Date: 5th September 2008 at 2:36pm
Written by:

When I was growing up the thing that I always dreamt about was ‘playing for England’, of course playing at club level was a dream without a shadow of a doubt – but pulling on the England shirt was my ultimate ambition and would have been the ultimate dream.

I am almost 30 now and the dodgy knees, lack of fitness, taste for food – especially a Monster Mick before a Pompey game – and a liking of a drink sees me now accept that I will never play for England, and I have accepted this for good… just about…

Maybe it is the money involved in the game, the amount that the players pick up, maybe it is the type of fan that is being welcomed into the game more and more these days at the expense of some of us – why know the type, ‘the suits’ – but the pride and passion is gradually being sucked out of the game

England very much plays a distant second fiddle for most people these days. Do not get me wrong I am proud to be English – I always put on the 3 lions whenever we play, and despite the crap we are served up game after game in recent years I still watch, want to see England win and want us to be successful but my love for the national side has dwindled greatly over the years, and club most definitely comes before country for me these days, that is not to say that I do not care – these thoughts are probably largely in part connected to the factors already mentioned in the paragraph prior to this?

Jamie Carragher kicked up a bit of a storm this week with his revelations about the national side, and how much – or should that be how little – it meant to him.

Whilst I must confess I have not really seen much of what he had said, in the main the key points – which I do know of – were that basically losing with England meant far less to him than it did, or would, losing with Liverpool.

Are those thoughts really that controversial? Can anyone honestly say that seeing England – if you are English of course! – beaten hurts them as much as seeing Pompey beaten does?

Clearly there is still plenty of pride amongst the fans, these fellas are travelling all over the world – spending thousands on top of what they do with their club – to follow the national side and I know several people that do, had circumstances been different for me at Euro 2000 and I could have joined my mates in Holland and Belgium I dare say I would have been going with these guys now, and also know that Pompey, and the South West area of England have a massive contingent that follow us wherever, so you try telling them it does not matter anymore, but it is time that the pride shown off the pitch by the fans was shown by those on it too!

Maybe more of our ‘superstars’ think more along the lines of Carragher as well, so does playing for England really mean that much for them these days?

Our problem is, despite a new manager coming in and saying ‘he would pick on merit’ seems the age old one that Fabio Capello is not actually doing this? With a few, the likes of our own David James, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe – with of course some others – there are still far too many picked on past glories, reputation and ego, step forward Wayne Rooney for example…

I pick him as an example over countless others, not because I do not like the fella – which is true, as I do not but of course I love him for England – but for reasons that to me I think are fair and just, and merited.

My old man had always said ‘Rooney is overhyped and was not as good as we make out’. Initially I told him ‘Dad you are wrong Rooney is all that’, but is he really? He, like so many of our players, is wildly overrated and it is time that we realised and accepted this. As a nation we overhype, or should I say the media do, beyond all realms of realism, but hey that’s the way we are – at the same time they love to stick the boot in! Rooney has not performed for his country on the whole for years, is it just me or do we have to go back to Euro 2004 when he burst onto the scene in Portugal for his best England games? He was fresh and hungry then – now he knows he will play almost regardless – is this where the problem lies…

As much as I do not see him week in week out – but with sky sports’, and others to be fair, love for Manyoo and all things that are ‘the big 4’ we do see our fair share of him and the other ‘god of the English game’ – to be honest as good as he is for Manyoo he is not getting any better, he is not becoming the ‘better player’ we were told he would become still with age – if anything my thinking is he is going backwards and not forwards and he needs his place for club and country looked at and needs to earn this again!

The debate that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard cannot play in the same side has raged for years, yet this still happens – and somehow they are both ‘accommodated’ more often than not. Ok maybe they are the best players, but the best players cannot always play together and cannot always yield you the results you need, the best players do not always win games, the teams that can gel and perform as a team do we have not been doing this for years!

The inclusion of Jimmy Bullard in this latest squad is a breath of fresh air, and I pray that he gets his chance as he is a fella that will bust a gut to give his all for his country, because he really wants it, this is something that he has always dreamt of I am sure and now the chance is here he will hope to grasp it with both hands – and I dare say the vast majority of England fans would rather see him step out onto the pitch, and others like him that will give it there all and be immensely proud to do so, ahead of the bigger names!

We need more ‘Bullard’s’ to be given a chance.

Theo Walcott is an exceptional talent – and I feel could be right up with the likes of Thierry Henry – but how can a fella that is not even able to command a regular place in his club side be selected for a national squad as often as he is, let alone be touted as a possible starter tomorrow?

David Beckham, as great a player as he has been for England, should no longer be a part of the international set-up. He got the much deserving 100th cap – and more – that if nothing else sentiment alone deserved but, again as much as I might not like the fella, you cannot tell me that David Bentley could not do the job that Beckham, who now appears a ‘specialist dead ball’ inclusion, does? I love Beckham, but the time has come for him to be moved on… The bonus with him though is that he has so much passion for his country, so he has the passion that seems to be lacking from others, but just does not have that required ability anymore!

Wayne Bridge is another who cannot command a regular place in the Chelski side yet he still gets in every squad – people like Nicky Shorey, who as we know we wanted before he went to Villa, and even Stephen Warnock at Blackburn might not be ‘as good as him’ – but at least they can play for their bloody club side every week, does that not count for anything anymore?

This ‘pick on past’, or ‘because they might be the best’ must stop, picking on merit – which I really hoped we would see a lot more of under Capello, but we have not – must return as if it does not then the pride and passion of playing for, and watching England will be lost even more and then the thoughts that Carragher shared will be thoughts that we will start to think more and more when we look at those performing. We will start thinking ‘do they really want to be out on the pitch as much as we want them to be, they should be, and even used to want to be’ more and more wont we? If we do then the more we do think this, the more public it will become and the more ‘acceptable’ it will also become, which will then be passed on and almost ‘accepted as the norm’ by the next generation of potential players, and if they grow up with this attitude it will see it stick and the pride of playing for your country will be lost forever more…


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