Euro 2012: Poached at the Euros

by Paul Caulfield

I’m not sure when my attitude to the England team went from nervous enthusiasm, to casual indifference, to total cynicism. I remember jumping round a Leeds pub during the 2004 Euros, when Sol Campbell’s perfectly good goal was ruled out, and cramming enthusiastically into The Branch in Shipley for the World Cup quarter final two years later.

But by 2007, all this had changed. I felt nothing as England fell to Croatia in a Euro 2008 qualifier at Wembley, on a night when Steve McLaren’s umbrella was a gift to gleeful headline writers. The England squad that day included Lampard, Gerrard, Cole and Defoe. These were some of the over-hyped players who had been in our faces throughout the Premier League season, giving full commitment to their clubs before slumbering through England games.

There are other reasons for my reluctance to back Our Boys; chief among them the serial poaching of players after major tournaments. Seeing your club’s former charges littering the national team is soul-destroying. You begin to question the England players’ priorities, particularly those from ‘big’ clubs, when poor, non-committal performances and early exits (South Africa was the classic example) are followed by transfer requests from their teammates. “The results were terrible boss, but I tapped up that left-back you told me about”.

Players have always moved after World Cups and European Championships - half West Ham’s squad left post – Japan/Korea 02 during Chairman Terence Brown’s shameful fire sale. But am I the only one to feel that the trend has increased in the last ten years? With the Premier League’s lucre, and with major championships viewed as bring and buy sales by agents, the departure of your best players is almost expected.

Truth be told, the England squad is now little more than a Premier League recruitment camp. Had Grant Holt been picked for the Euros he would have no doubt received the customary ‘come and play for us’ in a quiet corner of the training ground. Ironically, his England rejection may have kept him at Norwich a bit longer, though once he realises – if he hasn’t already - that players from ‘small’ clubs rarely get picked for England, the transfer request won’t be long in coming. How many times have you heard commentators say of an England starlet. ‘He plays for (insert your middle-ranking club here) but for how much longer?’ About as long as it takes one of his international colleagues to tap him up; totally unofficially of course.

A couple of the players also come between me and wholehearted support for  England. Though a quarter final was a worthy achievement for an undervalued manager and players tagged no hopers back home, I found it difficult to support a squad containing John Terry and Ashley Cole. Terry, lest we forget, had a racism allegation pending during the Euros. Though he is innocent til proven guilty, this is something that would have seen him suspended from any other job until the hearing, and to have the dignified Hodgson call him a ‘Warrior’ was baffling. Rio Ferdinand was then excluded from the squad, and Roy Hodgson’s citing of football reasons for his omission, (rather than Anton Ferdinand’s involvement in the Terry affair), convinced nobody. Meanwhile Cole’s sundry misdemenours since joining Chelsea – of which the shooting incident is just one – stick in the throat.

As England were battling it out with Ukraine for a quarter final place. I turned down the sound and used the Smith’s ‘Louder Than Bombs’ to soundtrack the action. A strange choice perhaps, but still preferable to the ‘famine or feast’ analysis and ludicrous build-up for Rooney pre kick-off. Did I want England to win the Euros? Honestly, I wasn’t worried either way. The world won’t stop turning. And with no West Ham players in the squad (and I know we deserve what we get after Tevez etc, etc.) there’ll be no unwelcome approaches from wealthy suitors. Well, not til James Tompkins get selected.

Author Info

Paul Caulfield

Freelance football writer with 25 years experience of preview and feature writing for listings magazines City Limits and Time Out, as well as 90 Minutes, Backpass and several non-League publications. I have focussed mainly on the non-League game in my magazine work, with online articles covering professional and international football. I also have experience as a club official with Clapton FC (of the Essex League), and learned the realities of running a club at that level.

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1 Response

  1. Michael Madsen says:

    There is always great excitement when watching 11 men wearing the shirt with the three lions among the English fans.

    This is of course understandable as England is a football mad nation and very patriotic.

    I therefore only wonder how it can be that the last generation of England players appear to have lost their patriotism. It would seem like they are looking at playing for England as little more than distraction from their daily, well paid jobs playing in the Premier League.

    This might be looked upon as an unmerited comment, and I am sure the players would say that the above statement is utter rubbish, and that they take great pride in playing for England…

    It is however noticeable how some of the countries who haven’t got Superstars like England and Holland are performing just as well as the two countries mentioned before.

    Take a country like Denmark. There only “Superstar” is Niklas Bendtner (and he might actually be only person who thinks he is a Superstar).

    Even though the value of the total Danish squad at the Euro 2012 would be half the price of Rooney, they fight with a spirit and togetherness which makes them grind out results finishing above Portugal at the last two qualifying campaigns and beating Holland earlier this month.

    The majority of the Danish players are playing in leagues with lesser reputation that the Premier League, such as the Dutch, French, Belgium or Danish league with the important point being, they play much better when playing for their country compared to playing for the club team.

    This is the complete opposite to the England team we have seen at the last few finals.

    If England is to win anything of any importance it is not just the playing style which needs to change, but more importantly the mentality the players have when wearing their England shirt.

    The players must start to put their country first, and if not prepared to do so perhaps they are not worthy of wearing the three lions.

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