Supporting England is never quite the patriotic glory that the preceding hype suggests. The weekend of Week 14 saw the start of one of 2016’s biggest tournaments with the opening of the Six Nations. This, coupled with the upcoming UEFA European championship in June, has marked this year out as a significant one for England’s football and rugby union teams. These events are often preceded by a noticeable build-up in excitement and anticipation for each teams’ chances within their respective tournaments. Of course, we want England to do well, and we enjoy the idea of our internationally esteemed sports teams acting as ambassadors for our country in the wider sporting community. But, doesn’t the whole idea of explaining how strong the chances are for the teams feel a little tired by now?
I say this because, to me at least, it feels like we get subjected to this rigmarole every time England has an important upcoming tournament to participate in. We all become subject to the hype of how the team could emerge successful from this latest chance at glory. We get nostalgic reminders of those bygone years when England teams could stand up and be counted among the very best in the world at that time, and how that time is surely set to come around again soon, possibly with this next series of games to come. Then what happens? They step out onto the field, play with enough determination and/or skill that all the build-up just might warrant, and then promptly fall flat on their backsides and proceed to find that whatever national support or global standing they might have had won’t stop them from losing the game and leaving the tournament.
It’s been seen most recently in both England teams’ most important events. It’s 2014, and England jet off to Brazil for that year’s FIFA World Cup with the country behind them and expectant of some good results and strong performances. They lose their first two games, draw the third and are out of the tournament not even two weeks after the whole thing has started. Then we come to our rugby team. Little under six months ago did England have the chance to host this prestigious event, so we had the addition of home support on top of all the other hopeful anticipation. The successful opening game was promising. The other two? Not so much. To give them the credit the footballers certainly didn’t deserve, they did at least give their all in these games. However, the fact remains that they were knocked out on home soil, and both these performances seemed to disappear from the national conscience for the remainder of the tournaments. Just a few reminders of those other moments in time where we got our hopes up just a little too high.
Perhaps this is just my own frustration with my local team that’s seeping through. The team I am referring to is the one that has chosen to make its bed at the very bottom of the Premier League, Aston Villa. Week after week I look up the scores and am normally greeted with the information that our opponents have managed to soundly walk all over our defence – a defence who barely register a heartbeat between them during a match – and send the team back to the dressing rooms in defeat. Whenever I inform someone about what team I support during conversation, the looks of sorrow and pity I receive are somewhat similar to those you might get on being informed of a beloved relative’s demise. One such person who responded in this way is involved in the running of Morecambe AFC. Not to demean the Morecambe team in any way, but how badly does a Premier League team have to play that a League Two supporter feels sympathy for you? Yet, our manager on a weekly basis gives his statements to the press about his confidence in the team in turning these lacklustre performances around, while pundits look back on the great team that used to be, and how it might rise again. Match day comes around, we lose, and the fans have just come to accept this repetition.
It’s this same sense I feel when talking about England’s hopes on the international stage, so much is made of what is typically thought of each team; two of the forerunners in each sport. Yet those all-important games come around and the hopes of claiming victory are dashed once again. After the dust has settled, we begrudgingly accept that it was never likely to be anyway, at least till the next big tournament kicks off. Like so many Villa supporters these days, maybe we just need to accept that England probably aren’t going to win or even progress that far. Trust me, it makes the disappointment easier to deal with and the victories, if they come, even sweeter.