As I write this piece, we are at the end of the first month of this World Cup year and the build up is slowly starting to crank up. By June, it will be at fever pitch.
After all, within a month or so, we will be starting to get our free wall charts and some retro football stickers complete with a glossy brochure of the ‘players to watch’ during the tournament.
There will also be that period when we become paranoid whether a player will make the plane to South Africa when we see an England star clutching his hamstring or inspecting his ankle with a pained expression on his face.
We are told that the nation is becoming experts in those medical conditions. The headlines will say, “We are a nation on tenterhooks.” We are meant to be lying awake at night in a sweat for the latest news on Rooney’s foot, Owen’s knee, or Ferdinand’s ribs.
To a certain extent, this nation is expecting fairly great things from the World Cup. Although this is nothing new, I sense that there is something different about these expectations. After all, when the draw was made in December, some pundits believed that England would cruise through the group stages, and we were told to keep the 11th July clear for the final.
That never happened in 2006 (or in 2002.) It would be careless if we booked a holiday on that particular Sunday, and it is largely suggested that England will be there. I am less sure but can not help being quietly confident about the team’s progress. I always try to be rational at a start of a tournament but it all falls apart if England goes past the group stages.
I believe that there is still a group of people who want England to do well in the World Cup. Some people seem to like nothing more than launching into a national rant when the team crashes out at the quarter final stage to a team like Portugal or Germany.
However, I prefer to hope that England goes a few stages further and that I can enjoy those moments like my uncles and Dad in 1966. I am sick of hearing about that Saturday afternoon in July when Colchester was a ghost town and everyone was crammed around their black and white TVs catching a little bit of Kenneth Wolstenholme and ‘they think it’s all over.’
World Cup 2010 is probably the last opportunity for England’s ‘so-called’ golden generation to realise the ultimate prize in English football so how are we beginning the build up to South Africa? Our newspapers are snooping into the private life of the England captain and want to splash with a story that would be suitable for the Jeremy Kyle Show, the water cooler but for little else.
Is this story of national interest? That is debatable unless you are obsessed with knowing everything about a player whether he is on or off the pitch. Is this story going to cement a strong team moral before the plane taxis down the runway to South Africa? This story is not going to help either England, maybe Chelsea (although Terry has not stopped scoring goals) or the image of footballers (which is never in the greatest state).
I am no apologist for John Terry. I am not his PR agent and I am not against silently complaining about the Chelsea and England captain. However, I am interested in about Terry as a footballer and whether he can lead England to World Cup glory and if he can achieve ultimate club success for Chelsea, which has to mean a Champions’ League winners medal.
I am not interested in what Terry gets up to off the pitch including all that weird information that you get in a match day programme about favourite lessons, favourite music or favourite curry. He is a leader on the pitch and we know of certain players that can not remotely lead during a game. Will this sad story change everything? For the sake of the career of a professional at his trade, I hope that this is not the end of John Terry.
What is the point of washing any dirty laundry in public, where everyone is an expert and everyone has an opinion? If the details are true or not, it is best that these problems are resolved in private for the sake of everyone and everything that is stake. That private place could be in the dressing room or somewhere else such as manager’s office.
The media seem to be obsessed with wanting to feast on the various foibles of footballers, and no one really benefits from this episode apart from a possible increase in newspaper sales. After all, some of us who can not cope with some salacious gossip about multi million pound footballers.
Some people will shout about ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘the right to know’ about everything. There could be much rejoicing that the ban on John Terry’s sad story was lifted by a judge so we can feast on the gossip, scandal and innuendo.
They will say that nothing is off limits especially regarding celebrities including ‘filthy rich’ footballers. They will be particularly talking about those players, who have been reported to having strayed away from the straight and narrow from earlier occasions. However, what benefit will this news give to anyone?
Some people will say that it is an occupational hazard for players to have the media on their back at every single opportunity, and that they should behave like vicars throughout the day. If only everyone could lead such perfect lives. Most of us struggle to lead perfect days but have the luxury of avoiding 2010’s version of the medieval stocks.
There has been previous in terms of the occasions when the media have sought a few skeletons in the cupboard of those players who will be going to the World Cup in a couple of months. We now have a situation with the England captaincy in a mess, the idea of a team in sudden disarray and a load of baggage to go to South Africa that can not be placed out of sight in the under carriage of the executive plane.
The story may be able to fill a few gaps in the build up to the World Cup. ‘Slow news days’ may become a little faster but it is difficult to see who in the football world has positively benefited from this sad story during this weekend, the next couple of weeks, or the World Cup in June.