I am Scottish – and I won’t be supporting you at the World Cup. I will be supporting Algeria, the USA, and Slovakia. Or maybe Slovenia – I can’t remember which one is in your group.
To some of my many English friends, I have given the following justification with a semi-straight face:
(1) Majid Bougherra is a Rangers player, I am a Rangers supporter, and he plays for Algeria
(2) Mrs Williamson is American, I lived in New York for many years, and I intend to return to live there again
(3) I play football with a Slovakian
(4) If you’re playing Slovenia, well, I went there once and I really liked it.
But these aren’t the real reasons, and they don’t explain why, when Cameroon took the lead against you at the World Cup in 1990, I jumped off my chair and bounced up and down in a living room in Enfield in a room full of people I’d just met, half of whom were English.
No, the real reasons are many and complex: I will give you a brief explanation of my top six. It’s very hard to put them in priority order, so I won’t.
YOUR 1966 FIXATION
You gained an unfair advantage (one that has never been allowed since) because you played all your games at the venue of the final. And we all know it wasn’t over the line. And some tea leaf stole the trophy – how embarrassing is that? So if I were you I’d shut up about the whole thing.
YOUR JOHN MOTSON
But he doesn’t, does he? Any excuse to mention it. “And the Argentinian captain has been sent off – just like 1966!” “And Brazil have crashed out – just like 1966!” “And it’s a bit cloudy – just like 1966!” Prediction: “Can the plucky North Koreans repeat their heroics of 1966?” I know, Motty’s retired now, but he’ll be thinking it.
But 1966 is one of my lesser beefs with Motty, because that one’s so obvious it’s a national joke outside your green and pleasant national borders. No, my bigger beef is his complete inability to be remotely objective when talking about an England game, an English team playing foreign opposition, or an English player involved in a game between two foreign teams.
The voice goes a bit higher, the tempo a bit faster, the closer the ball gets to the foreign goal or the England star of the moment (currently Rooney). Incredulity is expressed when yet again the English defense cocks up, or an English team is outplayed. It’s been happening for most of the last century so why does he always seem so surprised?
YOUR TABLOID PRESS
I’m far from in love with ours, but yours is a thousand generations less evolved, and if you had any sense you would launch a national boycott of the Sun, Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and News of the World. And the Express, Mail, and Mail on Sunday, because they’re as low as any of them, though they pretend to be middlebrow.
Taylor’s turnip-head graphic might have been deserved but remember before that how they drove your best and most successful manager since Ramsey – Bobby Robson – out of the job? And then there was the “fake Sheikh” nonsense with Sven Goran-Eriksson – pointless, stupid, and not even that interesting. More recently, you have the Mail on Sunday sting on 2018 bid chairman Lord Triesman – possibly killing your country’s World Cup hosting chances for another decade. Well done!
Why do you put up with it? They say you get the luck you deserve – I think you have the press you deserve, because you keep paying people to feed you this shit. At least Gary Lineker has shown some backbone and withdrawn his services from the Mail on Sunday. If I were you, I’d organise a boycott.
YOUR PEOPLE WHO THINK THE EPL IS ENGLISH FOOTBALL
It’s not. It’s also not “the best league in the world”, but many of you seem to think it is – possibly because your tabloid press tell you so – and therefore you think England should have the best national team in the world.
The best players in the EPL are imports, but the sad thing is so are many of the worst. This means your young players don’t get the chances they should. Yes, I know you have your Rooneys and your Rodwells – but they are getting fewer and further apart. Trust me – we had this situation in Scotland in the late 90s and look how that’s worked out for us.
Who’s likely to be your starting goalkeeper in South Africa? David James – a middle-aged man who was never that good in his prime. Not like the 1980’s when you had Shilton and Clemence to pick from. And who’s your matchwinner if Rooney is injured or suspended? You don’t have one, do you? How’s the wonderkid from 2006 coming along, Walcott? Will he make the final squad? You need to sort this out.
YOUR LAGER LOUTS
In the 80’s and 90’s you made it easy for us. Every trip to Luxembourg or Dublin or Rome or Zurich provided hours of film of hooligans getting lagered up and running amok, destroying cars and shops and cafes. Occasionally even getting in a proper fight.
But recently you’ve smartened up a bit – congratulations. I am genuinely glad you’ve wised up, but even a non-hooligan English mob is still an English mob and that means God Save The Queen, ‘Johnny Foreigner’ xenophobia, lager, piss, and general boorishness.
Yes, the Tartan Army can be described as a bunch of drunk twats as well (and they are by several of my Rangers-supporting friends), but at least we have a sense of humour about ourselves. Yours hasn’t developed yet. I hope it does.
YOUR UNJUSTIFIED ARROGANCE
You need a sense of humor to deal with losing, which brings me to my next point: you don’t think you will.
Everything that makes me want you to lose can be summed up in one word, and that word is arrogance. Definition: “Having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.”
I think it was after the draw for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, in December 2007, when John Terry – or one of your other fearless bulldogs – stated that he thought England could “go all the way” in South Africa. The sheer hubris of this statement blew my mind. Your team had just failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships, having been outperformed by Croatia and Russia. You would think a little humility would be in order, but no – not just “we think we have a good shot at qualifying”, “we’d like to make up for the poor results we’ve just had” – no, boldly predicting a repeat of 1966!
But footballers say dumb things all the time. The thing that really kills me about this is that the guy interviewing him didn’t look him straight in the eye and ask the simple question I want to ask: “Are you fucking serious?”
But he didn’t ask that, because you’re all in on it, and you all think you can maybe, just maybe, win in South Africa. I’m here to tell you: you can’t. You won’t. Maybe sometime, but not this year, and not in four years time – in fact, not until you take a serious reality check on how good you are. Sort out your psychological issues – there is no more Empire – and then one day you will have a chance.
So, England, I am sorry. Until you develop a sense of humility, and stop banging on about 1966, and clamp down on your boorish travelling majority, and stop buying your shameful tabloid rags, I will be supporting Algeria, the USA, Slovenia, Slovakia, Argentina, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Argentina again, Romania, Brazil, Portugal, Portugal again, Croatia, and whoever it is that sends you home from South Africa (To think again? Probably not). In short: I will be supporting Anyone But England.