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Time to cross the picket Lion and support England?

by Rob Dore | June 20, 2012

By Rob Dore | Rant

To hear the RTE panel discussing England’s progression as group winners after the Three Lions’ win over Ukraine, you’d think Roy Hodgson’s side were undeniably the worst team to ever kick a ball in anger. More clueless about how the beautiful game should be played than the Zaire team of World Cup 1974.

Eamon Dunphy, Johnny Giles and Liam Brady sat aghast at the reality that Roy Hodgson’s collection of over-hyped, under-skilled clod-thumpers could somehow be the best at anything, let alone top a group with three teams these experts deemed inimitably more palatable.

This coming from Dunphy, whose own footballing ability can be described as agricultural at best, and Giles, who was one of the dirtier members of Don Revie’s famously dirty Leeds United side of the early 70s.

Have England been brilliant? No, they haven’t. Have they been as dire as RTE’s Statler and Waldorf are insisting? No. I’m not sure any team has ever been that bad.

MUPPETS? Ireland were rubbish. England are awful. Everything was better in our day.

England qualified as winners of their group and considering how little was expected of this hastily-thrown together outfit and how little time they’ve had to work under Roy Hodgson, it has to be seen as a massive achievement. If only Ireland could have played so poorly and achieved so much. Instead they played considerably worse and achieved the worst record in the group stages. Ireland finishing with an aggregate of -8 goals and the Netherlands faring better with -3.

Nobody wants to see RTE becoming the saccharine parade of back-slapping and chirpy rose-tinted outlooks that has become the standard fare on ITV and BBC.

Although the BBC’s introduction of Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher has corrected this trend to a degree during Euro 2012.

Are we being forced to stomach an anti-UK bias because of some people’s deep-seated, historically-borne disposition to dislike anything innately English?

Are we not entitled to a fair and even analysis of England’s performances in comparison to the other teams in the competition?

“They were terrible against a team they were expected to beat…they were poor, really, really poor.” – Liam Brady.

Spain, for all the praise heaped on the defending champions, have looked good in just one game. And that was against Ireland, the worst team at Euro 2012. Germany won all three of their group games but played well only in patches. For long spells they have looked distinctly ordinary. There isn’t a team in the quarter-finals who has stood out in every game so it’s difficult to find footballing reasons for the vitriolic bashing of a team with which Ireland has the closest ties, on and off the pitch. Do the viewers demand it?

Perhaps it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Do the ghosts of Strongbow, Oliver Cromwell, Charles Treveleyan and the Black and Tans still exercise such an influence on our outlook? Even when it comes to football?

“They don’t look like a team, they don’t attack and defend as a unit, they’re ragged…somewhere down the road there’s a train-wreck” – Eamon Dunphy.

Yes, it makes entertaining viewing, especially when compared to the pedestrian analysis offered by Adrian Chiles, etc.

But there is no such problem when it comes to Premier League football. The same three pundits will happily sit and discuss English domestic football, offering only their standard level of acerbic commentary.

The point being driven towards is not the antiquated and pessimistic outlook of three very old pros but rather the hypocrisy of a nation which is estimated to have pumped €145 million in to the Premier League over the course of the 2010/11 season.

England is a country with which Ireland has the closest and strongest ties. We have no problem going there to work and live, regularly travelling over for stag dos or to watch Premier League football. We also have no problem with our English cousins visiting our shores for their own pre-wedding celebrations. The latent anti-English stance is diminishing with each generation and so it should. History is there to teach us as we go forward, not to shackle us to the past. A past which, for the most part, we have had no contact, influence or experience with and one which we cannot change.

This is not a rallying cry to get behind England nor a subversive marketing drive to sell England shirts. Instead it is an appeal to sanity, maturity and rationality.

If you like the English team and the English players and you want to cheer them on for the rest of Euro 2012 then do so. You won’t be betraying your roots, or taking a dump on Ireland’s historical martyrs, you’ll simply be supporting a group of football players you watch week in week out. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. No matter how many Celtic shirts they own.

Of course if you don’t like the English team then don’t support them. Boo if you want to. Cheer for the other side if it brings you even momentary pleasure. But do so for the right reasons. Boo England because you find John Terry distasteful or because you dislike Roy Hodgson’s style of football or because you have a hatred of lions. Just don’t boo because you feel you have to for whatever ingrained cultural reasons and certainly not because you’ve been influenced by bitter old men with historical axes to grind.

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