So England’s Euro 2008 hopes could be smashed to smithereens in a few hours, if Russia manage to get a win over Israel this evening. After throwing away a 1-0 lead against Russia, courtesy of a splendid Rooney goal, England’s qualification hopes took a turn for the worst. The draw away to Israel and at home to Macedonia, as well as the loss to Croatia, have now appeared too costly for England, and their chances hang in the balance. For all their huffing and puffing, for all the talk of the “injustice” in last year’s World Cup against Portugal (“that bloody winker, if it wasn’t for him, Jules Rimet would have been ours!”), for all the players’ public support of McClaren, for all the fans booing the player they voted their Player of the Season for the second year running in 2005, England just don’t seem to have what it takes.
Now I know there are still plenty of United fans who follow England, cheer when Stevie “transfer request” Gerrard bags a goal, genuinely believe this penalty shoot out will be different from the others, stick the tacky England flags to their car, get involved time and again in the Lampard vs Gerrard debate, there is something which should set alarms bells ringing when it comes to England. If their fans burning effigies of our Beckham didn’t get to you, if the old Wembley crowd singing “If you hate Man United clap your hands” as England played on the pitch below didn’t get your blood boiling, or constant and repetitive under appreciation of United players wearing England’s shirt (“Neville is crap”, “Rooney is a thug/Shrek”, “Ferdinand is a druggie”, “Scholes was never as good as Lampard” etc.) doesn’t piss you off, then I don’t really know what England has to do to make you think twice about your whole hearted allegiance to the National Team.
Despite being begged several times to come back to represent his country, Scholes hasn’t gone back on his desire to retire from International football. Sven had the bright idea of playing Scholes on the left, leaving Gerrard and Lampard in their preferred positions, and in the end, this got all too much for Scholes, one of the most talented midfielders England has ever seen. “I decided to call it a day with England because it just wasn’t any fun any more,” said Scholes. “I don’t know why it became like that. I’d just stopped enjoying it. I like being at home as well there was an awful lot of time away from home and my family and for me there’s nowhere better than Manchester.”
I strongly believe United > England, but does this make me happy about the cloud of doom presently over England? No it doesn’t, for several reasons.
Firstly, we have several England internationals in our team, who all love playing for their country. Rooney boasts an “English and Proud” tattoo on his arm and works as tirelessly for his country as he does for his club. Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Rooney, Carrick, Brown, (Neville? Simpson?), would all be looking for call ups if England were to play in the tournament next summer, and it would be massively disappointing for them if they were to miss out on it, whilst their United team mates made the trip.
Secondly, I do enjoy watching England play when our lads are in the team. Whilst it’s enjoyable to watch Portugal and cheer on Ronnie, particularly if there are rival domestic fans around, there is something bred in to me that makes me want England to do well. I remember distinctly watching England go out in Euro 96 and being gutted. Growing up, I didn’t have the cynicism I have now, I suppose, and I haven’t rid myself of all my feelings of fondness towards England, yet. In more recent qualifiers, England started to play pretty decent football, and I enjoyed watching it. I must enjoy slagging off the likes of Lampard and Gerrard too, and both present me with plenty of opportunities to do so every match. I also enjoy the feeling of knowing that when one of ours scores, there are fans all over the country celebrating. Fancy that, a West Ham fan celebrating when a United player scores? Rooney smashed that goal in against Russia, and you know there were dippers, geordies, and cockneys alike, chanting “Rooney, Rooney” at the TV screen.
However, there would be upsides for United if England didn’t qualify. The lads who miss out will be gutted, of course, but they will have a restful summer, and should start the season for us fighting. They will have more of a point to prove, after facing endless ribbing from Ronaldo, Evra and the others over England’s failure. Also, inevitably, England would fuck up somehow, and as if by magic, the blame would land in the hands of United players. It wasn’t the fact England had played like shit throughout the last World Cup which was to blame for their exit, rather Ronaldo being one of five Portuguese players complaining to the ref. It wasn’t the fact three out of the four penalty takers missed which was to blame, rather Wayne Rooney for getting sent off in a game England didn’t even lose anyway. What story would Euro 2008 bring? How could United be blamed for England’s failure this time?
But essentially, yes, I do want England to go through, even though I can see their chances are extremely bleak presently. No matter how much I may gloat if England don’t make it, come next summer, I’ll wish this country was represented in the Euro’s, and I’ll wish our lads were in Austria playing football for their country, something they love to do. Whether I’ll get my wish or not, however, is a different matter, and the answer will be revealed within the next few hours.
What do you think? Do you want England to go through?