“Did you cheer, did you cheer, did you cheer when Beckham scored?” we would sing to opposition fans following David Beckham’s transformation from villain to hero in the eyes of England fans. After his sending off in the World Cup 1998 he was given an awful time in this country, with effigies of him being hung in London, his face at the centre of cut out dart boards in the tabloids and vile abuse from the stands.
Three years later, he scored a cracking injury time freekick against Greece which put England in to the next World Cup, much to the delight of the England faithful. The people who had tried to make his life a misery were now besotted with him, singing his name and proudly calling him their captain. Beckham is just one of many reds to be singled out by the Ingerlernd massive.
“Phil and I went straight out to have a look at the Wembley pitch and were greeted by a chorus of ‘Stand Up If You Hate Man U’,” said Gary Neville in 1998. “We’ve had this abuse before playing for England, but over the last year it’s got worse.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was one of five Portuguese players complaining to the referee in the 2006 World Cup just before Wayne Rooney was sent off. If Ronaldo was stood accused of stamping on Frank Lampard’s bollocks the country would have strung Rooney up if he didn’t join his England teammates in protest and instead opted to support his United pal. That didn’t matter to England fans though. The game finished 0-0 and three of the four England penalty takers missed, yet Ronaldo was the one to blame for their exit, according to the papers and the fans. His house was vandalised, his sister was harassed and it was his face now at the centre of the cut out dart board in the tabloids.
United players have received more England caps than players from any other club. David Beckham, Sir Bobby Charlton and Bryan Robson all feature in the top ten for England appearances and they all have played in three World Cups. Charlton is the all-time highest goalscorer and Wayne Rooney is in the top ten. Then you look at some of the players who have come through our youth system, like Gary Neville who has 85 caps, the most capped right back, Paul Scholes with 66, Phil Neville with 59, Nicky Butt with 39, Roger Byrne with 33, Wes Brown with 23, Tommy Taylor with 19 (scoring 16 goals) and Duncan Edwards with 18 (by the time he was 21), to name a few. Then we have the young ‘uns who are just starting their England careers, like Danny Welbeck with 4 and Tom Cleverley who has yet to make his debut, having been called up to the squad several times but then being ruled out through injury.
You would think with the contribution our club has made to the national team, you might get a bit of appreciation from England fans, but clearly that is too much to ask. It’s not just the fans that are ungrateful but the FA too.
“The FA may realise who has produced more players for their country than any club in the world,” Ferguson said at the start of this season after eight United players were called up to the England squad. “Maybe they will get some joy from it and realise how important we are to England instead of treating us like shit.”
Most recently, Rooney was banned for two games for breaking Law 12 which relates to “using offensive, insulting and/or abusive language”. Every single week in every single game players are guilty of breaking Law 12, telling the ref to “fuck off” or directing abusive language at their opponents, yet none of these are even shown a yellow card, let alone sent off, or banned for two games. Remember when Gerrard stuck two fingers up at Andre Marriner and told him to “fuck off” after he was booked for a scissor tackle from behind and received no punishment? Apparently it’s alright to tell the ref to “fuck off”, in full view of the cameras, clear for everyone to see what you said but it’s not OK to say “fuck off” to no one in full view of the cameras. Not if you’re a United player anyway.
Remember when Rio Ferdinand got banned for eight months and fined £50,000 for missing a drugs test in the same year Manchester City’s Christian Negouai was fined £2,000 and received no ban for missing a drugs test? It was later revealed that 240 drugs tests were “abandoned” between 2007 and 2010 yet none of these resulted in bans.
Remember when Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were sent off in the pre-season Amsterdam Tournament and the FA banned them for three Premier League games as a result? Steven Gerrard and Neil Mellor were sent off for Liverpool in the same tournament three years earlier and received no punishment from the FA. Then in 2010 Patrick Vieira was shown a straight red card in a pre-season friendly for City and also received no punishment. “If a player gets a red card in a friendly he gets a ban for his next friendly, not for competitive matches,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
It’s one rule for United and a different rule for everyone else when it comes to the FA dishing out punishments.
“I think sometimes there is an unfair focus on United on disciplinary issues,” Ferguson said last summer. “It will always be there and I think we know that. They’ve always found a way to treat us differently. It has been happening for a while now and they always seem to find a way to do us when, with others, it’s seemingly forgotten.”
It’s not just the fans and the FA though, it is the players who you are supposed to support, yet when they come to Old Trafford with their clubs get loads of stick from our fans. I’ve never understood the ability of an England fan to hate a player on a weekly basis, only to cheer their goals and chant their names when they pull on that white jersey. John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Stuart Downing, Gareth Barry etc. How do you get enthusiastic about these players? As an England fan, do you really feel as though this lot represent you? You’re happy to see Terry put in a crunching challenge or Lampard score a deflected goal?
