Three months on from the European Champions and that inevitable expectation of victory sweeps the nation once again.
England captain, Steven Gerrard says we can win the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Why shouldn’t he believe this? He was part of a Liverpool side who defied all of the odds to win a Champions League. He knows miracles can happen.
England open their World Cup qualifying campaign with an away trip to Moldova which many believe will be a stroll in the park. To be fair, looking at our previous qualifying campaigns – who can blame fans and media types in thinking a comfortable 3-0 victory is on the horizon; after all, we didn’t lose a competitive game leading up to Euro 2012 – and whilst at the competition, gave a fairly decent account of ourselves.
Expectation is usually swiftly followed by disappointment – especially when it comes to the current crop of England stars.
Dubbed the “golden generation” by many; players such as Terry, Gerrard, Cole, Lampard and Rooney have failed to do on the international stage what they do week in, week out for their clubs.
It is not only domestic success achieved by many of this England squad, but European dominance too.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have all been Champions League winners in previous years – not to mention Fulham, Arsenal and Tottenham all giving good accounts of themselves elsewhere in Europe.
So, what is it that makes the England national side fail time and time again?
The first major tournament I can remember England competing in was Euro 92, which ended in disappointment. Surely, at the tender age of seven years old, a seemingly life shattering defeat in this tournament – when such standards were set in World Cup Italia 90 – should have taught me a valuable life lesson in pain and given me an understanding that England simply “aren’t all that”.
The next major tournament England competed in was Euro 96. On our home soil, with a rampant Gazza, Sheringham and Shearer, we thoroughly deserved to win this trophy. England played teams off the park. Attractive, attacking football at its best; the three lions beat some real classy sides such as Holland and Spain. We may have struggled at times, but all in all, the trophy had our name on it from day one. We all know how this eventually turned out.
For me, Euro 96 is the reason my generation expect England to do well. After that semi-final defeat, how many of us (now between the age of 23-40) assumed we were strong enough to go on and win the next major tournament? At 11 years old, I certainly did.
Poor refereeing against Argentina. Penalty shoot out defeats against Portugal and Italy. An unexpected goalkeeping error against Brazil. This list of bad fortune is endless.
Excuses, yes? Justified, I believe so. We were unlucky in places. We were also very hard done by. The fundamental truth in all of this is that we were never good enough to change our own fortunes.
I believe it is time for these golden boys to move aside and take the expectation of the nation with them. Let the new breed of “average” footballers have a go.
Jack Rodwell, Alex Oxlade Chamberlaine, Gary Cahill – these are not names to strike fear through teams. If anything, I imagine most of tonight’s opposition will not have heard much about these guys; but what this will do is minimise pressure on the squad.
Media scrutiny will claim; fans will give you 40 minutes before getting on your back, rather than 15 minutes.
My expectation has now hit a new low with this England side. I no longer believe we are capable of winning any major trophy in my lifetime. Too many times we have been let down. Should we blame ourselves? Did we rule with our hearts rather than our heads?
The plus side in this new found lack of confidence in England is the players can now relax. They can enjoy their game and they can play with a freedom which hasn’t been there since 1996.
Three lions on a shirt, Jules Rimet still gleaming… How many years of hurt?
To respond to any of the above directly, you can find me on Twitter @NathonW