Supporters are full of yo-yoing emotions watching games on an ‘expectations v reality’ split screen but it’s time to flip the script and accept the Three Lions are not infallible, says Laura Lawrence.
Watching football is exhausting. I’ve watched almost every match of the Euros so far. My fitness watch has told to me “get up and move” so many times in the last week it now thinks I’m clinically dead.
Do you know what makes watching football much more tiring? Following England matches. Every England match is like the ‘expectations v reality’ scene in the film 500 Days of Summer.
England fans are Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The hero. The anti-hero.
There’s a split screen of two timelines of the match that runs simultaneously. On one side the expectation that football really is coming home this time. On the other, the reality that there are teams better than us. Players (and managers) better than ours.
There is little nuance in English football. I say English football, because despite Robbie Savage telling us every Welsh player is “magnificent”, the other home nations’ fans appear happy to be playing in a tournament and are realistic about their chances of progressing.
There’s a pendulum of emotion in the English psyche and it always seems to be set to extremes. One or the other. Few grey areas. This collective national hysteria shouldn’t be a surprise. Remember the country fell apart when KFC ran out of chicken?
Media reporting exacerbates this swinging pendulum. The need for unflinching patriotism, pre-tournament and pre-game, suddenly switches to column inches filled with over-analysis of why the team underachieves.
We’ve had the Euro 96 England v Scotland game rammed down our throats so much that the expectation was already seeded that England might play poorly but they would win. It’s only Scotland after all. The expectation versus reality.
So, what is the reality going into the third group match?
England haven’t conceded in the tournament so far and have only conceded one in the last eight games.
Have those last-eight matches been against significant opposition? No. Since playing Belgium in the Uefa Nations League we’ve played Iceland, San Marino, Albania, Austria, and Romania, with Poland and Croatia the toughest opponents of those fixtures.
Are the players inexperienced? Yes. The team against Scotland was the youngest England have ever fielded.
Should those young players be used to pressure? Almost certainly. There are players in that team who have played at the highest club level in Europe. They have earned medals to prove it.
Is the pressure of playing for England significantly higher than playing for their club? Yes.
Is Harry Kane underperforming? Yes. Do we know the reason why? No: we’re all just guessing.
Is Gareth Southgate the right man for the job? Maybe we should let him try and we can find out.
It was always likely that England would qualify for the knockout stages. Not an unreasonable expectation. Are they going to win this tournament? Unlikely.
The pendulum will keep on swinging. England will play badly. They will play well again. Fallibility isn’t a dirty word. Nor are England’s chances clinically dead.
Follow Laura Lawrence on Twitter @YICETOR