WHAT HAS England ever done for us? Alright, but apart from the roads, sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and public order… what has England ever done for us?
As long as I can remember the national team has been cruel to Boro. Players who get called up invariably get injured, tapped up or monstered in the press and suffer a catastrophic collapse in form. At best an few England caps will push up the price, as it did with Pally. At worst it provokes an insidious media campaign aimed at levering our man away from the shackles of his impertinent upstart provincial backwater outfit as we appear to be facing with Stewy.
As far as I’m concerned, England can get stuffed.
I am passionately parochial when it comes to football and I think most real supporters are too: that is, those who go to watch their heroes week in, week out rather than the armchair army who see the game as a showbiz procession of famous faces from the celeb rags. Club is the only thing that really matters to me, not the FA XI and the symphony of deluded drivel that surrounds it, no matter how much we enjoy the spectacle of a World Cup.
Club v country? No contest. We are supposed to submit ourselves to the commercial and political needs of the clowns who run the FA? Yeah right. That will be the FA that blundered through a comedy of errors to recruit a new boss then after dropping a blob with Big Phil felt pressured into a pointlessly premature announcement about McClaren just five days before the biggest game in Boro’s history, throwing pre-match preparations into turmoil and reducing the historic occasion of our UEFA Cup final to just another sub-plot in the wrangling around Team England. Thanks a lot. It’s nice to know the FA will look after the interests of member clubs with such diligence.
There may be those Boro fans who are grateful to England for getting Boro off the hook with unpopular Mac but the the price of his clumbsy exit is impossible to calculate. Maybe if the job was still in the balance Mac would have been more determined, more methodical, more desperate to win. Maybe without the furore and disruption caused by the boss whizzing off the Soho Square and playing to the England gallery the weekend before the game Boro would have been better prepared, more united and more focussed. Maybe. We can never know.
But we know that the arrogant, self obsessed and totally insensitive suits at the FA could very easily have delayed the announcement by a week and we would never have been tortured by those imponderables. That is one big black mark for England that will take a lot more than a one off Riverside game with Slovakia and playing the kids in the Under-19s to balance out.
And it is not just England. I hate international football as a whole . Don’t get me wrong I like the summer shindigs in years that end in a even number as much as the next man, even if the next man is sat bleary eyed in the small hours, can in hand, Pro-Plussed up and captivated by the goalless draw in the Group D dead rubber between FYR Montenegro and East Timor.
But please, do we really need all these laboured international breaks acting as coitus interruptus in our real all consuming passion for club football? Why not play these pointless qualifiers (except in the ‘group of death’ we know which two or three teams will finish at the top) pre-season in place of the surreal money-spinner friendlies like AC Milan v Manchester United in Durban or Chelsea v Juventus in Singapore. No one will care if they are scrapped.
Last year a timely spat meant we did not lose the Yak for the African Nations Cup. Next time we may not be so lucky. But clubs who pay the wages should never be deprived of key players for important domestic games. With their drive for more and bigger competitions FIFA and UEFA are launched a direct attack on the financial and organisational integrity of the clubs.
If the greedy soccercrats that run the FIFA money-making machine can not devise a rational calendar that does not undermine the interests of the clubs – the building blocks of their own federations – then they should be sacked and the structure dissolved.
If international football was abolished I would look back with fond nostalgia as with the Home Internationals, the Texaco Cup or FA Cup Final Grandstand but I wouldn’t be too upset.
We would gain because our players would not be knackered from playing an extra ten or 12 games a year – and we know how the poor lambs like their rest – or jet-lagged from flying to Sydney to thrash the Cook Islands 13-0. The new ÃÂ£6m signing wouldn’t get injured in a warm-up and impressionable hicks from the sticks wouldn’t have their heads turned by the Big Time Charlies and come back from international breaks demanding a ÃÂ£50,000 grand a week payrise, a Ferrari for every day of the week and weekends off.
What would we lose? An excuse to get drunk every other summer? Who needs an excuse?