After being totally outclassed and taken apart by a rampant German team this afternoon, England are now out of the World Cup. It’s a defeat that’s left us with all the usual images: town squares up and down the country littered with broken, tearful men in fancy dress, being comforted by other men coated in sweat-streaked face paint. It’d be tragic if it wasn’t such a familiar sight following the disappointing conclusions to every major football tournament England’s been involved in over the last 44 years.
Anyway, I just wanted to suggest something.
Next time – presuming there is a next time – do you think the build up to England’s matches could be a little more low key? I mean, do we really need rousing filmic montages on ITV and the BBC, which look like something the late Don Simpson might have conceived at the moment of a cocaine-fuelled orgasm? Pounding orchestral soundtracks, ethereal choral voices, and high-speed film of the England players looking sweaty and determined, as their skin ripples with the impact of every tackle. Isn’t it all a little bit much?
We’re not far from montages showing the England team riding around the pitch on lions, as their St George’s Cross-branded big cats feast on the twitching cadaver of an opposing player. And when an England player hits the ball into the net, it causes an explosion that lays waste to vast swathes of the opposing side’s fans. (Cue slow-motion shots of England celebrations, as a Chinook helicopter lifts the team out of the inferno now taking hold of the stadium.)
But in reality, ‘England: The Movie’ was the ultimate damp squib.
And there was also Brian Blessed’s battle cry (shown on the BBC). Don’t get me wrong, I like Brian Blessed. But hearing him bellowing Henry V’s “Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” just didn’t inspire me like perhaps it should. It sounded the kind of impassioned speech you could imagine echoing down the corridors of a psychiatric hospital, as you make your way to visit an old thespian uncle who’s been sectioned.
This England team didn’t deserve the ridiculous hype that was spun around it. Had they played like world-beaters from the start of the competition, putting in confident, high-scoring and technically proficient performances, then, yes, build them up. The stage is theirs. But given that the only gear they managed to find was ‘hungover pub team on Hackney Marshes’, the hype was somewhat misplaced.
For most of the competition the players seemed bewildered and slightly confused to be playing at the World Cup in South Africa. Do you remember that Derren Brown stunt on his Trick or Treat series, when he hypnotised a bloke inside a photo booth and transported him to Marrakesh while he was unconscious? Well, I suspect something similar happened to the entire England squad. The last thing the players probably remember was activating the air-con in their Bentley’s and Aston Martin’s, a strange gas emanating from the vents, then waking up to the sound of 50,000 vuvuzelas. Explains a lot.
So, yeah, next time let’s just go about our footballing business quietly, without the ridiculously overblown and dramatic England VTs. Let’s have no more ‘England Expects’ headlines in tabloid newspapers, with Steven Gerrard and a gurning Wayne Rooney wrapped in the St George’s flag or arm wrestling a lion. (Unless, of course, England expects crushing disappointment.) And let’s have no more ‘It’s War!‘ headlines the next time we have to face Germany. Sure, let’s shout for our team and get behind them. But let’s do it like the humble footballing nation we’ve shown ourselves to be.