forces beyond our control, we are being forced to take them. I still have questions about Hodgson myself. I think he feels like the man who’s done his time, who’s checked all the respective boxes through graft and that’s to be commended, but I also don’t consider him a world beater. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I’m confident I won’t be. Whatever happens, we’ll all be watching along, expecting the worst, hoping for the best and praying we get out of this one without a headache.

BEST PLAYER: Joe Hart, but Rooney is more important to success.