Often Partisan

Friendly

Tonight England face Ghana in an international friendly, played to a full Wembley. It’s a historic night for Ghana who’ve never played us in England before, and the match should give them a chance to test themselves against players who consider themselves amongst the better in the world. Except it hasn’t quite worked out like that, has it? Instead of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole, it’s going to be Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines – something the Ghanaians aren’t happy about.

I’ve said it before, I’m not a fan of international football. I’ve always been a club before country man; Blues first with England a very distant second. I’m the kind of fan who doesn’t want Blues players called up to international duty so they can’t get injured; I don’t feel miffed if England lose and half the time I’m not really that bothered about watching them. I just can’t get excited about England, if the truth be told. They’re a lot like Blues in that they play massive amounts of mediocrity that sometimes gets results, interspersed with wonderful results like the 5-1 against Germany in Munich, and dross like the 4-1 against Germany in Bloemfontein – yet I don’t feel the same buzz or energy when I watch England. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen them play in the flesh, but it never feels like a proper game when I watch it on TV.

I think one of the main issues for me, as a “proper” football fan are the amount of “plastic” fans you will get watching England games, especially in the pub. It might be snobbish, but it is annoying for me when I hear players being criticised because it’s fashionable to criticise them, or because the Sun/Mail/Express/whatever says that they’re crap. It’s the equivalent of going to St Andrews and being surrounded by blokes shouting “gerrittfuhword” at every opportunity, jeering players for missing and then these same people singing the praises of the same player ten minutes later when he’s done something right. I’ve never been one for draping a St George’s cross out of a window because England are at the World Cup; if you’re going to support a team, you support them all the time, not just during a major tournament. I have nothing but respect for the people who follow England home and away – because I see them as “proper” fans; it’s the fickle bastards in the pubs back in the provinces who are the problem.

It’s matches like tonights that really take the gloss off of international football though. It’s a well known fact that the FA have to have international friendlies to keep the people they’ve sold corporate tickets to happy (as they expect a certain amount of England games per annum) which in turn ensures Wembley gets paid for. With Capello having to cater to managers who demand their players aren’t picked, it leaves a rather “B” looking side, and the point of international friendlies is again put into question as other managers get annoyed that it could be their players who are not allowed to rest, who could pick up injuries.

What hasn’t helped England’s cause is the saturation of non-news stories in the media about England, to fill the column inches normally taken up by the intrigues of the Premier League etc. Take as an example the whole John Terry captaincy saga; it rumbled on for days and now he’s not even playing in this game, meaning someone else has got to have the armband. I can understand why some local journos hate international week – it must make their job so much harder to write decent copy, and not repeat the same interviews with players “we must try harder” etc. It’s been hard enough for me, a simple blogger, to write stuff that’s interesting this week, without deadlines or a remit to fulfil – I can’t imagine how hard it must be in the local media.

I think the FA have to face up to facts; friendlies are derided by the media, loathed by managers (and players, if the Secret Footballer is to be believed), and are becoming a turn off for fans. Whilst I suspect seats at Wembley will continue to be sold (so that people get their “stubs” for the away trips etc), are international friendlies relevant in the football calendar of today? Or would the FA be better served with longer training camps for the players to bond coupled with exhibition games of some description?

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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One Response to “Friendly”

  • Chris Quinn says:

    I don’t see the fuss with the team that is set to be put out tonight. Does Asamoah Gyan have it all his own way when he plays in the PL against Cahill, Baines, Jagielka? No, so it won’t be a walkover tonight either. If anything, it’s a good chance for Fabio to see how some of the fringe players perform against a strong opponent and not some European minnow.


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