England fans today should remember the Ramsey/Shawcross incident

I'll start this out by admitting I'm an Arsenal fan.  Clearly I'm biased, but it's extraordinary the extent to which my predictions mirrored the eventual reality, and that is the foundation for the point I'm about to make.

Remember, remember the 27th of February.  Ryan Shawcross breaks Aaron Ramsey's leg with a horrendous tackle.  What happens next?  Wenger responds angrily, of course.  And then, on cue, the "proper English" get emphatically behind Shawcross.  More importantly, many people in the England national team camp get behind Shawcross.  Within hours he's not talking about his contrition, but rather how wonderful it is to have received so much support from England players.  He actually gets a call-up for England soon thereafter, even though he doesn't ever actually get on the field.

Ryan Shawcross manhandling Wayne Rooney in England training

In the aftermath of all that I posted the following on a forum:

I have no malice towards Shawcross. You can't compare this situation to the Matt Taylor challenge. Shawcross really thought he could get the ball. Taylor knew that he was going to get every inch of Eduardo's ankle. I'm not saying Taylor meant to cripple Eduardo, but he definitely meant to give him a good thump.

I do blame Pulis, and the stupid English mentality of agricultural football. "That Arsenal. They play football, eh? Well keep on kicking them until they stop playing football." Well guess what? England is about to get their arses handed to them at the WC. Teams such as Spain, Argentina and Brazil play football, not Ploughman kickboxing. England can't kick their way into winning because that's not allowed outside England.

English fans keep on moaning about their country's serial failures on the international stage, but they need look no further than their own FA for blame, and the sort of so-called football that's endorsed in the country's highest league.

Shawcross was probably told every day of the past week that if he catches sight of the ball, he should hurl every limb at it. He did exactly that, the poor, untalented lump, and this time he got very unlucky with the result. But even more unlucky is Ramsey. I do hope they both recover, but I hope, somehow, improbably, Ramsey recovers first.

By the Way Arseblogger put the same point brilliantly in "He's not that kind of player."

So you know what?  I dedicate the England loss today to Stan Collymore, to Lou Macari, to Sam Wallace (even though Wallace is not a contemptible than the others) who insisted, to the craven extent of upbraiding Wenger, that players such as Shawcross, and the style (using that term very loosely) they embody represent the admirable qualities of English football.  I hope you idiots admired your slow, lumbering, unimaginative, and frankly cowardly boys today.  You deserve every moment of your present misery.  And if you do not reform your own mentality, and also work to reform British football, you will have many more days of such misery to come.


And I do mean "British" there.  Scotland has the same problem, and thus never looks likely to enjoy a Slovenia-like run.  Ireland is of course not British, but there is much cultural commerce between the two islands, especially in football.  The Irish have focused their attention on the Henry handball, and not the fact that if they had taken France's place in that group they would have suffered even more woeful result.  Ireland has nothing to challenge the dynamic movement and football skills that dominate successful teams in this age, whether footballing power nations, or small interlopers.

The British/Irish mentality is a relic, and the Italian team has demonstrated the value of relics in football.  Look at Germany today.  I've heard a lot of nonsense from England players and fans today (on 606/Five Live, of course, not Talk Sport Radio who are symbolized by their loudmouth Collymore) that the 4-1 scoreline doesn't represent the game.  They're right.  It felt more like a 6-2 game.  The pace, the movement, the creativity, the quickness of thought, the crisp passing from the Germans made the English look like a pub team.

If this game were in the premiereship the English would have wasted no time giving the Germans a good, early kicking, to settle down all that fancy stuff.  But this is not the premiereship.  This is a FIFA event.  Guess what?  In a FIFA event you're not going to get a British referee.  You're going to get a referee who has no idea what the term "get stuck in" means, but who does have colorful cards in his pocket, and is very willing to use them.  And rightly so.  FIFA has emphasized their desire to protect creative and dynamic players.  The English mentality comes from days when The Battle of Highbury and The Battle of Santiago were just standard fare for International football.  And the FA and its officials are English mentality from wingtips to bowler hats.  Yes, Shawcross did get sent off, but he also got no more retrospective punishment than players get from a handbags push above the chest.


