There is a fallacy about the England national team based on, well, I'm not sure exactly. History I guess. The Empire, Rule Britannia, Wembley, 1966, England invented the game yadda yadda blah blah. Yet we have a tradition of being shit during the big tournaments, stumbling through and then managing in a majestic, plucky performance or two with it all finally ending in tears. But what heroes we had in defeat, right? And in amongst it, the media go loopy and the fans go into meltdown.
We live on hope, the hope that our players will all hit their potential collective best and result in winning the World Cup. How many times has that happened? Forget 66. Please. Since then we have done nothing more than live off the back of hope, citing the past as though we were deserving of more simply because of the name we carried. There is nothing wrong with this. As long as you know and understand that hope is not always enough.
It's ironic. Mainly because as a Spurs fan I wear my heart on my sleeve and have - throughout my life - wanted to see us achieve great things. This means that you tend to be a little bit over-excitable. Dreaming a little too much and too hard because you're not satisfied with just existing - you want your existence to be defined by glory. It's not being arrogant or delusional if you want something that badly. Nothing wrong at all in wanting success. And as long as you retain an air of realism with your expectations, you can saviour moments of progression and truly embrace those pockets of glory when they finally do come along. I get slated for it as a Lilywhite, yet the entire nation waves St George above their heads and no one bats an eyelid when it seems the mood of the nation is simply: we can win it (translated: we have to win it).
Regarding Spurs, it's an exact parallel to what it means to support England. The potential is there. Perhaps not exact, because England have the best players available to them (whereas Spurs splash millions on wannabes). But it's mostly botched up because of lack of belief/management and sometimes over-confidence and mis-placed confidence. Not building the team around certain players and failing to drop others for the good of the collective. And then there's the expectation. Expectations that weigh down on the fragile mental state we seem to be blessed with. We buckle. We fall. We fail. England are the perpetual wannabes. We are Spurs, stuck back in the sixites. Again, nothing wrong with looking behind us for inspiration, but once more, it's not enough.
We - everyone - fans, the media, pundits, the players; we all seem to be lost in the idea that we are world beaters rather than actually achieve something that would suggest we can be. Lesser teams have attained those giddy heights through effort and then belief that comes from overcoming diversity. Spurs kept knocking at the door, and we've finally made that step forwards, and it feels fantastic (be it we only finished 4th, but that was the step required to move onwards for us at this stage of our progression - a stage we've stood staring at for a decade +). England can play better, we do have a habit of turning up when facing our 'foes'. When perhaps we are considered the underdogs. As long as it doesn't end with penalties.
England's next step would be to not fail where we've failed before.
It's best to lower your standards. Don't expect too much. Until the the era of egos is over and a true cleansing occurs through the squad and set-up. Sorry, I'm dreaming again.
Fact is, we've never quite got our head around transitioning top club players and using them just as effectively at national level compared to their club form. Ridiculous isn't it? When we have got it right, the reason we've failed to achieve greatness is because, well, we're not great. No shame in that. We try our best, we're just not the best at that given moment. And maybe don't quite have the requirements other nations possesses in abundance that allows them to fight/muddle/luck it through. Footballing DNA can't be changed. It would seem.
England are the very definition of inconsistency. Brilliant one day, complete turd the next. Let's end the pretence that it's anything different and then act shocked and dismayed when we fail to turn up, baying for blood. Let's simply enjoy the moments when we do turn up and support them unconditionally (if you care for country in the same fashion as you do for club). And even though the truth might hurt or make you uncomfortably or simply not surprise you in the least, there's no reason not to wave those flags and wear your heart on your sleeve.
Hope, dreams. It's all good.
The agony makes the ecstasy so much sweeter.