“Nice to see your own fans booing you” or “why we’re playing like crap”

Wayne Rooney criticised the fans despite another poor performance

The title of this post is something uttered by England’s Wayne Rooney as he trudged of the pitch in South Africa at the World Cup after a dire 0-0 draw against Algeria.  With no disrespect meant to the North African country they are a team that should have been beaten comfortably, and so England were (rightly in my opinion) booed off the pitch after another poor performance.

Anyone who’s watched the World Cup will probably know that the England team had already played out a 1-1 draw against the USA the previous weekend, and while the States were considered to be England toughest opponents in a group that also includes Slovenia it was still supposed to be little more than a stroll to success according to fans, the media and betting agencies alike, and when that all went wrong it was considered a minor setback.  Matches against Algeria and Slovenia were therefore must-win games, and now with two games played and two draws as a result the team need to absolutely annihilate Slovenia to not only win back the support of their fans but also even qualify from the group their in.

There are two issues I have with that however.  Firstly nothing less than an absolutely dominating win is needed, along with a world class performance from every England player on the pitch.  We’re more than likely to get neither, because Slovenia are currently the stand-our team in Group C and going by a solid win against Algeria and an admirable draw against the States (despite leading 2-0 at one point, but still) means they’re a nation who look more than capable of winning against an England team scratching their heads as to why they’re under-performing after a decent qualifying campaign.

Most players haven't quite replicated their club form for their country

Yup, captain Steven Gerrard has no idea, BBC and ITV pundits have no idea, even manager Fabio Capello has no idea why exactly teams like the USA and Algeria aren’t being slaughtered without mercy on their way to winning the World Cup.  Yes, in the build-up to the biggest sporting event in the world it’s been drilled into our nations heads that our national team will win the World Cup.  Before the thing even started I nearly choked when I heard it, and even after abysmal performances so far I still regularly see TV adverts from The Sun (‘maybe… just maybe’) and Kit Kat (‘cross your fingers… for the spirit of ’66’) hyping the fact that England actually have a realistic chance of winning with some good performances, a bit of luck and a kind set of teams to face en route to the final.  Two of those three have already happened, on paper England have one of the easiest groups in the tournament and with results going against other big teams like Germany, Spain, France and Italy there’s a very realistic chance that England could potentially miss most encounters with nations who always show England how football should be played when they play and beat them.  I haven’t sat down and worked it out but France look to be out completely, and if results continue the way they have been going then England could get lucky and have a relatively easy ride right up until the semi-finals.  Of course, that’s if the team get out of the group they were supposed to win comfortably, so lets take a look at possible reasons the team might be failing.

We’ll start with reasons that have been mentioned publicly on television by the players and pundits themselves, the first being nerves.  Of course just being at the World Cup is quite a test for any players nerves, but the England squad consists of players regularly competing to win local and European trophies so pressure and nerves is a regular part of their club campaigns each and every season.  So nerves?  Bollocks.

The second is because the team have difficulty ‘gelling’ or understanding each other on the pitch.  England is a team largely unchanged since the last World Cup in 2006 and the one that failed to qualify for Euro 2008.  David James is still there along with John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey.  The England national team have constantly played together and yet have never really been able to work together, which is something I’ll talk about in more detail shorty.  But it is obvious that the players simply can’t work together.

Capello has made some questionable decisions lately

The final reason for the England team failing so miserably is because of the managers attitude, policies and who he picks.  This is probably the main reason acknowledged publicly by the media and television pundits in particular, of course the players themselves can’t hold their hands up and say he got it wrong.  The fact is he has, and there are a number of reasons why.  The players are scared of him for starters and find it difficult to approach him, if a player isn’t happy with his position or the way he’s been asked to play he’ll just keep his mouth shut and carry on in the hope that something works out.  Steven Gerrard playing on the left of midfield is a good example, for his club he’s one of the best in the world at linking the midfield to the attackers and banging in a few goals himself, but out on the left wing for his country he’s usually nothing short of useless.  He won;t tell his manager how unhappy he is out there though because he’s terrified of what the response will be – it really could be anything from agreeing with him to dropping him from the squad completely.  There’s also Capello’s selection policy.  Since the beginning of the tournament he’s only chosen his starting eleven two hours before the match started.  Yes, two hours, which is total madness in my opinion.  How are you supposed to prepare not knowing if you’re playing or not?  How are you supposed to plan a method of attack if you’re not sure whether you’ll be passing the ball to Heskey to hold up or punting it long for Crouch to head on?  Capello’s got it all hopelessly wrong so far and because of his stubborn nature probably won’t change anything.

Now, let’s move on to more darker reasons as to why the team aren’t playing well.  For obvious reasons nobody can mention the following, but to me along with inadequacies on the part of the manager these are what’s causing all the problems on the pitch.

The fans paid a lot of money to see their team play

The first thing is ego.  For their clubs almost every player is their star man – Rooney for Manchester United, Lampard for Chelsea, Gerrard for Liverpool and so on.  The ITV commentator for yesterdays game actually briefly touched upon this and mentioned “not every player can be the star man for their country” which is completely true.  Because of each player wanting to be the star man they’re letting their egos get in the way of what should be a team effort – shooting from miles away from goal, attempting to dribble through four defenders while a fellow player is totally unmarked in a better position, that sort of thing.  Add to that the fact that a lot of players probably don’t like each other and it’s plain to see why they can’t co-operate as a unit.

Money is the second thing.  It’s no secret that every England player gets paid far more than they should for their individual clubs, and even though I’m not sure about this I did read somewhere that the players don’t get paid as such when they’re on international duty.  I also read about any money they do earn (presumably through sponsorship deals) will be donated to various charities in South Africa, but again I’m not sure about that.  Either way, in my opinion due to the players not receiving their £100,000 per week for a month it could be one of the reasons why they’re not performing – they’ve got nothing to play for from a financial perspective.

Of course a combination of the above paragraphs is responsible for why I think the England players at the World Cup aren’t performing well.  Poor management, egos, and the lack of the truck-load of cash they’re used to probably accounts for a lot of it but the underlying reason for me is because they consider the World Cup to be little more than an inconvenience.  National pride is non-existent, in my opinion playing for your country means very little to every player in the England squad bar those who haven’t done it many times.  Guys like Joe Hart and Michael Dawson seem hungry to do well because the whole experience is very new to them, but for the majority who have done the whole World Cup thing before it all seems like an inconvenience to them.  Everyone from Gerrard to Lampard to Rooney look like they played without giving a damn.  The national team are held in high regard and have one of the most passionate set of supporters in the world, and when you add to that the fact that every England fan in South Africa paid a lot of money to get there they have every right to boo the men on the pitch who play without caring.  Yeah, they’d rather be on holiday somewhere but it’s not like the World Cup is played every summer, but it infuriates me when a team consisting of good to world-class player continually play badly and then one of them criticises the very fans who paid good money to go and see them play.  They need to play better for their fans, but they won’t.  They probably never will.


Posted on June 19, 2010, in Sport and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I would say your best point is that these players are not HUNGRY. So what if they don’t win the world cup? They have their 100 thousand quid per week pay packages and piles of lady friends to go back to.

    I see no urgency on the part of Rooney and Co, but when Defoe came on he appeared to bring a spark.


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