Between the fans, the FA and the players, it is easy to feel resentment towards England, or at the least, a lack of interest or disconnection. Whilst some United fans might like to shun England because they think that some “top red” status comes with it, it comes naturally to plenty of reds to be apathetic towards the national team. When you have a team like United to support, it’s easy to find your football saturation with them alone. Who needs to get all worked up about the prospects of England getting knocked out again in the quarter-finals when you watch United players never give in and lift trophies?
“‘He plays on the left, he plays on the right, that boy Ronaldo makes England look shite’,” Ian Brown said in 2009 when asked about his favourite United chant. “That’s what I love about United: we’re the Republic of Mancunia, no one gives a fuck about England. My next favourite would be ‘You can stick yer fucking England up yer arse”, which we sing to Chelsea and the London clubs. I love that.”
The Euros are upon us though and an International tournament is always a nice way to pass the time until you can get your fix from watching United at 2am when they play some dross team from the USA in the pre-season. United fans who do get a kick out of England will be relieved that at least Terry won’t be donning the captain’s armband as he beats his shirtless chest following a spirited England draw but in terms of excitement and hype, people have finally seemingly caught on to the fact that the national team just isn’t that good and doesn’t really stand much of a chance.
A manager that nobody really wanted, no permanent captain and no performances to suggest England have what it takes to match the better teams in Europe, yet we have a few United players in the squad. Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck are all going to Euro 2012.
Does this change things? After spending all season calling Terry all the names under the sun following the allegations of racism, will you cheer when he scores if it’s Young who delivers the corner? Will you be happy to see Lampard bury a penalty if it’s Welbeck that’s won it? Will you get emotional when you see captain Steven Gerrard singing the national anthem? Will it make you proud to see the DJ battering scouse twat donning the armband of your country’s team?
Terry has been charged after seemingly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and has a court case to attend after the international tournament. Instead of leave him out of the team, Roy Hodgson has gone with Terry, and bizarrely claimed that his contribution to Chelsea’s place in the Champions League final helped sway his decision, despite the fact Terry’s idiocy at the Nou Camp very nearly cost Chelsea their place.
“I selected John Terry for footballing reasons and I left out Rio Ferdinand for footballing reasons,” said Hodgson. “I think Terry’s played well, I think he played an important part in Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory, an important part in their reaching the Champions League final and so therefore I selected him because I think he’s the man for job. I’m hoping and believing that he will help us win matches.”
In big games this season, Terry has made dreadful, costly mistakes, namely against Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona, as Chelsea finished a massive 25 points behind United. In contrast, Rio has been Mr Reliable and has put his injury worries behind him, playing 38 games in all competitions. How can Hodgson seriously expect us to believe “footballing reasons” have kept Rio out? Sol Campbell doesn’t buy it and thinks the issue between Terry and Anton is the reason behind Rio’s omission.
“I think it did play a small, or a big part in it,” he said, “because, you know, you’re away for four to six weeks together, Hodgson’s probably saying: ‘Maybe something might happen at the camp. Who knows? But you can’t say [for] football reasons, Rio Ferdinand shouldn’t be going. Because he’s experienced, he knows how to play football, an excellent defender, he’s done fantastic for his club and country, especially in the last, say three months. I can’t believe it. He’s played the last 10, 12 games for Manchester United, he’s played excellent, he’s fit as a fiddle. You need the most experienced players at the tournament. He knows his way around all these tournaments. You need people like that. You need characters like that. When it comes to those tough games, and you need that experience, you’re not going to have it.”
It’s not just Rio who England are taking the piss out of either. The manager thinks Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Scott Parker and Jordan Henderson are all more worthy of a place in his team than Michael Carrick. Our midfielder asked not to be considered if he was just going to be a “bit part” player. Clearly Hodgson doesn’t see Carrick as anything better than a bit part player then. Is this a manager you can have any time for? What an utterly unfathomable decision.
From a United perspective, of course I’ll be happier to see the likes of Rio and Carrick well rested for the start of our season, but I’m disappointed on their behalf, given they are more deserving of a place in the team than plenty of the players selected. It’s frustrating to see our players under appreciated.
However, win, lose or draw, England’s performances in the Euros matter little to me. I can’t pretend I won’t be happy if Terry slips and England’s opponents score. I can’t pretend I won’t laugh if Lampard misses a penalty. It would be nice to get behind the national team and I have no issues with people that do, it’s just not for me.
I’ll just be hoping the United lads manage to do themselves justice, come home injury free and are hungry as ever to lift the trophy that really matters next May.
I’ll leave you with a few words from Scholes on his decision to retire from the national team: “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.” Hear, hear.
This is an edited article of one which written by Scott and appeared in this month’s Red News.