I’ve never quite come to terms with the sheer volume of words written and spoken about football. Every four years this comes to a head with the World Cup, and 2010 is no exception. After a pretty impressive qualification, the English media have hyped themselves and us into a near-frenzy of hyperbole, speculation and inflated expectations. At times it feels like we’re supporting the Brazil team from 1970 (er, not even close), and that BBC, ITV and Sky (not to mention the print journalists) are going to implode under the weight and sheer tenuousness of their own punditry.
For in this age of rolling news, where Twitter often makes the News and indeed in the harshness of its trending topics decides what is Old News, everyone has to have some new angle on Wayne Rooney’s darts ability or Fabio Capello’s Birthday Cake. And in the quest for something, anything new to say, they will regurgitate anything that could be transformed into a headline, however fleeting, however fragile. Never has so much been said by so many about so little.
This article kind of sums it up – trying to have a viewpoint on everything, but actually saying almost nothing. Notice the refrains “many people believe…”, “there are reports that…”, which only point out that the article barely even contains any personal opinions or ideas. That would be too brave. Adding to the plethora of words already written, I started a Reckon culled from a couple of yesterday’s articles on the BBC website. But then I got distracted by something altogether more inspiring…
Phil McNulty wrote about John Terry’s press conference – which at the time looked almost official, but even now already looks like an ex-captain trying to reassert his own ego. Apparently the main problem the England players have is they’re bored. Indeed, on Radio 5Live yesterday, Robbie Savage commented that ‘being on international duty is just about the most boring thing you can do’. I know this is just too easy, but WHAT…?!
BORED? More bored than driving a bus every day, or collecting people’s rubbish, or stacking shelves, or fitting tyres, or any of the countless other jobs which England football fans perform every day, to save up their money to subscribe to SKY or even travel to watch England play thousands of miles away. Hmmmm…
Or is it the FEAR, the pressure? Capello talked about that. Well I’m sorry, but World Class performers in any field only get to be World Class because they deal with the pressure. Usain Bolt shattered records at the Beijing Olympics. At the next major championships, he did it again.
And then he did it again.
Listen to Steve Cram (remember he set three world records in a month in 1985) and his amazement, his respect. Now watch Michael Johnson, one of the great athletes of all time, react to the 100m final.
Has anyone, let alone anyone who can even approach the stature of Michael Johnson, been stunned into awe-struck silence by anything from England’s football team in recent months? When has anyone exclaimed the equivalent of Steve Cram’s incredulous “19.2 … you’ve got to be kidding me!?”
England’s football team are in a different plane to Usain Bolt. I’m not normally a fan of Alan Shearer’s (ahem) punditry, but within this BBC article he tells it straight. England have been poor technically and mentally. They don’t seem up for it. Towards the end of the Algeria match, Steven Gerrard took a corner, a dead-ball, unchallenged set-piece. It was obvious that the Algerian ‘keeper was a bit suspect under curling crosses, but Gerrard’s corner hit the first defender on the knee and bounced away to safety. Gerrard’s attitude, technique and application were unacceptably poor. Imagine if Dan Carter of the NZ All Blacks or Johnny Wilkinson took a conversion and the ball barely got off the ground. Well, you’ll have to imagine it because it never happens.
Football can be a beautiful game. But at the moment, England don’t seen to have the desire or ability to perform. World-class, don’t make me laugh.