Mitch Murphy is the Community Manager for a new Fantasy Football app – Battle Star’s Football. We’re delighted to bring you the next in his comedic football series ‘Team’s I Hate in the Spotlight’. We saw his pieces on Reddit a little while ago and much like Bayern Munich seeing a good player playing for a different Bundesliga club, we thought we had to snap him up. Mitch has kindly shared his work with us, so for your enjoyment, please read on and be sure to follow Mitch on Twitter @iammitchmurphy.
On our most recent podcast, we discussed how rubbish the European Qualifiers have been. In Mitch’s latest piece, he discusses how rubbish England have been. Forever.
“The level of football in England is the top. English football is the leader in the world.”
Pele (Brazil 1957-1971)
The England national team – A football club so richly steeped in national dishonour they would be more aptly associated with Marcus Junius Brutus than seen as the inventors of the greatest sport of all time. A team so unjustly engulfed in optimism, they are, somehow, masters of under-performing – even though they have only ever won one major competition in their pathetic 141 year history. A team so shit that their fans are forced to quote a senile, fair-weathered, narcissistic old man like Pele in a bid to gain credibility.
The English Football Association was conceived in 1863 and began operations tremendously when they decided to solely sanction competitive fixtures against Scotland, who they foretold, and quite rightly so, as utterly shit. However, in what would become stereotypical fashion for the national team, England did not live up to the hype and failed to win their first game, drawing against their to-be age old rival. As if gazing in to a crystal ball, the team were able to give the general public a brief glimpse of the terror that was to come in the future. Further fixtures between the two nations occurred and England managed to secure three wins and another draw, confirming that they were undisputedly the greatest national team of all time at that stage in football history –it was almost as if nobody else was trying.
However, the ploy of only playing Scotland was soon to backfire as England’s best-friend Catastrophe was waiting around the corner with the lead pipe of disappointment. Within eight years of the first match against Scotland, the Scots had already become much better than England at the game they invented – a recurring theme that would sweep the world faster than Beatlemania. Scotland thrashed England 7-2 in 1878, passing them off the park in a technically superior display as the English side stuck diligently to their kick-and-run, physical approach to the game. Evidently, England needed to find much shitter teams to beat in order to prove their greatness.
Due to the lack of air travel, England were left to play Scotland, Wales and Ireland over the next 40 years in what still ranks as the worst International league of all time. The first opportunity to show the rest of Europe just how great we believed we were soon arrived and England put the inexperienced nations of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia to the sword. Get fucked you footballing peasants. England’s first defeat outside of the British Isles came in a 4-3 loss to Spain in Madrid. The Spanish team was, at the time, heavily influenced by their English assistant manager Fred Pentland. An early precursor of just how easy it was for England to be capable of beating themselves.
England did not enter the first three World Cups due to a disagreement and subsequent exodus from FIFA over payments to amateur players. It was to prove costly as they somehow – from the lofty heights of their high horse – defeated the 1934 World Cup champions Italy 3-2 shortly after the competition had finished. Once again, England were the self-anointed, unofficial, greatest team in the world. A title they would hold numerous times throughout their illustrious and padded history.
After the Second World War, England re-joined FIFA much to the not-made-up-as-I-write-this adulation of the world football community. Upon re-joining, the FA hired the nation’s first dedicated team manager, Walter Winterbottom (whose name still reigns undefeated to this day). Before this, and even during Winterbottom’s reign, the England first team was selected by a committee of old relics who would, reportedly, place pictures of potential squad members on the floor and then have a psychic chicken select players by pecking the photographs of those deemed worthy of representing the country.
England entered their first World Cup in 1950 and immediately set the standard for future competitions they would compete in. The national team painted themselves with embarrassment as they lost in the group stage to the United States – the equivalent of being beaten on FIFA by your friend who doesn’t really like football- and subsequently crashed out of the competition at the first hurdle. Billy Wright, the England captain, was heavily criticised for the failure and as such the legend of the English scapegoat was born.
Towards the ‘60s English football began to flourish with a core nucleus of truly world class footballers emerging from the foray: Banks, Moore, Charlton, Ball, and Greaves, to name a few. The man appointed to manage this international A-Team was Alf Ramsey and he was given full control of team selection as the coven at the FA agreed to loosen their grip. Success isn’t funny though so after quickly glossing over this brief era of supremacy, we’ll be moving on.
After the greatest World Cup victory ever in 1966, results in subsequent tournaments have resembled sequels in a horror movie franchise with each instalment becoming increasingly disappointing, regardless of efforts from the FA and future managers to try to freshen up the formula.
The FA breezed through the ‘70s and ‘80s as if they were playing Jumanji as with every roll of the managerial dice they would unleash new horrors upon the nation. Ramsey was replaced by Don Revie who immediately got to work enhancing England’s reputation of being shit by failing to qualify for the 1976 European Championships.
Brian Clough applied for the role after Revie’s departure but was immediately deemed too talented an option and his application was subsequently turned down. The FA opted for Ron Greenwood instead who, like a vampire rising from a crypt, emerged from retirement to take the job. His record still stands tall today: failed to qualify for World Cup 1978, failed to reach beyond the group stages at Euro 1980, and went out at the second round of World Cup 1982. Three more achievements to pin to the shit board. All hail the footballing powerhouse.
