The football fan that has confused me more than any other is the England fan who will sing Wayne Rooney’s name when they’re at Wembley, yet will come to Old Trafford the following week and chant “you fat bastard!” whenever he’s on the ball.
How does the England fan do it? Passionately support a team that is full of players on a weekly basis they despise. I look at the current England team and in the starting XI see Ashley Cole, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and I’ve got to think, how could I ever want a team with those players in to win? How could I ever cheer upon seeing Lampard getting a deflected goal off two players after scuffing his shot? I couldn’t do it.
This seems to be an attitude of many fans in our country, United fans or otherwise. They don’t want their players going off to play for their country, whether it is England or anyone else, for fear they will return to the club with an injury.
Slaven Bilic believes this is a problem, but is it really?
In Tony O’Neill’s book, he writes: The England scene has never been one that got me going, for one reason: being a United fanatic, the passion for my team consumed everything in me. No way could I get passionate about watching anyone else, not even my national team. United has consumed my life, so trying to watch and sing along with any other fans does nothing for me. All my excitement is with United, from getting up in the morning on a match day to going to bed. I still can’t get my head round how people can switch, you support your team from childhood until death, that’s how it should be.
Spot on. How do you have room inside you for more than one team? When you are utterly consumed by one club, how can you possibly find it in you to cheer on another team too? Not just any other team, but a team full of players you boo and jeer when they come to your ground.
Jamie Carragher revealed a similar attitude to the national team in his autobiography, which was met with a lot of scorn.
Sitting on the England coach as it prepared to drive us away from the World Cup in Germany, I received a text message. “F*** it! It’s only England”. I’d just missed a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out against Portugal. Around me were the tear-stained faces of under-performing superstars.There’s no such concept as ‘only England’ to most footballers, including many of my best friends. Representing your country is the ultimate honour, especially in the World Cup. Not to me.
Despite this, whenever I returned home from disappointing England experiences one unshakeable, overriding thought pushed itself to the forefront of my mind, no matter how much the rest of the nation mourned. “At least it wasn’t Liverpool,” I’d repeat to myself, over and over.
The text messages of consolation I received on the coach included one from Kenny Dalglish. “I would rather miss for England than LFC,” I wrote back. I confess: defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club.
Apart from all that nonsense about Liverpool (which really exposes Carragher’s lack of feeling for England, considering he was an Everton fan less than ten years ago!), he is speaking the truth.
Slaven Bilic, who has ruled himself out of taking the West Ham job this week, believes that England have a serious problem though. Ahead of England’s match against Croatia, Bilic has singled out Owen Hargreaves as a player treating club as more important than his country.
“When your league and clubs are much bigger than the national team you have a problem,” said Bilic. “You can’t help the national team. Put it this way — did Gerrard have to go have the operation now? Is Hargreaves really so injured that he can’t even come to try? I never had a problem with a club that told me, ‘he ain’t gonna come’. But using the international break to rest players or for them to have an operation, well you need to address that.”
Tell that to the Chelsea fans who will be without Essien for six months! I’d be livid if any of our lot got crocked whilst playing for their country when we’re the ones paying their wages and devloping them as players on a daily basis. So if Hargreaves missing the England game and is available for us to play against Liverpool and Chelsea, then I’ll be made up. If we can organise the same deal for Rio, then even better! Sorry Slaven, but that’s just the way it is.