Why should I comment on England in a blog about Oxford United?
I struggle with my national identity; I’m half Scottish by blood, but almost entirely English by culture. However, I have always been drawn to the underdog over the dominant empire. Until about 15 years ago, I admired England for its dogged Englishness. Now, I am influenced by Oxford United and the joy of fleeting success and by this token I feel more affinity towards Scotland.
I don’t own any English merchandise, I don’t appreciate the modern English malaise of its right to success. On the other hand, I can’t deny that I enjoy the enhanced sense of national consciousness brought on by a major tournament campaign.
But, with England being ignominiously pulled to bits by Germany the reality of the Premier League’s influence has been fully revealed. The circus has airbrushed English football until it is barely recognisable. It has distanced the players from the fans; we are consumers to be entertained, not participants in some glorious mission. According to Wayne Rooney, we are there to consume without question. This is fine when it is entertaining but when it goes wrong it is difficult to grab hold of anything to care about.
Amidst all the recriminations, nobody seems able to admit that this group of players just isn’t very good. This is no ‘golden generation’, if it ever existed it blossomed but failed in 2006. Capello was handed the remnants of its edifice.
But what has this got to do with Oxford? Well, it’s about identity and affinity. The Premier League and its participants have destroyed England football’s national identity through its voracious appetite for global recognition. The profile of JT, Stevie G, Lamps, Cashley and Wazza have not only failed to meet their self-proclaimed world-class billing, they’ve succeeded in suffocating the development the next wave of talent, because it’s cheaper to buy it in then grow it yourself.
I don’t blame the players per se, but the Premier League has much to answer for. Not that Sky, the BBC or any major media outlet will ever take them to task. England, in the meantime, will just keep firing perfectly good managers with two-dimensional reasons of blame (Sven – promiscuous, Mclaren – dull. Capello – tactically inept).
As its relevance to me disappears over the horizon, I gravitate more towards the homely surrounds of the Kassam Stadium. Our aspirations aren’t global domination; they’re about working together to succeed – and celebrating together when we do.
So, introduce goal line technology, as if that will change anything at all about your relative global standing. Me, I prefer watching Damien Batt overrunning the ball into touch. At least I know he’s trying and that any success – modest as it may be – is well deserved.