I’ve got a confession to make. For the third time in my life I have fallen truly, deeply, (though not quite madly), in love. It all happened rather suddenly, a bit like the way a lion pounces on a springbok, but with a lot more TLC. Apart from the fireworks at a 4th of July party, there’s nothing that even comes close to matching the intensity of what I’m feeling. So what is it that’s pushed up my pulse rate? English football of course! My romance is at an early stage, but it’s overcome more than its fair share of hurdles so the portents for longevity are already looking good. Nothing can hurt it, not even the fallout from our disastrous World Cup performance against Germany, although their 4-0 demolition of tournament favourites Argentina was some consolation.
It’s not just the army of WAGS and the diehard supporters who have an interest in the national team. Even people like me with a basic knowledge of soccer’s rules, are concerned about a sport invented in this county but in which we’re now lagging behind. How different it was all those decades ago when English football was up there with the greats and when home-grown stars like Sir Stanley Matthews, Geoff Hurst, and Bobby Charlton, dazzled a generation with their talent. Looking back it was an age of innocence and as a young girl I enjoyed a genuine bond with the beautiful game. I used to fight my siblings for the best seat in the lounge to watch the FA Cup Finals, and every Sunday afternoon rushed the household chores so that I could catch Brian Moore and the Big Match on ITV.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the relationship turned sour, but for a time soccer and I were like an estranged couple who wanted but couldn’t quite bring ourselves to kiss and make up. Fixtures went unmarked like proverbial ships in the night while I switched affection and turned my attention to tennis instead. And it might well have stayed that way if the old emotions hadn’t been dramatically kicked back into life earlier this year. Why? Because I had bought into the notion that England’s “golden generation” could emulate their 1966 forebears and bring the World Cup back to these shores. Sadly the dream is now dead… along with the hope of seeing the trophy on display at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics.
So why was the England team such a wash out? Personally I don’t think it’s fair to pile the blame on manager Fabio Capello. There’s a major flaw at the heart of English football: talent isn’t nurtured and the interests of the Premiership take precedence over those of the national squad. It’s difficult for the Football Association to do much about the problem as the demands of the Premier League ensures fully developed talent from around the world is recruited and this stymies opportunities for young English players. But at least the FA didn’t cave into the tabloid sports writers who demanded Capello’s sacking. That would have been like sticking a plaster over a bullet wound without removing the projectile.
Maybe the Germans did us a favour when they gave us a 4-1 thrashing. Our lads performed so badly it would’ve been a travesty if the result had been the other way round. Let’s face it English football is on the ropes and in dire need of a turnaround. That means making some tough choices, but it’ll be worth it in the end if the squad that emerges from the ruins of World Cup 2010 equals the achievements of 1966. There’ll be blood on the carpet and plenty of tears, but like a loyal WAG with a Gucci handbag, I won’t cut and run. English football can count on my support and maybe like me there’ll be countless others out there who’ll reconnect with the beautiful game.