There’s no corner of any foreign field that is at all England
Well that was a turn up. Before the game I was making a list of ten reasons why England are always rubbish. After their 1-0 over Spain, I was jumping in the air, dancing in the street, hugging the lamp posts. No, not quite - our street is up as they are putting in new pavements and everything is roped off.
What was strange about the post-match joy was that it was confined to a slight nod of the head, a small smile, a rueful grimace. And so I proceeded to change my thinking.
Five ways in which England are not rubbish:
1) Our second eleven, playing sensibly as a unit, aware of their limitations, beat the world champion's first eleven. Spain did want to win, hence all their panic and pace at the end.
2) Players I never considered Premiership level, more suited to League One, like Lescott and Jagielka, had surprisingly decent games, while Scott Parker proved he is a Prem player.
3) The new very young players like Phil Jones, Welbeck, Rodwell and Kyle Walker were confident and unfazed.
4) Perhaps this second eleven is better than our so-called first? John Terry has clearly had it, while Rio and Gerrard - long-established stars whom we fans have looked up to and depended upon, as have their teammates - are knackered for good.
Having old lags in the team can make it predictable. Perhaps Lescott and Jagielka played well because old J T was not there, bossing them around. They had to think for themselves. Rooney often unbalances the team because the others expect so much from him and pass to him when he is not necessarily in a better position. Parker could express himself, not having Rooney coming back to get in the way.
5) Capello is not the total idiot I have been telling myself for the past year. Next morning I calmed down, as reality returned.
Five reasons why we is still rubbish:
1) Spain should have stuffed us. They weren't really bothered till near the end, they missed chances and when they hit a post it bounced clear, whereas when England hit a post it landed on Lampard's head, six inches out. Our tortoise could have scored.
2) England are still thickos. OK, they defended sensibly for once and made no stupid mistakes at the back, but they constantly lumped the ball wildly up field hoping Darren Bent, all on his own, lurking somewhere near the North Circular,would somehow get it. The otherwise admirable Joe Hart also too often kicked it up in the air to nowhere instead of rolling it to a white shirt, preferably with a living body inside it.
3) England still rate tackling as a major skill - for which I blame the fans as much as the players. A crunching tackle, getting stuck in, still receives wild applause. Anticipating and intercepting a pass, not a body, is what counts.
4) Our coaching is clearly at fault – we go for big and burly not the small and clever; teaching speed and stamina not ball skills and passing.
5) Our home-grown players ARE rubbish. That's the way it is. Can't really be helped. No use blaming all these foreign johnnies coming over here, stealing our Premiership places, keeping our lads in the reserve. If there were any more good 'uns, they would come through, but we don't have them, not at the moment. If we did, at least one or two of our best players would be playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona, where
they can pay big money, or the top Italian teams, as they did in the past. I now can't think of one English player starring abroad - apart from Becks in the US and that is a different kettle of fishcakes.
Out of the 23 players just named by Fifa in its shortlist for its Ballon D'Or, only one is English. Yes, it's Rooney and he is world-class, but is he ever going to be voted World Player of the Year? No chance.
So on balance, which is it ? Are we still rubbish or did the Spain win give hope that the pendulum will swing? I think not. But I sense England's football fans have turned a corner. Realism has set in. We don't expect, don't get carried away, not any more. Which is good. It means the heartbreaks will be fewer.
More from New Statesman
- Online writers:
- Steven Baxter
- Rowenna Davis
- David Allen Green
- Mehdi Hasan
- Nelson Jones
- Gavin Kelly
- Helen Lewis
- Laurie Penny
- The V Spot
- Alex Hern
- Martha Gill
- Alan White
- Samira Shackle
- Alex Andreou
- Nicky Woolf in America
- Bim Adewunmi
- Kate Mossman on pop
- Ryan Gilbey on Film
- Martin Robbins
- Rafael Behr
- Eleanor Margolis