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The Roker Ramble: The Ongoing Failings Of England

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If there's one topic I love to have a whinge about its International football. Possibly because aside from SAFC nothing else has let me down as consistently. What is it with International football? Why does our National side seem so keen on alienating itself with the everyday fan?

With so much importance and prestige now placed on club competitions, success at International level has almost become irrelevant to a growing number of disillusioned followers. Sure, this may sound like the bitter view of an Englishman but truth be told I have had little to no interest in our National side since I was a youngster, possibly the 2002 World Cup. As a Sunderland fan watching England used to be a chance to support a team made up of talent that was unobtainable for a side like SAFC. In truth my nonchalant approach to the England setup these days has stemmed from a stubborn FA that are seemingly adverse to any suggestion of change or in fact common decency.

Take the recent England Squad announcement for example ahead of this weekend’s friendly with Spain. I don’t know about you but I would be much more likely to support a side made up of young, promising talent rather than the same old faces that have had their chance and continuously been found lacking. John Terry being a prime example. Ignoring the race row that Terry finds himself embroiled in, John has been part of a Chelsea defence that looks more susceptible to conceding goals than any other in recent memory. Look at the Arsenal game last weekend for example when he ended up flat on his face as Van Persie raced on to score. This is also a man who has suffered terribly with injury as of late, should we really still be relying on the likes of “Jay-Tee” for next year’s European Championship, or should we instead start placing some trust in the likes of Chris Smalling or Phil Jones?

In recent years Spain have reaped the benefits of investing in youth. Around 77% of players in La Liga are eligible for the Spanish national side. You only have to look at the success of the current Spanish side to see that this is clearly the way to go. In fairness to the Premier League clubs, the majority are embracing this ideal. The Jack Wilshere’s, Tom Cleverley’s, Daniel Sturridge’s and to a lesser extent our former midfielder Jordan Henderson for example have all been afforded more first team football than they probably would have
managed say five years ago.

Capello has openly said that Wayne Rooney has been left out of this squad due to his suspension which will see him miss the group stages of next summer’s competition in favour of experimenting with other forwards. Sound logic, but why not extend such common sense across the rest of the squad selection? For me it is time to put some trust in our vastly talented young players and reward players that are in form rather than stick with the same old faces who are living off their name and former glories. Take Micah Richards for example, an English player who has been in superb form for big spending, multi-national Manchester City this season, a nailed on choice you would imagine. Nope.

Then, as if that is not enough, the FA have seemingly backed down to the corrupt super power that is FIFA and their overlord Sepp Blatter with regards to the Poppy shenanigans. FIFA believe displaying the iconic image could create a provocative political precedent which could potentially cloud a future match because of historical difference. They also fear a future scenario where England may face Germany at a similar time of year.

Historical difference? Have FIFA completely forgotten one of the most famous and memorable moments in the sport’s history? The story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is one I will never forget, mainly because it was given an airing every festive period during my time at Sunderland's own St. Aidans Secondary but also the powerful message that it still holds today. The enduring tale of both English and German troops agreeing an impromptu truce on the battlefields of Ypres, Belgium, laying down their rifles and leaving the trenches for an impromptu game of football across no-man’s land went a long way to show that despite their differences football was able to unite people.

For me Remembrance Day transcends both charity and sport. It acts as a reminder as to the result of war, the needless waste of life. As George Blatt, an 86-year-old war veteran now General Secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association said recently:

“I’m lost for words. Its childish because if it wasn’t for us blokes FIFA wouldn’t be here. They wouldn’t be playing football”

If we cant trust our Football Association to stand up for what is right against such an emotionally charged issue such as this what trust can we have in them in making the right decisions over players like John Terry and the young players coming through the ranks that are the future of England?

Sorry Fabio, I’ll be washing my hair or watching X-Factor this weekend, you’re on your own.

So, do you still dust off the St. George's Cross, face paint and trumpets when England are playing? Or has the shine well and truly worn off the National game for you too? Let us know in the comments below!