Look at Germany again.  Klinsmann had to come in and break an antiquated system.  He rebuilt the Mannschaft around dynamic movement of the men and the ball.  People now forget how much abuse he took for all his efforts.  Until their remarkable, over-achieving 2006 WC finals run everyone thought he was a silly meddler who didn't understand the German mentality, having moved to the US.  He soldiered on, and remade the team, and basically changed the German mentality.  They are reaping the rewards.  Capello is never the sort of transformative genius who can effect such a change, and even though Capello will almost certainly be shown the door now, with a fat severance in his back pocket, all the discussion of replacements are about getting in a "proper Englishman who understands the English player".  Yes.  They still just don't get it.

So true-blue English pundits, enjoy watching the Germans show you what sort of football it takes to do well in modern international tournaments.  Don't worry about changing that stubborn English mentality.  Go ahead and keep encouraging thug plowmen like Shawcross, telling them that they are good enough for the Three Lions, and better yet, keep teaching your schoolboys that's the sort of football Englishmen play.  Luckily I'm not an England fan.  Nigeria and the US have their own problems, for sure, but I can at least enjoy the sentiment described by that marvellous German term schadenfreude .  And I hope Ramsey, who showed flashes for brilliance for Wales, and is at least an example that Britain might be capable of producing something approximating an actual world class player, is enjoying the misery of all those people whose sympathies just a few months ago lay not with him, but with the drooling zombie who injured him.  In your face, English mentality.

2 responses
really excellent write up ... I do have nostalgia for the english game but it does feel like they are being left behind.

Otherwise the same old england e.g. 'talk em up to cut em down' mentality was in full effect ... the media is just awful in how they build em up with lots of sentimental 'we back our boys' then when any kind of adversity hits they turn hysterical ... as a player why would you want to play for people like this ?

I heard interview after interview of english fans in SA saying 'we paid a lot of money to come here' ... whilst the most amount of tickets bought were by the US, a supposedly non soccer loving nation.

I know a lot of true english fans so perhaps being a bit unfair though lets face it the FA and its constant internal struggles seems to play itself out on the field ... e.g. was it really necessary to have contractual negotiations on the eve of going out to the World Cup with the coach ? This should have been sorted years in advance.

The only real mistake Fabio made, in my opinion, was leaving Walcott at home and burdening Rooney with an enormous responsibility and losing 'that something different' which would have been useful in the group stages. Rooney either mentally was overwhelmed or more likely was carrying a number of injuries.

Lastly, a disallowed goal would knock the wind out of any team's sails ... yes luck does come into it but the Germans did deserve the win.

Perhaps England should have drank a few more pints before the match this time !

Thanks, James.

I think there was something very interesting about those mostly physical battles of yesteryear, but I when I watch the modern game, a lot of that nostalgia fades away. I love that in the modern game players are willing to take each other one on one without fear of retaliation by some hard man who got nutmegged. I love the beautiful geometry of top-notch tactics, and I can't get enough of the thrill and suspense of a sudden counter-attack, which you have to admit was a rare occurrence in the old game (though of course we remember highlights more than we do full games so we get the wrong impressions from our memories).

And I do admit that fear and pressure from the English media had some influence on the players, but I can't credit that made a significant amount of difference. Özil pwned the English defensive midfield, and right side, and much of that was just clearly just that he is a better class of player who knows his geometry. The Germans were just more intelligent in their timing, in their choices of runs, in their shot selection, etc. It's hard not to see that as a fundamental gap in quality.

As for the disallowed goal, it was a disgrace, and that's why I said it felt more like a 6-2 game. But I don't much buy the wind-out-of-the-sails bit. That happened early enough in the game for players with the right mentality to recover. They had their own period of domination around that phantom goal, and if they'd had more nous, they would have capitalized. It is telling that they came out for the second half looking even more flat. I really think they had run through their wits by then.

Definitely agree that the Capello contract talks right before the WC were a bizarre event, and that he should have taken Walcott rather than SWP. Yes Walcott is a wild-card, but at the very least he's proven in his ability to completely turn a game on its head as an impact player running at tired defenses.