Premier League

Slightly Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Angry? Up In Arms? No!

George Caveney Goes Native…

On Saturday I joined millions of England fans in taking a trip to a pub to watch our opening fixture. The country pub, full of pink-faced blobby types and heavily made-up tattooed hags, had pulled us in with claims of an enormo-screen, but when we got there it was still in its bubble wrap, propped up against the wall in a tiny room where the half-tonne workhorse 30” Grundig’scathode ray oscilloscope was screaming wildly and the picture was more ‘erotic soft-focus’ than ‘be-there HD’.

It was too late to squeeze in anywhere else, but it actually turned out all right. It more than lived up to the game I witnessed, anyway, and Keegan’s quite delightful when you can’t see or hear him very well.

But then being cynical – so I’m pleasantly surprised more often – I wasn’t expecting much. Nor was I half as excited as maybe a month ago. Before we’d even arrived in SA I was bored to tears of seeing Vauxhall Astras hurtling about with flags on them, the tabloids turning idiocy and thinly-veiled racism up to eleven, and the rising quota of spikey boys in their England tops, shorts and flip-flops trudging petulantly into the park carrying their boxes of trainee lager. Why? Maybe I’m a miserable b*st*rd, I don’t know.

In one way it’s great to see such a level of support and camaraderie (if you can call sunstroke and punch-ups such a thing), and a festival-like gathering for the beautiful game. Other countries do it, but they just seem to party together, not just in huge numbers, and do it more cheerfully – and I find many aspects of our particular brand of support faintly embarrassing.

Anyway, that’s not my point. We drew in unconvincing fashion. We’ll live. We played like Manchester City have done for the last thirty years. I thought we were cagey and nervous and haven’t yet gelled. But I didn’t hurl beer, food or abuse at the TV or leave the pub to destroy property with tenuous connections with the USA afterwards. Here’s why:

Firstly, I’m not a monumental idiot. Secondly, it’s a TV – you can see and hear it, but it can’t see or hear you. Thirdly, and perhaps most crucially, it wasn’t a lot more or less than we could reasonably expect. Milner was clearly still ill. He didnlt seem to know where he was. Rooney wasn’t getting decent service or support, or playing that well himself. It was an odd, incongruous selection of great individual players struggling to communicate under the spotlight. So what’s new? Under such intense and frankly tedious scrutiny and hype courtesy of our beloved media, I think the team was just glad to be on the pitch, finding its feet against an unknown quantity. Over the top at last.

So why are we asking for Green’s head in a carrier bag and so readily and suddenly questioning our credentials for success? Because we’re England, is why. It’s what we do, and it’s sooooo predictable. I wouldn’t have played Green in the first match, but I’m not the England coach, so WTF? The major factors in our underachievement are over-expectation, en-masse truculence in not getting our way (especially, it seems, when we least deserve it) and a growing inability to take positives from, well… positives. We just don’t learn. We’re not the best fans in the world at all. We’re bitter, aggressive and spoilt, on the whole. Let’s not confuse that with passionate and supportive.

We’ll get out of the group, and then take our chances from there. By which time I believe Capello will have settled on fifteen players who will endure most of the minutes on the pitches of SA, and we will start showing what we’re actually capable of. So when mummy’s put the toys back in the pram, let’s stop crying like we had to do PE in our underpants, or just lost 10-0 to Malta. Let’s give ourselves at least half a chance before we throw the toys out again and puke up on our bibs in protest. Or smash bottles of our usually beloved Budweiser on the heads of anyone not shouting ‘INGURLUN!’.

Let’s trust others’ judgements, and believe and behave like adults. And enjoy the blessed tournament for what it is, whatever happens to England, for f**k’s sake.

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