Tuesday, June 29, 2010

End of the 'golden generation'

Long-standing readers of this blog - if there are any - will doubtless have noted the distinct lack of blogging on the 2010 World Cup thus far compared with 2006. Partly it's a symptom of changing times. Life was considerably less busy back then - only one child, a house and garden that needed little doing to it, a considerably less demanding role at work than the one I now hold.

But really those are just excuses. The main reason I haven't blogged on the World Cup until now is that England's performances in it were so dire it was moreorless impossible to summon up the requisite degree of enthusiasm.

I don't think I was by any means alone in this. Friends who were happy to come round to our place and drink beer at 8am in the morning for England's early-morning kick-offs during the Japan-South Korea tournament in 2002 seemed oddly resistant to footie-related get-togethers this time round.

Is it that we are eight years older and wiser? Or is it simply that England are just shite?

Each World Cup is, in one sense, an opportunity to relive the experiences of the previous ones. Some football fans of a slightly older vintage than myself still long to repeat the thrill of our 1966 triumph, the more so perhaps as it recedes further and further into the dim and distant past.

But I was too young to remember much about that. For me, it is Italia '90 which continues to cast a shadow over each subsequent tournament, Sir Bobby Robson's men who continue to make each subsequent England team suffer by comparison.

They called this the 'golden generation,' but Capello's motley crew couldn't hold a candle to that lot. Sure, on paper you would rate John Terry a better player than Terry Butcher, Steven Gerrard above David Platt, Wayne Rooney above Peter Beardsley even. But they wouldn't play for Fabio like those boys played for Sir Bobby twenty years' back.

And with such evident lack of passion on the pitch when compared to the England teams of old, how on earth could we fans be expected to work up the same level of excitement as of yore?

The general consensus in the papers this week has been that the 2014 generation of potential World Cup players is considerably less gifted than the present one, although it is surely too early to say whether the likes of Jack Rodwell, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Conor Wickham will go the way of Rooney and kick-on to world-class status, or flatter to deceive in the manner of other one-time prodigies such as Theo Walcott and David Bentley.

But it need not necessarily be a handicap. The only truly world-class players in our World Cup-winning side in 1966 were the goalkeeper, Gordon Banks, the captain, Bobby Moore, and midfield fulcrum Bobby Charlton. Were they not national heroes, some of the others would almost have qualified for the description 'journeymen.'

The difference was that Sir Alf moulded them into an effective unit, much as Sir Bobby somewhat serendipitously managed to do with his charges in 1990.

If someone - Martin O'Neill perhaps - can do that four years from now, then perhaps the flame of that unforgettable summer may yet flicker into life again.

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David Gladwin said...

Well, I'm a long-standing reader of this blog, and I've also shared a fair bit of international football with Paul.

But he's right. We might have lost on penalties at the end of the night, but I'll always remember us being in the Rifleman's Arms on the night of Wednesday 4 July 1990 and nothing - not eventually beating the German side again, not beating them 5-1, not even the Friday afternoon when Beckham and co saw off Argentina (when we were in the same pub, and took part in the celebrations in the middle of the A6 immediately afterwards) could beat that wonderful surge when Lineker scored and suddenly we were back in the game.

And that's what it's about, really. Only one nation every four years can win the World Cup; the rest of us must be content to enjoy the heartwrenching and enervating moments along the way to another defeat.

Let's not kid ourselves: we still love it.

TheBoilingFrog said...

I think you're right regarding the enthusiasm this time, there certainly seem to be fewer flags about either on cars or on houses than there were during the previous two World Cups.

Disagree, though about Italia 90. The fact the England reached the semis obviously casts a shadow, but England were dreadful for most of that World Cup (in fact the whole World Cup itself was poor). We only just managed to beat Egypt, Belgium (in the very last minute) and Cameron.

I think the game against Germany masks for me what was just a lucky campaign by England. Even Sir Bobby when asked how did you do it, replied "I've no idea".

G Eagle Esq said...

"..... readers of this blog - if there are any .... "

Courage, mon Brave, Courage

Keep the Posts coming - for every Commenter there are many other "silent" readers

We do not necessarily agree with your Support for "Left-of-Centre" Policies & "irresponsibly" High Government Spending, which have got the Beloved Country into such a mess and which will result in higher levels of unEmployment and Poverty than we should have had without them

...... but we are certainly much-better informed

Now back to the Port