Feel good football & why realism isn’t always a good thing

Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the week’s football action and the stories making the headlines across the beautiful game.

International friendlies, particularly those including England, are generally terrible. The FA’s policy of seeking prestige friendlies means that England regularly come up against the best teams in exhibition games with no fire, little quality and next to no entertainment value. But as you’ll know, (unless you’ve been living under a rock since Saturday night), England pulled off a stunning victory in Berlin beating reigning champions Germany 3-2. It was a wonderful performance that finally gave England fans reason for optimism. However, almost as soon as the praise started to come in, so did the voices of reason trying to dampen this enthusiasm. But I say we enjoy the moment while it lasts. It’s all too easy to suggest that this is a false dawn for England, but even if the dawn is false there’s no reason not to bask in the sun. English football fans are having a heck of a time at the minute, and I say, why not enjoy it? Realism isn’t always a good thing. 

Saturday night’s performance was the most encouraging England have given in years. There were frailties, but even if England had lost this game, there would have been positives to take away. Roy Hodgson’s team played with a great energy, creativity and a genuine commitment that has so often been lacking. To find the reason, we need only look at the new faces in this England team. For years England have called on players almost exclusively from the ‘big four’ clubs of the Premier League. But, just as the Premier League has seen a power shift this season, the team that travelled to Germany was full of young, hungry players from clubs like Tottenham and Leicester. Just look at Dele Alli, the best player on the pitch in Berlin, nutmeg Emre Can, it was a thing of beauty -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ8taT38iyw

These weren’t players trying to avoid injury before they head back to their big clubs, but who were hungry to make an impression. These weren’t players who were used to coasting at the top of the table, these were players who have fought their way to the top. The way Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy acquitted themselves showed a passion that has been so lacking for England. For years England have had a big club syndrome, but this new “small club syndrome” seems to be suiting them rather well.

The England team in Germany rode a wave of what has been an incredible season for English football. Fans of the big four clubs may well disagree, but seeing Leicester, Tottenham and West Ham all sitting in the top six has added a level of excitement that the Premier League has missed for years. As the league has been static and predictable, the England team played with the same turgid predictability. But just as the Premier League table has been shaken up, the England team seems to have been as well, and long may it continue! We’ve been treated to an incredible Premier League season, and this positive momentum looks like it may just translate to the national side.

It has become almost cliché to point to high expectations for the England team as a contributing factor to their failure at major tournaments. But what good ever comes from realism? England’s management lowered expectations ahead of the World Cup in 2014, and the team played down to these expectations. When Eddie Jones took over the England Rugby team ahead of the Six Nations, he could have lowered expectations, it was his first tournament in charge and he had a young team. But he didn’t. His confidence was transferred to his players, and it came across in their play. Now, one suspects Roy Hodgson is never going to act like Eddie Jones, but as fans, why shouldn’t we be confident? We have a new exciting squad, players in form playing a key part in a great Premier League season, we just smashed qualifying and beat the World Champions. Maybe confidence is just what this team needs. If fans don’t believe in this new dawn for England, why on earth should they?

Now I’m fully aware, this optimism sets me up to fail. By the time you read this, England may have lost at home in their second friendly of the week against the Netherlands, casting us yet again in to a mood of national footballing depression. But really, who cares. Realism can be a good thing, but sometimes we deserve to get a little carried away. If you can’t celebrate after a comeback win in Germany after all, when can you. It’s a great time to be a football fan in England, so enjoy it while we can. So why not, here’s Dele Alli nutmegging Emre Can again, sit back and enjoy it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ8taT38iyw

Disagree? Do you think I’m getting too carried away about England? Get in touch by tweeting @hksports to make your views heard.

James Fenn

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search