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.
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.