A series of appointments including Sir. Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor took the team in to the ‘90s. Whereas Robson tried his utmost to alter the world view of the England national team for the better, Taylor, who has a section in ‘The Official History of the England Team’ titled ‘Best We Forget’, did his best to eradicate any good Robson had achieved. Failing to win a single game at Euro 92 while only scoring one goal was an adequate response to Robson’s achievements and ensured the reputation of being pure overhyped shit was upheld. Believe it or not, Taylor was actually a talented manager who was clearly struggling with the inappropriate amount of pressure that comes with the England national job. However, like a gypsy selling haunted goods, the FA very often cackles and then magically disappears in to thin air when a manager turns to them for help.
By the time Euro 96′ rolled around, Terry Venables was in the hot seat and, due to the tournament being hosted domestically, there was a buzz about the country. With the foreign temptations of riding rented quad bikes to stadiums, shagging girls named Gabriella and Maria, and smuggling cigarettes back from Duty Free all unavailable to the players, the team somehow performed. Paul Gascoigne, a man plagued by demons due to a very serious alcohol problem, celebrated a goal against Scotland by having one of his team-mates demonstrate one of the drinking games the squad had invented. As expected, the English fans and media loved it, and once again the nation was celebrating for all the wrong reasons. England were eventually eliminated by their kryptonic enemy: the penalty shoot-out. If England ever show signs of breaking away from their usual conglomerate of failure, you can bank on a penalty shoot-out appearing from the darkness to return balance to the force.
After the FA made a mess of Terry Venables’ contract extension, Glenn Hoddle was appointed. Hoddle, a relatively foreign thinking manager – and player for that matter – was a break away from the stereotypical Premier League ethos and deployed tactics which heavily involved ball retention coupled with methodical and meticulous build-up play – something which allowed the England players to retain their energy and not simply mill around the pitch until exhaustion set in like a Sim trying to escape a swimming pool which has just had its ladder deleted. To super ensure his players wouldn’t succumb to physical and mental fatigue or injuries, he employed a high priestess – Eileen Drewery – as part of the national physiotherapy team. I’m not making this up.
Stannis and Melisandre Hoddle and Drewery had worked previously at Chelsea and now had their sights on the Iron Throne World Cup. To couple Hoddle’s appointment of his high priestess, he then also hired the witch doctor Dr. Rougier to the physiotherapy team, a man who gained a reputation for injecting and feeding players with unknown formulas before big games – the equivalent of Bugs Bunny giving the Tune Squad Michael Jordan’s ‘Secret Stuff’ in Space Jam. Hoddle, a man so willing to sacrifice his own beliefs to that of higher powers, it is assumed he used a Magic 8-Ball to aid him with his team selection, was also famous for dropping Paul Gascoigne from the squad. “Should I select Gascoigne?” .. ‘Outlook not so good’. So, with a back room staff resembling the species selection of a Dungeons and Dragons game and his Magic 8-Ball in hand, Hoddle set off for the 1998 World Cup. Once again, the team crashed out via a penalty shoot-out.
Hoddle, also an avid believer of reincarnation, was eventually released by England due to claiming all disabled people were suffering for sins they had committed in a previous life – that actually happened. The FA once again rolled the Jumanji dice and Kevin Keegan emerged from the board, who then became famous for losing the last game at the old Wembley stadium to bitter rivals Germany. An excellent addition to the shit heap.
After the very predictable disappointment of Kevin Keegan’s reign as England manager, the English Football Association decided to mix things up. Sven-Goran Eriksson became the first ever foreign England manager and, regardless of looking like Marge Simpson’s painting of a naked Mr. Burns, he immediately started shagging everything in sight (including Germany who he bonked 5-1). This adored him to the nation. According to folklore, Sven’s had programmed his CV to play the ‘The Thong Song’ by Sisqo when the chief staff selector at the FA opened it. Sven’s had limited success as the England national coach but was never able to back it up with actual trophies. He did, however, continue the stellar England tradition of having never won a penalty shoot-out at a World Cup.
Eriksson was followed by Steve McClaren, who is the only person with a bigger claim to the umbrella than Mary Poppins. Men across England recoiled in horror like an overacting actress from the silent-era when they saw McLaren pop open an umbrella on the touchline during a bout of torrential rain. How dare he use a perfectly good invention in the correct manner. He lost his job soon after. Fabio Cappello was next up and he got straight to serving up the type of football that made you wish the Y2K apocalypse scenario had happened. The performances under Capello were dreary to say the least. Watching Capello’s England was like being forced to watch videos of your friend’s children; you don’t really want to but you feel compelled to hang in there until the end and pretend you enjoyed it. The team’s efforts got the results you would have expected – the worst World Cup performance of all time by an England team. You can’t top that level of dire shitness. It’s the ultimate.
Ever since the success in 1966, England have been a team operating in fancy dress; a nation so preoccupied with emulating the style of play and success of other countries that they shed their own identity a long time ago. As each new tournament arrives, England show up grotesquely wearing the skin of another country trying to pass themselves off as something they’re not. However, things are looking up. Well, maybe. Roy Hodgson and Gary Neville are currently attempting to reconstruct the England team like OCP did when they melding parts of Murphy’s body to steel in order to create Robocop. The difference is, Hodgson and Neville are creating a really shit footballing version of Robocop, and honestly, Robocop wouldn’t even be that useful a footballer. The problem is, we are still fantastically shit when it comes to tournaments, as displayed at the 2014 World Cup. At this point, FIFA would be better treating England and their World Cup campaigns like a beggar entering a restaurant looking for food. Pour some soup in to the hands of the players and then quietly shuffle the team out of the establishment before anybody notices. Qualifying for Euro 2016 is going swimmingly with England dispatching of all those who dare play them in the qualifiers. However, as history suggests, this is simply the precursor for a catastrophic exit when the tournament finally kicks off.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’ll still inexplicably get my hopes up.
Fuck off, England.