Watching Friday’s football international between England and Montenegro made me nostalgic. Not because I follow our national side, or indeed football itself, with any great passion. I ‘m afraid these days I sit firmly in the camp that feels today’s proponents come with high salaries, low morals, and little else to offer the world. But that’s why I enjoyed this game. Not for the football, which was rather boring, but for a return to an emotion I have long since missed in football – national pride.
When Montenegro scored their second goal to force a draw, they went ballistic. The ground erupted, the players hugged their fans, a nation unified. This wasn’t some brow-beating, egotistical celebration of the like enjoyed by many of our Premiership footballers, but a genuine burst of patriotism to bring all together. And I found myself reminiscing. Remembering the days when watching England was like that. The Stuart Pearces and Tony Adams’ and Terry Butchers and Bryan Robsons who went for it, and absolutely gave their all for the Three Lions – not for the twelve-bedroom mansion, diamond-earrings and inflatable tabloid models that seem to drive players today.
And that’s my problem. Today’s England players just don’t seem like they’re up for it. I suspect they’d rather be back with their clubs, pocketing their salaries. It’s all about the bank balance, and playing for England is secondary. The bit-on-the-side. Sometimes I don’t blame them. The excitement of the Premier League, with its riches and multinational talent and close competition is probably far more alluring than turning up for England. Let’s face it, most international games are a waste of time. Hopelessly mismatched qualifiers, tedious to watch. Only the knockout tournaments really ignite interest. But it’s been allowed to get like that – it doesn’t mean it should be like that.