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Frank Lampard broke my foot

fans viewsIn his first column for FMU Paul Madill writes about the inevetiability of supporting England despite whatever reservations about the team. 

Frank Lampard broke my foot…

 

A few years ago, it was not uncommon to hear the chant “Argentina” echoing around Old Trafford, not only a pledge of affection to one of our own now so acrimoniously departed but, it transpired, as a direct eschewal of supporting the England national team. Now there are myriad reasons for this, ranging from their perennial underachievement to the circus that surrounds the entire job, the media side of which cost us the opportunity of having one of the most experienced and talented managers in world football in charge of the Three Lions, the compellingly nicknamed “Big” (wink wink nudge nudge) Phil Scolari, who presumably had not the time in his schedule to deal with the press intrusion as well as the considerable demands of moonlighting as a Gene Hackman look-a-like.

I came to this as I contemplated last weekend’s international fixtures. England again were in dire straits in their group after a series of drab performances, and required a demi-miracle that just as miraculously occurred, Israel doggedly sinking Russia and Croatia, up to their necks in a Macedonian quagmire which divided the pitch into a deep and shallow end, losing 2-0, the second goal comically floating over the line with the speed and grace of an elderly swan. England also played, an utterly superfluous friendly on Friday night, whose only benefit was to allow us to observe David Beckham constantly stranded on the halfway line, lost in Tactical Indecision Land, and to see the wafer-like Michael Owen once more injure himself. In fact, the most exciting thing about the whole evening was a moth that kept smacking into the flickering screen, on many an occasion meriting a puerile giggle as it seemingly landed on a player’s head, or the referee’s genitals; yes, it was that bad, like being force-fed thick porridge and treacle through a funnel in your nostrils.

Now you see, I’m a terrific patriot and, up to last summer, watched and devoted myself to England with the same fervent zeal I show for Manchester United. But when Frank Lampard missed his penalty against Portugal, I jumped in the air, fell funny and cracked my 5th metatarsal (a la Rooney; in fact, I was wearing a red England shirt with ROONEY on the back and the radiographer found this very amusing). This is the point where I lost faith in England, all my dreams of the “Golden Generation” coming to fruition lost as I sat furry-hangover-tongued with my rapidly contusing and purple foot in the air in Coventry’s A&E. All those years of expectation, promises and defiant statements evaporated to nothing and it wasn’t the first time, England have underachieved since 1990, to be harsh, or Euro 96, to be generous. This then was when the bubble burst, realisation set in, and like the timid wife who kept returning despite the broken promises and letdowns then one day realises, I finally turned away from England.

Ask me up to that juncture and I’d have replied easily that I’d wish England to win a trophy ahead of United winning the Champion’s League. But after this point it came to a point where I watched England almost disinterestedly, wanting them to win but not breaking my heart when they didn’t (bar a drunken relapse after the Croatia fiasco). I finally took United into clear daylight in my priorities, and consciously told people that England were at best third or fourth on the list, after maybe Football Manager (sooo life-ruiningly fantastic) and cheese & bean toasties.

And yet away in Manchester this weekend, admittedly after going to Old Trafford during the day, which seemed oddly sad and doleful without the rapture and febricity of a crowd, I sat glued to the screen in my hotel room before going out, and danced like an idiot when Israel got the opener, dancing further idiotic jigs when the exquisitely politically-named Golan scored the winner so deep into injury time he’d actually ran through the fabric of time and space itself; someone cleverer than me might also work in something witty along the lines of how “Golan hit the Heights”, but I wouldn’t, and won’t.

I suppose the point is that I’ve realigned my priorities, and far from thinking ill of those who hoarsely chorused “Argentina”, I can understand their frustration, their loyalties. As much as I try to hate England for what they’ve done to me, and the country at large, I can’t, they’re like that uncle you dislike but always give a hug too, because it’s just what to do. I hope for a Man Utd European win as staunchly as any, but it seems that, like it or not, I will always have room in my heart for England, and their soul-destroying brand of doing everything frustratingly wrong, from picking the wrong gaffer time and time again to going to places like St Kitt’s (exaggeration) and playing for the point, to pandering to egos and not playing the form players worth a shot, not forgetting taking an untried 17 year-old to the World Cup. To my mind, Eriksson couldn’t be in a better place, as I was less than fond of him as England coach, and now his shiny, prurient little pate resides on the blue half of Manchester I feel genuine dislike of him, the dirty so-and-so.

 

So yes, even against my better, fully cognisant judgement, I’ll be going through the mill with England again Wednesday, but it will be safe in the knowledge that I always have Man United to fall back on when the disappointments of international weeks invariably come.

 

Come on England.

 

Paul Madill

 

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