WHERE HAVE THE HEROES GONE?
Collectively, we are the rheumy-eyed liver-spotted old duffer who gazes wistfully into his pink gin and sighs to his companion, ” Yes. Those were they days. You know, I used to cut quite a dashing figure then. By god, I was one for the ladies. Couldn’t keep them away……..”
The companion nods sagely but feels sorry for the tired old man who has nothing but his memories to sustain him. An old man whose future is now in the past. The threadbare collar on his shirt, the shiny knot on his Guards tie and worn jacket all tell you that his future has already expired.
When the future disappears, it is the out-of-focus memories of a once vividly-coloured past which will sustain him. Every time the old man recalls the good old days, they become more intense, more in-focus and more embellished.
The summer of 1966 has passed into legend but every now and again, we try and re-ignite THAT football game against Germany which, over the years, has acquired a mysticism which we often despondently refer to as the “Spirit of 1966”.
Just like the old duffer, we are beginning to re-draw those days to suit ourselves. The trouble is that anyone with the vaguest memory of that day in now at least 55 years old and has spent the intervening years as a spectator of that now-traditional English football cycle:
1. Media outcry leading to sacking of the England manager.
2. New Manager (Messiah) is hired.
3. England wins lots of friendlies creating national hysteria and media frenzy indicating that we’re going to win and that this is our best chance since…..wait for it……1966!
4. We’re dumped out of the (any) footnball competition to the accompaniment of another media frenzy but this time there is the added vilification of the incumbent manager.
5. Go to 1.
Why is 1966 is always our benchmark? Because we haven’t won anything since. Yet we perpetuate the myth and because we’re English, we somehow keep captive that arrogance which tells us that we are the rightful winners – even though ALL the evidence is to the contrary.
Here’s a bit of perspective: 1966 was just twenty years after the end of the World War 2. The Sound of Music beat Dr Zhivago to the Oscar. Four giants of the 21st Century were born: Teddy Sheringham, Rick Astley, Gordon Ramsay and David Cameraon. Walt Disney died and Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra was at No 1 in the Charts. Alan Ball was signed by Everton for a record fee of £110,000, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and it was the year of the Aberfan disaster. John Lennon announced to the Evening Standard “We’re more popular that Jesus now.” Petrol was 5.3p per litre and the average weekly wage was about £23.oo. You could buy a detached house for £5000.
The sainted Alf Ramsay was England manager and the average footballer’s wage was £100. His Holiness Bobby Moore earned just £140 per week. Although that was about six times the average wage, today’s Premier League footballers earn more than 15 times the amount earned by the real “Golden generation” of 1966 who lifted the World Cup, which is nearly 50 times the present average wage.
We’ve had THIRTEEN England managers in the 45 years since 1966 but only FIVE in the 45 years leading up to 1966. It is as if post-Alf Ramsay, our football authorities imagine that a change of manager is all that is needed for success. Once again, there is no evidence to support that theory.
Very soon, the England Manager will be sacked, the media will adopt a favourite – this time it will probably be Harry Redknapp and the overriding cry will be for an ENGLISH manager. (Remember the Sven Goran Eriksson to Steve McClaren changeover?). This is the interval during which we move from patriotism to jingoism.
The Football Association, however, will probably appoint someone called Carlos Fandango or Pepe le Pew and the cycle will recommence.
So what do they lack – those prancing prima donnas who masquerade as the England football team? What is missing? There are clues. France and Italy appear to be suffering from the same disease.
Call it motivation, call it lack of direction. In fact, we can call it what we want.
None has the HUNGER to win and there isn’t a manager on the planet who can change that. Here’s the double whammy: Our overindulged footballers are not proud to be representing their country and are paid disproportionately.
Footballers now earn more in a week than the average person earns in a YEAR. The average annual wage of an English footballer in the top flight is now in excess of £1 million.
Take John Terry’s wage as an example. His pay shows an eye-watering 100,000% increase from Bobby Moore’s £140 per week. Inflation from 1966 to 2010 has been approximately 1300%.
In 1966, when Moore and his Band of Brothers pulled on those red England shirts and stood majestically in the July sunshine as the National Anthem played, they had tears in their eyes. Those were tears of pride in their country and tears of joy for having been given the opportunity.
The current shambles of no-hopers just doesn’t care. Half of them don’t know the words to God Save the Queen and they certainly do not feel any incentive to win. Their tears are the snivelling crocodile tears of self-pity as they slink from the pitch without removing their shirts in case someone notices the yard-wide yellow streaks up their spineless backs.
The team of 1966 earned their celebrity on the Wembley turf and we should hang our heads in shame in allowing acknowledgmant of their glorious achievment to go unrecognised for so long – some of the 1966 squad did not receive winners medals until June 2009. Five members of the actual team which played in the 1966 World Cup final (Cohen, Ball, Wilson, Stiles and Hunt) were handed MBEs in 2000 – 35 years after their triumph.
There’s no such problem for the current assemblage of Muppets. They are already celebrities and know that in two weeks time the media will continue to regale a gullible public with photographs of them sunning themselves on a West Indian beach while they tell interviewers what an over-long season it’s been and how “tired” they are.
The illiterate overpaid prima donnas will once-again be forgiven while their manager is thrown to the dogs, still wondering what happened.