European Report #2: Boring Boring England
It’s a truism of sports fans everywhere that no matter how badly their team performs, there remains the hope – nay, the expectation – that next time it will be different. In this regard – and only this regard – England are football’s world leaders. No sooner was this summer’s sorry World Cup performance over with, Sven Goran Eriksson leaving with tail through legs trailing sackloads of money, than the fans were looking forward to Steve McLaren’s tenure.
Early Euro 2008 victories over Andorra and Macedonia appeared to confirm this blind optimism, except for the fact that England’s victories were… well, they were over Andorra and Macedonia. Still, the positivity surrounding the New England encouraged me to duck into The Oddfellow’s Arms in Beverley at the end of a Saturday shopping day for a half pint over an excruciatingly pitiful first half display at home to Macedonia. Not only were the players, almost to a man, entirely devoid of inspiration, but the 75,000 so-called supporters at Old Trafford made about as much noise as Gillingham fans on a wet February Wednesday night.
Intensely boring as the 0-0 draw was, it could have been worse. England could have lost. Which is exactly what they did, four days later, in Croatia. Steve McLaren’s honeymoon is well and truly over, and the New England looks exactly the same as the old one.
A footnote: Over the same two-game period that England failed to score, Scotland managed a famous victory against France, Wales beat Cyprus and Northern Ireland beat Latvia. Just as well for England that the Home Internationals were abandoned, then.