We’re close enough to the English psyche to intimately understand their hopes and fears ahead of a tournament like the World Cup, but the M74 provides enough space for those of us based within a short distance of Celtic Park to have the kind of perspective that’s not possible for most fans immersed in the moment.
For long enough, England, along with Spain and France, were the perennial underachievers of European international football, which was dominated by “skilful” Italians and “efficient” Germans, while even the Dutch and Czechs have managed vastly more major final appearances than England.
France, then Spain, got the monkey off their backs, but England still relive their regular tournament nightmare, although this time it looks likely they will bow out before troubling any of their players in a penalty kick competition.
So cut England open and what bleeds out? After the game last night Danny Murphy on BBC Radio 5Live tried to offer objective resistance to the idea that England lacked passion from a tidal wave of calls, asking “Where is the Terry Butcher with a blood soaked bandage around his head?”, “Where is the crying Gascoigne?”
Fans often confuse sporting defeat with a lack of will to win. This notion was expressed last August when Celtic lost to Shakhter Karagandy, aided and abetted by an ITV commentator who proposed the notion during live broadcast. I’m pretty sure upwards of 95% of us have played the game at some level, but time seems to remove the memories of what it’s like to be losing in a team sport, and importantly, just how difficult it can be to reverse momentum.
Suggesting professional footballers don’t try during some of the most important games of their season is an embarrassing failure to think from another’s perspective.
Listening to the radio last night and again this morning, there was no dispute to the claim that what England needed was a manager who could lose his temper in the dressing room.
Even Murphy didn’t feel comfortable enough to take on the nation on this one, instead assuring listeners that Roy Hodgson was capable of losing his temper. This was mean to be supportive. It was surely viewed as such by many. This morning, Kevin Phillips trotted out the hoary old “lacked passion” line.
Is there any other field of human endeavour where losing control of your emotions is viewed as an attribute? Football managers exist in a highly competitive, technically exacting environment. At the top level they have to communicate subtle instructions to highly skilled professionals who have heard it all before from lippy managers. By the 30th rant they are all immune and it’s highly unlikely that intimidation led to an increase in performance first time out.
Despite this, managers are supposed to demonstrate a primitive human weakness to an audience who can often scarcely tell the difference between a football match and a pantomime.
We have to be different. We have to be cleverer; let the rest satisfy their need for an alpha-male role model – because make no mistake about it – this is what they’re really craving, while Celtic show uncompromising adherence to getting the best people for the job. On a side, note, can you imagine what appointing Roy Keane would have said about our strategy?
Roy Hodgson has done enough in the game to prove he’s a good manager but he’s more Euro-sophisticate than an archetypal alpha-male. Best of luck to him.
The Celtic Graves Society are having a fundraising raffle to generate funds. 50% will go towards their excellent work and 50% will go to the Northern Ireland Childrens’ Hospice, who looked after Wee Oscar recently. For the cost of a £5 raffle ticket, you can win a singed boot from Scott Brown or from Virgil van Dijk.
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