Stop crying over your cocoa

During the World Cup, there was talk that JT, Lamps and Ash - yes, I am on personal terms with them all, the bastards - may retire from playing for England for good. People were being horrid to them: no respect, calling them names, that sort of awful stuff.

I have a better idea. Now that it is all over, why not retire from football completely? You know you are not enjoying it, all that training, listening to stupid coaches, being shouted at by stupid fans, the stupid media just not understanding.

You are of the first generation of players who need never work again - who can live on the hog for another 60 years and still have millions to leave the kiddies. You are still so young, with so much to do, so why not get out now and tinker with the Ferrari full-time, shag all the Sheilas and buy up Dubai? You are only here once. Enjoy.

Apparently, when Rooney and Gerrard were moaning into their cocoa, crying round the campfire, having been made fools of by Algebra (or was it Slowmo?) - so long ago now I have forgotten which funny little countries gave us a hiding - they decided they would soldier on, give it another go, fight on for England and by George. Good on them. But my advice is to get out of here. Go abroad for the next four years.

A running theme in the 1,001 explanations trotted out so far for England being rubbish is that they are stupid, thick, backward, all brawn, no brains. We are talking football brains here, not intellect, for did not Lamps go to a public school and qualify as a brain surgeon? Does he not speak with excellent elocution?

It was on the pitch that they showed no ideas, no sense, no creative powers, no imagination, no awareness - as well as no touch and no ball control. But we know, or at least tell ourselves, that this was temporary, because we have seen them with their league clubs quite often pass
to team-mates and sometimes strike the ball vaguely towards those post things (you know, with the net, can't miss it really).

The new generation, we hope, will be better educated, as we are bound to fling billions into new wonder football academies. Or free schools, pinching Mr Gove's idea. Let fans set up football academies, as clearly the present lot of FA coaches haven't a bleedin' clue. In fact, when
I get back from Lakeland, I'll start my own. If Toby Young can get all that copy out of his free school nonsense, I should get a book at least.

In the meantime, our present so-called, er, world-class stars need a short, sharp course of re-education. Going to Italy or Spain would stimulate them intellectually and culturally, jolt them out of their comfort zone, remove them from their gated, insular, cosseted English life, where they have been worshipped and indulged for too long.

They will be forced to adapt and learn new ways. Most of all - they will have to think. About themselves, their team-mates, the meaning of football. The Beatles learned to be Beatles by going to Hamburg. James Joyce went to Paris and wrote about Dublin. Sometimes, you need to get away to realise where you're from. Bye bye.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 12 July 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Behind the mask