Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Europe bids fond farewell to England

What is to be done about the England football team? Mark Perryman has six points for fans to ponder

December 6, 2007
4 min read

No I’m not joking with that headline. I’ve been inundated with messages from football friends in Austria, Croatia, Germany (yes Germany!) saying how much they’ll miss us at Euro 2008. The huge numbers who travel – 400,000, more than likely, if we’d qualified – boost the coffers of the host countries. The trouble has more or less gone away, replaced by fans who are among the most welcome guests at the tournament party.

As for those sour-faced leftists ‘celebrating’ England’s defeat – you have the blessed audacity to claim the mantle of understanding working-class politics? Just try explaining your revolutionary defeatism in public and see what that does for your politics. It sickens me at times like this that a group as marginal as the left pretends it knows what’s best for the rest of us, surrendering its credibility as it once again dumps on the progressive, inclusive potential of our national identity. For the Croatia game I was at Wembley with Hajra and Nadeen, England fans wearing the hijab – that’s the England I’m proud to be a part of and parts of the left will never engage with thanks to their inability to understand why.

The web, phone-ins and back pages have been buzzing with ideas on what is to be done after England’s defeat. Here’s my six points for those Red Pepper readers who share my view that what happens to the England football team actually matters.

1. Spiral of decline

If you thought missing out on Euro 2008 was bad: just wait until the 2010 World Cup. Second seeds in a group with Croatia again. Top team goes through, and only the best eight runners-up get a play off. The 2010 qualifiers are looking tough, very tough: a quickening spiral of decline beckons.

2. The table doesn’t lie

Without Sven, and allowing for the likelihood of injuries, qualifying for Euro 2008 was never going to be easy. The fact is we’re now light years behind the likes of Germany, France and Italy, and just a middle-ranking European football nation at the Croatia-Russia-Israel kind of level. If we’d qualified does anybody seriously think we’d have got out of our group in the finals?

3. Over-rated players

With very few exceptions our so-called world-beaters only look good when they play for their clubs playing alongside world-class team mates, none of whom are English unfortunately.

4. National team as the pinnacle of the national game?

Not any more it isn’t. Within a few years the England team will all be players from the bottom half of the Premiership, and within five from the Championship. Either the FA follows the Sir Trevor Brooking strategy of huge investment (far, far more important than the 2018 World Cup bid) in 5-11 year olds or the cycle of decline will become unstoppable.

5. No return to the home internationals

Okay, they’d be fun, but what exactly would an England team (or, for that matter, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) learn playing other teams too poor to qualify? It would be a huge step backwards conducted for one reason: money. The same reason our hallowed Wembley turf was turned into a quagmire for the Croatia game as a result of the stadium hosting that American Football match.

Yet there was Gordon Brown, the morning after the night of non-qualification, wading in to support the return of the home Internationals as a way of developing his British vision. Does this man ever step out of No 10 and into his constituency? Nothing represents the fact that England, Scotland and Wales are separate nations more effectively than a football match. It would almost be worth their return to see Gordon at Hampden Park for Scotland v England waving his cherished union jack, and to witness the response he gets.

6. Sacking McLaren

The easy bit. But the guy who appoints the new manager is the one who forced Sven out, failed to recruit Scolari and chose McLaren instead.

The future? The only hope is that Trevor Brooking is given a free rein, resulting in a huge investment in 5-11 year-olds, so that by 2017 the Premiership academies are stuffed full of English 17-year-olds, or that Mourinho decides his ego could do with rescuing England and a few of the under-21s come good. But I wouldn’t bet your house on it!

Mark Perryman is the convenor of London England Fans, author of Ingerland: Travels with a Football Nation, and co-founder of www.philosophyfootball.com

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite