Rather more by accident than design, I ended up watching the England game on Saturday night.
For longer than I care to remember I’ve given up watching international friendlies. Not through any particular waning patriotism, rather a gnawing belief that 80% of those boys really don’t ‘put a shift in…’ when it comes to those games.
They go through the motions for fear of upsetting the Gaffer on a Thursday morning if they return to their Premiership masters with a strain, a bump or a bruise.
And when they all have £X mill sat in the bank, I’m not sure that edge is there in their game. For club, probably. For country? Nah, they are far too long in the tooth and fat in the wallet to go that extra mile with Three Lions on their chest.
So what was nice about Saturday’s 1-0 win over World Champions Spain was the sight of nigh-on all concerned putting in a decent ‘shift’; of ruffling Spanish feathers from first minute to last – personified in the terrier-like efforts of Scott Parker in the heart of that midfield.
For once it wasn’t a case of Messrs Gerrard and Lampard swanning about as if they owned the place and both wondering whose turn it was to bomb on… and could they be a*sed. Or if they could, was old Wayne wandering about in their space.
And, at the back, there was no soap opera that is John Terry. Just decent lads doing a decent job. And the nation reaped the benefit of players that were young, hungry, keen and eager. They hadn’t grown fat and lazy on years of Premiership excess – on and off the field.
Watch the Wales game and the excitement that is now building behind Gary Speed’s team and you can sense the same – that it is a team of Young Guns going for it… Andrew Crofts and Steve Morison very much included.
The one exception ought to be Craig Bellamy, who the ignorant always presume is straight out of Premiership central casting in terms of the money in his bank and the behaviour that follows.
I’ve always begged to differ. If Bellars has a fault – OK, he has a few… – it is that he cares too deeply about both club and country; that his well-documented bouts of fury are more born of frustration that anything else. That others around him aren’t hitting the standards he expects of fellow professionals – be it on the training ground or on match day.
Craig has always cared. And continues to do so given the level of his performance this weekend.
Morison is another whose hunger is plain for all to see. He’s been there, seen it and done it in terms of non-league football and early starts on the back of his shredding lorry. And he ain’t going back to those days.
Put him up, say, against a Titus Bramble and a Wes Brown at Sunderland and in terms of both attitude and appetite, there’s only one winner; one player with a point to prove and a bank balance to build.
It is, after all, one of the very cornerstones of Paul Lambert’s player recruitment policy that he targets only players who want it – as in really, really want it, as opposed to those that have been there, seen it, done it and put their feet up mentally.
The Premiership and, indeed, the whole England set-up has all-too long been littered with those that don’t have a Morison-esque hunger; that don’t have the ‘Fear Naught!’ attitude of a Bradley Johnson who is clearly out to recapture the lost chances of his Arsenal youth.
And that’s refreshing – both at club and country level to see such attitudes coming back to the fore.
Parker – in theory – must have the money in the bank, but he’s always struck me as made of ‘The Right Stuff’ since he arrived on loan as a kid at Norwich.
Find yourself 11 Scotty Parkers and you won’t be far away from actually making an impact at the next major championships – as opposed to bowing out with barely a whimper.
And whilst I’m sure the students of Hello! Magazine will swiftly correct me, I have no idea who Mrs Parker is. Which makes a change from the usual run of WAGs that follow in England’s wake. Or in that of Terry’s.
With thoughts starting to turn to January’s transfer window, I can’t see Lambert’s policies changing. He might – rightly – be wary of the inflated prices that come with the New Year sales, but he won’t by buying the inflated egos to match.
There will be no ‘I’ in the team-work that under-pins Norwich’s rise to Premiership good fortune just as – you’d like to hope – there’ll be no, big ‘I ams…’ in England’s international future.
Decent lads putting a decent shift in – football is never rocket science. It’s not all you need, of course. But it gets you more than half way there, in my humble opinion.