The stereotype of the English footballer has become that of the pub brawler, a man who can out-drink anyone and can rough you up on the pitch too. Such convictions are repeatedly upheld by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and former captain, John Terry. These three key British stars are always at the center of big victories, but they also grace the front pages of tabloids as their personal lives are awash with questionable activities and high drama.
What is so fascinating to me regarding England’s enthralling 1-0 win over Spain is that none of these men made an appearance on the pitch. England won when their respectable lineup was on the field that included hard working, incident free players like Scott Parker, Joleon Lescott, and Theo Walcott. They played like a team, they fought and defended hard, and they scrapped a game winning goal that enabled England to beat the number one team in the world. It wasn’t anything beautiful, in fact it was far from it, but England got the result.
This England side wasn’t full of prima-donnas (minus Ashley Cole) so they played like a real team. Players were giving their all, chasing Spanish players all over the pitch. They weren’t distracted about how John Terry would respond after weeks of media bombardment about his suspect racism. They didn’t have to calm Wayne Rooney down when he would have berated the referee with curse-filled retort after a harsh tackle. This team had focus, determination, and most importantly, the skill to compete against the world’s best.
It’s not as if scrub players from the lower English leagues started in their wake either. The players on the field all start for great EPL teams like Manchester City and Tottenham. The drop-off in talent was clearly displaced by the honorable heart and unity of the team. Basically what I’m trying to say is that as much as Terry, Gerrard, and Rooney like to believe that England needs them, the reality is that they don’t. Based on this result, I argue that England is much better off without them
Manager Fabio Capello could decently sit from his perch on the sidelines with his elegant boutonniere and actually resemble a man of class embodied by his respectable lads on the pitch. This match will clearly affect his thinking on who to start in Poland next summer for the EURO 2012 competition. His decision on Rooney was already made for him, as the player is banned for the first three matches of the tournament. But with Terry and Gerrard, does the English manager really want some dramatic sex scandal or drunken pub assault to destroy the morale of mother England’s side? His job likely depends on it, and I believe he should use his head and refrain from starting these players in the key matches.