Anyone else watch Stuart Pearce’s Under-21s labour to that gut-less defeat to mighty Norway? I suspect Ryan Bennett is now counting his lucky stars that his online misdemeanour spared him the ignominy.
Luckily the sporting gods were on duty Saturday afternoon and ensured that just a single click of the remote transported us from Petah Tikva to Edgbaston, where England were thrashing the ‘wimpish’ Aussies (nice one Bumble) in the first game of their ICC Champions Trophy campaign. And for a few hours at least, football became our second favourite sport.
An Ashes summer is invariably a tricky time for sport lovers; the crossover between pre-season and the cricket requires a balancing of our fanatical fervour. A necessity to hold back a tiny bit of our green and yellow bloodedness in order that Alastair Cook and his men are given the wholehearted backing they deserve in the battle for the little urn.
Of course for the most part it’s pretty much OK; the partisan intensity required when City stroll out at Aldiss Park (with apologies to Dereham Town) pales into insignificance compared to the Mitchell Johnson-baiting that should accompany his every run conceded this summer. But fast-forward to the Fifth Test at the Oval (21-25 Aug) – where the Premier League’s second weekend overlaps days 4 and 5 – and there could be a little emotional juggling required, especially if it’s the series decider.
So… an Ashes series victory or a City win?
A tricky one on the basis the Ashes are contested biennially – this winter’s return series Down Under aside – and City play 38 league games a season, but for most of us I suspect there is only one winner.
For those who are not cricket lovers, there is no conundrum… and they will be wondering what the hell I’m taking about.
Not for the first time probably.
Perhaps a closer call would be if we were asked to choose between silverware for City and success for the England football team (was going to say ‘Roy Hodsgon’s England’, but I’m not sure ‘success’, ‘Hodgson’ and ‘England’ will ever be used together in the same sentence).
For some, that would be a difficult one.
While the reality of either happening any time soon is a little remote, Swansea’s triumph in the Carling Cup at least suggests the odds of seeing green and yellow ribbons adorn a silver trophy are slightly shorter than England emerging victorious from the World Cup or Euros. In fact, take a pumped-up Scotsman out of the equation and City would have been just a two-legged semi-final with Bradford away from a Wembley final.
I can’t imagine a similar scenario with England occurring any time soon, so it’s probably not one to dwell on – but an interesting one none the less.
If – in the unlikely event – England were to stumble across a winning formula then, perhaps, we could yet be transported back to the heady days of June 1990, 1996 and – more recently – 2006 when the nation came together in a way rarely seen. Street upon street decked out in the flag of St George, pubs packed out with white shirts, and all due to a genuine – misguided – belief that we were on the cusp of greatness.
How wrong we were.
Instead, disaster has followed disappointment to the point where we now enter tournaments in hope rather than expectation – and a faint hope at that.
From a personal perspective, my faith in England’s potential to succeed had been pretty much absolute and had taken me home and away – my sortie to France ’98 resulting in a first-hand view of that goal from Michael Owen (surrounded by our friends from the Argentine). But of late that faith has taken a real hammering; the sight of Mesut Özil skipping past a leaden-footed Gareth Barry in South Africa 2010 still the source of many a nightmare.
Sadly nothing has happened since the debacle in Bloemfontein to restore said faith with, more recently, Pirlo and co adding to the burgeoning collection of England tournament horror shows.
Why we continue to fail so miserably on the international stage when the Premier League is considered the best in the world is a debate that’s been done to death – to no avail – but there’s little doubt its success is at the detriment of the national side.
The dearth of English talent being afforded the opportunity at the highest level has long been an obvious part of the problem – even if it’s only recently been acknowledged by FA chairman David Bernstein – but equally the lack of incentive for Englishmen to try their luck abroad denies them valuable experience of alternative playing styles and footballing philosophies.
But – whatever the reason – I can’t be alone in no longer experiencing the same joie de vivre in the build-up to an England games I once did. And it’s not simply because we don’t win as often as we’d like (that sorry stance is the preserve of those from deepest Suffolk) but more around the soul-less, carefree, attitude of some who adorn the shirt; an affliction that – judging by Saturday’s performance – is shared by our Under-21 elite.
In that regard I know I’m not alone.
So while my desire to see England win a game of football remains undiminished, my belief in their own desire to do so has dimmed. And if they’re not 100% committed, why should I be.
But that would never happen with City. Along with the rest of the Canary Nation, my faith and belief in all things yellow has never faltered – not one iota – even when faced with the severest test in the form of a sojourn to the third tier.
Never in question.
And for that reason, if ever asked to choose between club and country there would only ever be one winner… and they wouldn’t be wearing white.