England have now qualified for Euro 2016 with relative ease, something that most fans, the FA and the whole England team expected. During this qualification process, England have gone unbeaten and Rooney has become England’s top ever goal scorer.
There is an unease though deep inside the subconscious England fans mind of “Ok we qualified now what, we go to France and get knocked out at the group stage”. Will Euro 2016 just be another tournament to add to the disappointed, I as much as anyone hopes not.
Eight years earlier the England national side was in a very different place, England had just lost to Croatia in a crucial game which meant England would not be at Euro 2008. The national team’s confidence was in tatters and most of all Steve McClaren had just embarrassed himself in front of the whole world with his brolly. The French, Spanish, Italians and Germans were all more than likely laughing at us. The mother country of football was not even heading to a major tournament. England of course had not made it to major tournaments in the past but then again they were great England teams. When we didn’t make it to Euro 2008 it was the biggest embarrassment of the lot.
The Golden Generation wasn’t quite dead but it was coming towards it’s sell by date. McClaren was sacked with immediate effect and he became the shortest ever permanent England manager. A sixteen month spell in charge that had just gone from bad to worse to just downright ugly. The nation had no confidence in our football team anymore. The promise land of the Premiership was hardly churning out England stars and the only way around this catastrophe now was to bring in experience.
Within months the FA had to find the right man for the job, unfortunately the FA haven’t been the greatest at picking England mangers. The only relative success been Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Alf Ramsey and Terry Venables.
Eriksson, Keegan, Hoddle, Taylor and McClaren had all failed in either spectacular style or disgrace. What the FA wanted now is a man that could command respect, a big name a name that would signal success.
With that in mind the FA appointed Italian maestro Fabio Capello, the self-made manager had won just about everything in the game and conquered Italy numerous times mainly with Millan.
Sepp Blatter even weighed in on the subject citing: “I would say it is a little surprising that the motherland of football has ignored a sacrosanct law or belief that the national team manager should be from the same country as the players”. However most people in England realise that Blatter doesn’t like England nor does he take our FA seriously. You just have to look at our bid for the last World Cup to know that Blatter doesn’t take us seriously. It also seems to be that he doesn’t like the English press either. Anyway the rant on Blatter is for another day back to England’s successful 2010 qualification.
While Capello was not practicing his English something that he didn’t grasp while in charge of England. He did have a good qualification process to 2010 winning all but one of his games. The team looked confident and upbeat a 5-1 win over Croatia assured their place at South Africa 2010 World Cup.
There was an underlying problem though and it would be one that effected Capello’s time at England, the captaincy. After giving the captaincy to a few of the senior players, he finally selected John Terry as his captain. The Chelsea central defender and captain was the correct choice at the time. Although there were some players who had played longer for England such as Gerrard and Lampard and even Rio Ferdinand it was Terry who was picked.
Just before the 2010 world cup revelations about Terry’s private life became public and so Capello stripped Terry of the captaincy placing Rio Ferdinand in charge. At the 2010 world cup, stand in Captain Steven Gerrard would play a pivotal role in the media as he tried to calm the uneasy tension between press and manager.
2010 was a disaster really, the England team were placed in the mountains of South Africa, and this was because Capello was nervous about the media attention on the team. However it did the complete opposite it left the team feeling isolated the media frustrated and the fans bored. A World Cup is supposed to be enjoyed, England didn’t go to South Africa for a World Cup they went for Capello boot camp.
An opening World Cup draw game for England against the USA didn’t exactly help matters but it got far worse. To draw with Algeria was bad enough to not even score was a disgrace. The team needed to beat Slovenia, thankfully England came up with a good enough performance and entered the knock out stage.
Now if you’re an England fan you’re used to your country losing on penalties or losing because of shocking tactics or losing because the manager is holding an umbrella. What you aren’t used to is being haunted by a goal that Germans hate us for. Not many England fans will remember the final in 1966 never mind being there, however when your team scores a dubious goal you don’t much care. England did that in 66 and Germany did it to England in 2010. Frank Lampard scored a perfectly good goal in Bloemfontein, the ball didn’t just cross the line it was miles over it. The argument for goal-line technology had reached its climax, Blatter and his merry men couldn’t deny the game needed it this time. Although England had a perfectly good goal disallowed, the Germans thumped England 4-1. They out passed us, out ran us, out thought us, out scored us and, out fought us. Capello sat in Bloemfontein with his head in his hands, the Italian hadn’t brought any hope he hadn’t done us English much good. He left South Africa a defeated man. Capello had been in some of the toughest jobs in the world Real Madrid, Milan, Juventus but none had pushed him to the edge as much as the England job.
