The cycle of England sporting underachievement

And so, as England go crashing out of another major sporting event before it’s even properly got going, a familiar gloom hangs over the country.

This one’s particularly bad, of course, because we’re the tournament hosts and we can’t just sulk and take our ball back and tell everyone else to go home.  But the pattern’s the same.  Always the bloody same.

Whether it’s rugby, or football, or cricket, whenever there’s a major tournament England fans will go through the same rollercoaster of emotion.

Here, then, are the five emotions that make up the all-too-familiar cycle of England sporting underachievement.

Apprehension

We’ve got no chance.

Not with this guy in charge.  Not with the terrible blend of old has-beens and young unproven kids he’s picked in his squad.  What’s he thinking, for chrissakes?

We stuttered through the qualifiers and warm up games, but we’re bound to come unstuck against the big boys when the tournament starts for real.  We’ll be lucky to get through the group stages.

There’s no way we can win this.

Anticipation

We might just win this.

The action’s about to start, and excitement has reached fever pitch.  St George’s flags flutter magnificently in the breeze across this proud nation, the sponsors’ marketing machines have gone into overdrive whipping everyone into a patriotic frenzy, and Stuart Maconie and Rylan off X Factor have just been on telly remembering all those times we were great at sport in the past, when life was brilliant and everything was so much better.

This could just be our year, y’know.

OK, so we may not have the most talented squad in the tournament, but they’ve got grit and determination and the Bulldog English spirit.  Just like those brave boys of yesteryear.

Who can forget Geoff smashing the fourth into the top corner?  Or Jonny’s drop goal, or Beefy’s heroics at Headingley?  Maybe this year it’s that young lad’s turn.

OK, we all know he really only got picked to make the guy in charge look progressive to the rabid press pack, but he has got potential.  This is his time to shine on the world stage.

Expectation

WE’RE GOING TO BLOODY WIN THIS!

One game in, and we’ve hammered our first opponents out of sight.  Yes, they’re ranked amongst the worst nations in the world and some of their team had to take a day off work just to travel to the tournament, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you.  And we did.  Comprehensively.

It wasn’t just the result though, it was the manner of the victory.  The perfect blend of youth and experience in the squad shows real signs of promise.  And the team selection was spot on.

The guy in charge is clearly a tactical genius.

This lot will really take some stopping.

Despair

They were stopped.

We’re out.

The first time we came up against one of the really good teams, and we were found wanting.

Not by much, though.  We weren’t trounced.  In fact, there was that moment part way through the match where it looked like we might just get ourselves back into it.  But then that young lad went and did something stupid, and the opposition took full advantage.

It’s the guy in charge who’s to blame, of course.  What was he thinking putting that young lad into that pressure cooker environment?!  And he must have known the older guys’ stamina wouldn’t hold out at this level.  Idiot.

And here we are again, staring in disbelief at the TV, not quite believing our tournament is over before we ever really got into it.

But it is over.  And it hurts.

Tattered St George’s flags droop limply across the nation.

There are small pockets of real emotion.  Beery, red-faced men work themselves into apoplexy about some perceived injustice that changed the entire course of the match.  Red and white face paint runs down the teary, snotty faces of children too young to remember that this is always how it ends.

But they are in the minority.  The rest of us uphold the great English traditions of the stiff upper lip and the self-deprecating social media joke.

We may be losers, but we’re the best losers in the world.

Optimism

And anyway, there’s always next time.

This tournament came a bit too early for us, in truth.  Ours is a squad in transition, so we were never going to win it.

This isn’t a time for recriminations or wholesale changes.  I mean, the guy in charge has got to go, of course.  And all his backroom staff.  And the chairman who employed them.  And all the players who underperformed (which is most of them, really).

But other than that, no wholesale changes.  It’s important to have continuity.

And we’ve still got the young lad.  Just imagine how good he’s going to be in four years’ time.  We can build the whole squad around him, starting now.

Yeah, next time will be so much better.  We might even win it.

Next time.

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