19 November, 2007

The New Wembley Chronicles Part 2

A little while ago, we ran a piece agreeing with some comments Gary Lineker made in reference to making this new Wembley an intimidating fortress. Now, as infrequently as I agree with Mr Lineker, he was spot-on, and now it seems that Ray Wilkins is getting in on the bandwagon, with comments like this in preparation for Wednesday’s make-or-break European Championship qualifier against group winners Croatia: “When Scotland and Italy walked out (on Saturday) you couldn't hear yourself think, but we don't have that at Wembley and we need to start producing that.”

Even on TV, the roar at Hampden Park was deafening and the passion immeasurable, both of the players and also of those fans drunk enough to have bagged tickets. “Lots of people keep questioning our young men about their passion and about their feeling for their country,” Wilkins said, “well, once an Englishman pulls on that England shirt, nobody has any more passion, I can assure you.” I’d question this comment somewhat, but that’s for another time.

What we are left with though is a chicken-and-egg situation, where the fans are apathetic and hyper-critical of the players because they are shit, whereas the players would complain that they’re shit only because there’s a real lack of crowd noise and support. Guys like Lampard and Bentley get booed when their names are called, but rather than right these perceived wrongs on the pitch by performing as well as we’re constantly told they can, they’d rather whinge about it to the media and get new haircuts.

What was most interesting about Wilkins’ statement though was this: “At the moment we haven't failed. If we go through on Wednesday (Steve McClaren) should keep the job and take us to Euro 2008.” Haven’t failed??!! Really Ray, exactly where have you been the last 18 months? We have capitulated and embarrassed ourselves time and time again in this qualifying stage of the competition, having to leave it to the very last minute, once again, to hopefully secure advancement into the finals. This was among the weakest groups around and yet we’ve consistently struggled, with last year’s back-to-back matches against Macedonia and Croatia literally among the worst 5 performances I have ever seen from anyone. Ever. And I’ve watched pre-pubescent girls with down syndrome play.

Rant over.

Anyway, so in conclusion, I heartily agree that we as England fans should be loud and passionate and get behind the team as much as humanly possible at this spectacular new stadium and elsewhere around the world…but only when things change and we actually put out a team worth supporting.