England’s footballing identity is vanishing quicker than the fans can handle

During England’s victory over Lithuania, one ITV camera chose to pan around Wembley’s sparse crowd in a large scale game of spot-the-Milf. Clive Tyldesley chirped a little ‘Happy Mother’s Day to all you England fans’ and a wave of depression swept over the nation. Have we really become that disinterested in our own national team?

Whilst we did see glimmers of hope from England’s 34-year-old poster boy, Jermain Defoe, and everyone was charmed by the presence of young Bradley Lowery as the team’s mascot, everything else from Sunday’s game inspired little from the nation. If things have become so desperate that yummy-mummy watching was a favourable alternative to the pitch, our perception of the football must have been dire.

Beyond dire.

For many, the perverse sweep of the crowd for a mum under the age of 30 was, worryingly, no doubt the highlight of the game. Creepy old man implications aside, something dark and troubling was exposed by this editorial decision.

We now care more for anything – literally anything – than watching our national side compete.

Had a man held up a sign that proclaimed “My name is Barry and I come from Dudley and wear beige whilst auditing cutlery”, we would have all rejoiced. Thank you, Barry; you’ve livened up the evening. You old legend.

We will now allow ourselves to be distracted from the 90-minute endeavour of watching England play in whatever way we can. And it’s tragic to see.

Be it Milf-spotting, boring Baz, or even auditing our own cutlery; we’ll do almost anything to avoid watching England play.

Long gone are the days of glory, grit and guts. There’s not a Stuart Pearce, Terry Butcher or Paul Gascoigne in sight. In their place, we have Jesse Lingard, Jake Livermore and Ben Gibson instead.

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Doesn’t that just inspire a burning passion for our country’s football?

Sadly, the national view on international football is more or less that we’ll take it or leave it. How many of us were relieved to remember the international break would be disrupting our footballing diaries last week? None, presumably.

No one punched the air and roared out a deafening rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’, did they? Did anyone’s mum get the bunting, inflatable hand and nachos out? Did they hell. What we did all do was collectively groan. We knew what we were in for.

Another sneaky weekend that bites you on the backside and subjects you to arduously watching a dreary game of football without really caring for it. That’s what we were in for. And that’s precisely what we got.

Whether we’re simply tired of getting our hopes up, only for them to be dashed by some smug footballing minnow in the last 16, or whether we’ve lost a little bit of our national identity over recent years is unsure. Of course, we’re all tired of watching disappointing tournament after disappointing tournament, but it’s got to be something a little more than that.

If we truly cared, like we do for our clubs, wouldn’t we devote ourselves to watching England fail with pride? Surely we’d all eagerly await the international break, unified in our anticipation of what the country’s finest footballing talents can – or cannot – achieve.

But none of us do. So it can’t just be the fear of failure.

After the supposed ‘Golden Generation’ of the New Millennium; Beckham, Gerrard, Rooney & Co., we’ve all lost our way with English football. Once this Golden Generation failed to live up to their name, we shifted our focus to the next crop of English talent.

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Every year the media excite us with new prospects. Remember, after all, Danny Welbeck was once heralded as the future of our proud nation. Wow, how times have changed.

Every year these new prospects find themselves falling onto the pile of English flops that litter the country more than John Terry’s former lovers.

Every year we feel that same pang of pain that can only come when the hopes of a nation are cruelly dashed by an uninspired, underwhelming group of disinterested England stars.

We’ve lost all faith in that group and have now taken, almost therapeutically, to averting our gaze every time they take to the field.

There are countless problems beyond this. The same players who we jeer and lambaste every week domestically are then the very same players who we are expected to cheer and adore nationally.

Furthermore, our recent managerial merry-go-round has left a stale taste of temporariness to the England team. Who knows who’ll be the gaffer come Russia 2018. So why should we back who’s in charge now?

On top of this is a loss of national identity. With recent political and social disputes dividing the nation, football’s status as a uniting force has come under immense pressure.

Whilst everyone can still head down to the local and strike up a nice, safe footballing chin-wag with all the usuals, we haven’t really got an image on the international stage anymore. And that’s causing a bitter disenfranchisement.

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Sadly, for a country that once produced the likes of Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth; we now steal trashy songs from other countries to the tune of “Vardy’s on fire” instead of crafting our own, respectable image.

Come on. Really? Jamie Vardy is who we’ve come to consider the epitome of Englishness?

That is a truly miserable thought.

From ‘to be or not to be’ to ‘chat s**t, get banged’ seems quite the demotion. Sadly, it’s become the very summary of modern English football.

The likes of Stuart Pearce, Terry Butcher and Paul Gascoigne are no more. We’ve lost the Golden Generation and 1966 was, clearly, way back in 1966.

English footballing identity is vanishing quicker than we can handle and what’s replacing it is fast becoming an ironically boring laughing-stock.

Who’s going to start caring again? Not English fans, not for now anyway. Something drastic needs to change. Let’s start by watching the game, not the Milfs. And let’s try to watch with pride.