Thanks to a combination of Christian Eriksen and Martin O’Neill failing to understand that not marking the former leads to a steep downfall, us Irish are sat watching the goings-on in Moscow this summer.
For many reasons, some obvious and some not so obvious, England are the biggest show in town. Everyone accepts that, but everyone has their own reasons for paying the Three Lions so much attention.
People with an interest in football here have largely taken one of two views. Of those two viewpoints, there are splinter groups who will try and justify their stance on England using often hilarious logic. Then, of course, there are people who genuinely couldn’t care less, like me. Here are the four types of England-following Irishmen and women who try overly hard to be heard.
Despising England is a long-held pastime in this country and while nobody should ever try and stand in the way of a belief, it’s important we learn the source of each. A lot of it seems to stem from a history of violence and oppression – best of luck debating that – but at some point, we may need to differentiate a football team from its own national identity.
At some point, I’d like to see us grow an indifference to England in footballing terms as the previous right-wing element of English footballing fandom has toned down in recent years, and certainly toned down since the trouble in Lansdowne Road in 1995. But if you want to associate something as trivial, in a wider perspective, as a football side with the country’s foreign policy, that’s fine. I presume you won’t be watching the Eurovision next year, or whatever the activist equivalent of your own political take is.
A group of 23 millionaires don’t exactly carry the political views of those who have gone before, and a lot of Englishmen have gone on to provide this Republic with some of its most-beloved memories. It seems there’s some flawed logic in there somewhere.
The Stereotype-embracing Traditionalists
There are people, and this seems to be the majority, who associate stereotypes with certain countries, which is dangerous to do. One of those stereotypes is how England as a national side are over-confident, cocky sods who are buoyed on by the media and their exhausting narratives. Lads, it may be time to wake up.
The English media is tiresome, but only some of it. The hyperbole is what people digest and your interest in that is precisely why it exists. An industry is dying and it will occasionally resort to sensationalism and what’s proven to be effective in the past. Luckily for certain publications, over-the-top reporting on the Three Lions is a prime example of both. You can choose to ignore it, but you don’t.
Managers are different – very different.
They absolutely represent the team and most of them in the past have been problematic. Hoddle still talks nonsense now; Venables always struck the general public as someone who was up to something; Kevin Keegan would seemingly love it if they beat them, but he never beat anyone; McClaren put on fake accents; Capello came across as ignorant, Hodgson has the personality of a skinny hazelnut latte and Big Sam wasn’t around long enough to bring a loveable rogue type aura to the job.
But Southgate is different. He openly calls out the media while being obliging, isn’t over-confident, talks about the actual elements of the game rather than speaking in clichés, genuinely seems to love the job and the players like him. So, what’s the beef now? The waistcoat? I suppose we needed something, and that’s what we have now.
The truth is, there isn’t player in the squad that isn’t likeable unless you’ve got club ties and you can’t separate a human being from their employers, while somehow being able to separate a football club from its nation of origin. A funny bunch.
The Annoying West-Brit Next Door Neighbours
This isn’t like in the Simpsons where Ned Flanders is actually deeply-loved when he gets into testing times. People don’t like their neighbours.
Neighbours are typically annoying.
Without turning this piece into a Eurovision comparison rant, the funniest part of any Irish calendar year is when the UK give us twelve points and we return four because our indifference and far superior judgement when it comes to music. But that’s not malicious.
Tell Serbia and Albania that neighbours should get along. They don’t – it happens and it’s a side effect of proximity when your national identities are so intrinsically linked for not-so-nice reasons. You do not support your next-door neighbour, you awkwardly wave to them as you enter your car in the morning, wishing them harmless damage when you put on your seatbelt and the door shuts. Case dismissed.
The ’I Love the Premier League so I Love England’ Brigade
I love eggs but you don’t see me trying to seduce a chicken.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool haven’t solely represented their cities, and moreso, their nation, in many moons. That’s down to TV money, globalisation and the investment that comes with a billion-pound industry.
You can support an English side if you want, because that’s probably something you’ve kept with you from your childhood. But to say an English club-supporting Irishman must wish players well because they overlap in their representation in both codes? Hardly. United fans didn’t flock to McDonalds because Wayne Rooney had a few McFlurrys.
But what is weird, is people disliking England as a counterpoint to their own sub-conscious angloficiation. You know the ones – they call people ‘mate’, call ridin’ ‘shagging’ and wear Fred Perry to mass on Sunday.