For most football fans, failure to win a trophy for 51 years is a good indicator that a particular team is, well, not very good. But many of the more Brexit-inclined England supporters, it seems, work off a different logic.
The reality for the rest is that the Three Lions are, and have been for much of the last half-century, a moderately decent side. They’re not bad. They’re also not especially good.
And there’s no shame in that. Unless it’s Germany or San Marino, the vast majority of international football teams fall into the same category as England. Yet there still exists a perception among the lunatic and semi-lunatic fringe of the England fanbase that their team is somehow underperforming; that abject failure in most of the preceding 25 or so tournaments is not in fact simply down to a lack of ability.
But it is. What else could it possibly be?
And yet the hype-machine inexorably turns. There’s a certain type of England fan that doesn’t want to believe that the team they love is just another also-ran. They insulate themselves against such an idea with talk of bad preparation, bad luck, bad management or bad attitude. England have the players, they think, it’s just a matter of them getting their act together.
But this kind of delusion doesn’t really help anyone.
It certainly doesn’t help the team, who, almost without exception, do their best for Blighty. It’s extremely rare to see an England player who isn’t giving 100% for the national side. You don’t get through qualification unless you’re motivated enough to grind out result after result against whatever minnow or minnow-plus turns up at Wembley.
More often than not, however, in the important stages of the tournaments they encounter opponents who are, quite simply, better at football.
Iceland in 2016 was a bit of an exception to the rule. For the most part, England end up eliminated by superior opposition. So it’s astonishingly unfair on the players to burden them with such astronomic expectations every second summer and then slate them when, inevitably, they don’t live up to them.
It also doesn’t help the fans themselves. When you’re constantly bombarding yourself and those around you with FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME talk, you’re just setting yourself up for a fall. Massive, unmerited expectation leads to massive, merited disappointment.
So why do some continue to subscribe to the spurious notion that England are ‘in the shake-up’ before each tournament?
It can only be an outdated and laughably misguided belief in British exceptionalism.
But brutally colonising half the planet and sparking a worldwide industrial revolution doesn’t mean you’re going to have a good football team 150 years later. The game has changed and England has fallen from the pedestal it once occupied.
It’s time that the remaining few who believe otherwise see the Three Lions the way everyone else does.