Capello eventually resigned after many discussions, he resigned over his pride and stubbornness. The reason you may ask or remember is because of his choice of captain. Yes John Terry had not only let himself down his manager down but his country. After accusations of Terry racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Terry left the England team disgraced and Capello left England a defeated man. Most managers when coming into the England job like to embrace the nation’s feelings, with Capello it was the other way around. The nation fell to its knees over him, the fans the press, the media had gone loopy over the appointment of Capello. What was special about him? Very few asked. There’s no questioning Capello’s record none at all, but you have to be a special person at the right time to harness the England manager’s job. Many England fans didn’t like the fact that in his press conferences he spoke little or poor English. You might ask what has that got to do with winning football matches. The point is that the nation quickly found out Capello and Capello didn’t realise that.
After Capello resigned, where did the FA look next? They had tried the foreign route and that had not worked with Sven, they had gone back to their English roots with McClaren that was a disaster and they’d gone for a big name in Capello.
There were two men in the frame for the top job in England, Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson. On one hand you had the boring and safe choice in Hodgson and on the other a maverick a rough diamond in Redknapp.
Harry Redknapp was the modern day Brian Clough as far as the fans choice for who to get the England job. Clough had been dubbed the best manager that England never had, the FA wouldn’t make the same mistake surly?
Redknapp wasn’t perfect but he was the People’s choice, Redknapp wasn’t boring unlike Roy. The only difference between the two was that Roy had done ok abroad and done a very good job with the Swiss national team. Redknapp on the other hand had very little experience on the international stage.
The FA went for the safe option and what can only be seen as the boring option in Roy Hodgson. England had already gone through Euro 2012 qualification and secured their place at the tournament. Roy had only six weeks before the first game to get his team selected his tactics perfected and to pray that no one got injured. England reached the quarter final stage before being knocked out on that dreaded lottery the penalty shootout.
The World Cup in Brazil was the much more realistic target for Roy, many of the old guard now gone, the Golden Generation was virtually dead. Gerrard and Rooney been the last two to play through a major tournament for England. Gerrard not wanting to end on 2010 or 2012 he wanted a better World Cup this time around.
With England though there is only one group that have tasted success or bitter success in terms of 1990.
Hodgson named Gerrard his captain, and it was the first time Gerrard had been named the permanent captain of England and not just replaced a disgraced player or injured one. Gerrard captained England through 2012 and again in 2014.
He and the rest of the England team were the first since 1958 to be knocked out of a World Cup group stage and to lose two group stage matches. England lost against Italy and Uruguay. The three lions came back to England not disgraced not even with real disappointment as to many England fans it just wasn’t a surprise anymore.
Gerrard retired from England duty racking up 114 appearances only one behind Beckham and only eleven behind the all-time appearance record holder Peter Shilton. Gerrard scored 21 times for England most of his goals been spectacular from long ranges.
The Golden Generation was dead, only Rooney survives and even he is coming to the end in terms of major tournaments.
You have to ask yourself where does the Golden Generation go in terms of glory, honour, and spirit. I have watched England for over a decade now and seen many poor players come and go. I’ve seen many greats step on to the field of play and dazzle with their multi-coloured boots. However for as long as I live and many other England fans live, there is one thing that will stick in my mind. The hope and greatness that one set of people brought and then that same set of players take us to the depths of disappointment. Yes there have been highs but there have been so many lows, the Golden Generation of England will go down in legend it may be repeated. I fear it won’t be though, football is steering its way into a world of unpredictability and financial collapse. A world where fans don’t matter, players are richer and clubs are taken out of their respective communities. England may have a substandard football team in a few decades time, fans need to take control before it’s too late.