Sam Allardyce has taken on, if not the most difficult job in English football, then certainly the most thankless. And, if he’s going to make an immediate impact, then he’s going to have to sort out his priorities fast - but where to start?
Well, getting players to respond better to pressure has to be high on the list - you could argue that it was the pressure of playing the host nation that caused Germany to lose to France and that France lost in the final due to the pressure of expectations, but then England lost to Iceland because their supporters clapped differently, so maybe our problems are bigger than we think.
And with so much to do this is where we can help, because even if he gets the players playing as they should and restores some pride in the jersey, there is one thing he has to do to stamp his authority on the job and that is to categorically state that this is a new era and we will move forward from this point.
I don’t care if we lose to Iceland, I don’t care if we lose to Hudson Road Primary. He has got to get rid of that band.
For years we’ve been watching international football that has been turgid, under-performing dross to a soundtrack of ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Rule Britannia’, played on endless repeat by a small group of giftless chancers who sound like they’re trapped in a washing machine. They were invited into games twenty years ago by Glen Hoddle ‘to improve the atmosphere’. Well, here’s a tricky one Glen, how about upping the standard of the football we play - who knows, that might embellish the overall ambiance somewhat? Putting a bunch of rank amateur brass assassins into the crowd didn’t work twenty years ago, and it doesn’t work now.
And it’s not as if they’re any good – I mean if they could follow the game in front of them like the orchestra at some early silent movie, with a rich flowing tapestry of interpretive melodies, rising crescendos’ and atmospheric passages to quicken the pulse and swell the passion.... but they can’t, they’re rubbish. They can play two tunes, both badly. They’re out of time, out of tune and out of date and they have to go now.
I’m not alone in my opinion. I’ve scoured t’internet for their supporters but they seem to be located in that part of the web not indexed by search engines. In fact I found the opposite; David Baddiel tweeted ‘I tire of endless Rule Britannia’s and Great Escapes’, Guardian journalist Barney Ronay, said of them - ‘whose parpings and whumpings tend to produce the feeling of being very slowly lulled into semi-consciousness by a dementedly patriotic stage hypnotist'. He's way too kind. Fergus Craig likened it to "the Go Compare advert of international football fans". Dermot Kelly said: "The England Supporters Band is right up there with the vuvuzela for wanting to stab myself in the head with a fork."
In fact they only positive comment I could find – was from the band themselves, which, by the way, includes ‘entertainer’ Bernie Clifton for all those pub quiz aficionados out there, where they maintained that the crowd around them welcomed them with open arms. In which case the crowd around them is either closely related, tone deaf or too drunk to know better.
Isn’t it bad enough watching England lose to some small, unassuming country for whom football is the fourth- placed national sport after water polo, yak racing and knitting yoghurt without being continually subjected to tuneless drivel from a bunch of jingoistic self-promoters who are immune to the large body of criticism levelled against them and as such reflect the arrogance of an England team who take to the field thinking the world is lucky to see them perform rather than having something to prove?
So come on Sam, this is a serious request. They’re associated in the national psyche with twenty years of disappointment; they’re the theme tune to failure. Make a clean and fresh start to your chapter of the England story, and send the right signal that things might actually change for the better from here.