English Football’s relentless ambition to self destruct

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Gareth Southgate this week named Harry Kane as his England Captain for next months World Cup in Russia.

However going with the theme that has been very consistent, there has been a barrage of criticisms aimed at the young England forward on what certainly should be one of the proudest moments of his career.

And that brings me to the point of this piece and the treatment England’s best footballers get at the hands of opposing club fans as well as the media.I’m not English, but I’ve been a Spurs fan since the 1990-91 season and for as long as I can remember the press have been relentless in their pursuit of some sort of dodgy storyline to out some of the country’s biggest stars. I find it bizarre.

Now perhaps the Spanish, German, French or Italians do it but I have not seen anything to the contrary and when us Republic of Ireland lot make a tournament the whole country turns out to support the “boys in green” but when it comes to England the opposite happens.

If for now we focus on Spurs players the freshest in memory is of course Harry Kane. The man is revered at Spurs but has had disgusting treatment at the hands of the press but also more bizarrely his own professionals. Instead of being lauded for his determination to be the best, to never rest in pursuit of a goal. He’s the best English centre forward since Alan Shearer and has every chance of surpassing his 260 goal record.

Dele, at just 22, has had similar treatment. In terms of goals he’s not had the same return this season but he’s been far more effective than he’s been given credit for. And there was the so called “Sex Tape” in which someone mocked up a video to make it look like Dele. It wasn’t up for long but it did damage. He’s been ridiculed and questioned every week for his “temperament”

He was involved in 50 games all season, scoring 14 and assisting 17 and he’s still only 22. He was roundly criticised for playing an online video game live recently (no doubt contracted to do so from sponsors)instead of watching a champions league match between Liverpool and Roma and he was also rounded on for lending his name to a clothing line. No matter what he does he’s ridiculed. It makes no sense.

Lionel Messi is lauded in Argentina, Ronaldo loved by all Portuguese and Robbie Keane is an icon in Irish sport meanwhile Kane is relentlessly mocked for claiming a goal he was positive he scored and was duly awarded. Yes you’d expect a bit of ribbing but not to the extent it’s been and for his fellow pros to get in on the act. That bit I can’t fathom. Is it jealousy?

But neither Dele nor Harry are alone in their treatment. Paul Gascoigne is a prime example, hounded for years, even having his phone tapped, yes he was a bit of a loose canon but his treatment was disgusting. He’s been on the straight and narrow for a couple of years now, he’s cleaned himself up and looks fantastic but you’ll not see that reported or pictures in the press of Gazza leaving a gym or swigging from a water bottle. David Beckham was constantly harangued, Raheem Sterling has had it, Wayne Rooney,who is his country’s greatest ever scorer, has been mocked over and over again. These are ordinary men, no amount of money changes that. They shouldn’t just have to put up with it because they earn millions I get banter but nowadays it goes far beyond what it should. And now the introduction of social media has changed things ten fold. People seem to type whatever the hell they like and get away with it. Now not all players look after their own social media but with the amount of free time they have they must see a lot of it and even though they are schooled in not letting it get to them it must at times. Just because a guy earns millions doesn’t make him any less of a bloke than the rest of us?

And as we head in to World Cup 2018 the relentless negativity has started, you have “pundits” giving their opinion on every form of media criticising Gareth Southgate for his selections, berating the squad before it even starts. Yes they get paid for their opinions but it isn’t going to make one hoot of a difference. Southgate is paid to do what he thinks is best why not back him.

Banter is all part of the game, I get and accept that but the season just gone it has way overstepped the mark. If someone is consistently ridiculed, abused daily for doing what he loves it’s bound to affect them and their desire to succeed. England need Kane far more than Kane needs England that is for sure.

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  1. 100% agree. It makes no sense. Kane is a role model citizen and a world class striker. Why on earth would you criticize him if you want your country to do well at the World Cup?

  2. You mention Raheem Sterling, who was born in Jamaica, to Jamaican parents and lived in Jamaica the first five years of his life. It is farcical that he gets to play for England. John Barnes is another one, who was born in Jamaica and ridiculously got to play for England.

    It is farcical that we had Sven-Göran Eriksson and Fabio Capello as England managers.

    The French national football team is even more of a joke.

    Multi national football teams and coaches, masquerading as countries.

    • International football (and international sport in general) is a sick joke; players represent countries with which they have little or no emotional let alone ancestral connections, almost certainly because it raises their profile and marketability, and it’s hard to believe that many of them have any genuine feelings of patriotism when they pull on the national shirts of European countries with dark histories of colonialism and worse. I remember reading Jimmy Greaves’s book, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on my way to Spurs’, in which he said (back in 1962) that he didn’t see a future for international football and while his timing was obviously wrong, it’s hard not to agree with his argument when you see teams of multinational mercenaries lined up to the sound of national anthems whose words they don’t know, to play their club teammates (with whom they have far more in common, whatever their nominal nationalities, than with the patriotic hordes who ultimately pay their wages), and then return to their gated mansions to discuss their next big payday with their spivvy agents- it’s a charming picture, but I believe it’s broadly accurate, and a very far cry from the days when an English team beat a German one to win the World Cup, both genuinely playing for national pride, not pay and profile.

  3. It’s the English mentality. Jealousy and bitterness, and that fear of failure, rule us. Social media has simply amplified it. The old saying, years ago was that if an American saw a man driving a Rolls Royce, he would say .. ‘one day, I’m going to have one of those’ …whereas the average Englishman seeing the same scene would say ‘what’s he done to deserve a car like that!?’ ..and would probably ‘key scratch’ it, if he got the opportunity. We’re also great at building up our heroes, but the first to knock them down. Maybe it comes from systematic failure and resentment ..that eternal preparation to fail, which interacts negatively with our patriotic beliefs as Englishmen, and in this case, England football fans ..ie ‘we’re not going to win the World Cup, so let’s lay the ground for that scenario in order to defuse our disappointment’.
    If we can’t find a ‘reason’ to fail ..let’s create one.

  4. Many of our press and media are supporters of certain clubs and let their bias show through in the most toxic manner toward rival players.
    As a Spurs supporter I’m proud that Harry has been made captain of England but do fear that the role may affect his performance.
    I think Cahill or Henderson would have been a wiser choice with their field positions but they are simply not guaranteed playtime and Harry is!
    I’ve always had a lot of time for Liverpool supporters because of balanced and knowledgeable view on all things football and their generosity towards other clubs and players, unfortunately this due to media encouragement their good attitude seems to be on the wane.
    Up the Reds on Saturday against Real Madrid.

  5. As the web shows, almost every type of person now has access to a keyboard. I’d be disappointed were Spurs players spending time wading through snarky comments — given all the motives there are for them — let alone worrying about them. Sportsmen wanting to succeed aren’t going to help themselves by letting this sort of stuff distract them. As people are free to support footballers, I suppose others are free to do the opposite. Whatever, neither Dele nor Harry lack admirers who also manage to be up-to-date with their knowledge of the players rather than many months behind in their, often media-fed, prejudices against them.


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