Football fans would rather watch their club than the national team, but England’s qualification for the World Cup offers them excitement and hope, writes Sports Reporter Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.
It’s commonly agreed amongst football fans, home nation supporters in particular, that the international break is a week lost for football. There’s a collective groan across the country when we check our team’s fixture for the following week and see nothing, because England are playing Moldova or Scotland are travelling to San Marino.
England supporters generally prefer watching their clubs play (even if their side is one in the bottom six of the league). We’re just a lot more excited by Premier League and Championship football than we are watching our national teams.
But England’s last two games of their World Cup qualification group, and subsequent qualification for next year’s finals in Brazil, have suddenly filled us with excitement and hope. England’s final game against Poland was one of the most pulsating and positive performances in years – a lot of years. Now we actually want to watch our national team.
With the return of the Premier League this weekend, are we actually yearning for more of England? Scrap this weekend’s fixture list and book England to play Brazil! OK, let’s not go that far, but there’s definitely an interest that hasn’t been there since the European Championships two years ago.
So where does this leave the prodigal son that is the Premier League? Well, it means that for the next eight months (remainder of the season), we all enjoy the Premiership, but now with the small matter of the World Cup attached.
Players performing well now become candidates for a ticket to Rio; players who are injured suddenly have a new incentive to achieve 50 lunches as opposed to 35.
Free-dribbling wingers who get chopped down become bigger concerns for their national sides than their clubs. Everyone begins playing the “who gets into your squad of 22?” game and predicting who’ll finish with the golden boot.
It’s one long lead-up to the most glamorous World Cup ever. Managers of domestic clubs clearly have their own agenda and instructions but will be under pressure from national team bosses to play (or not play) certain players with the festival of football round the corner.
Jose Mourinho has said he will do all he can to help England ahead of the World Cup. But come on, while it’s a very nice and idealistic thing to say, we all know his loyalties first and foremost are to Chelsea and so they should be.
But what will be interesting is where English Chelsea fans stand on the use of their players during the season. Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are going to be involved in a lot of games this season, including Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
Many of England’s core players come from Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, and what will be interesting is how the supporters of those clubs react to their key players playing or not with the World Cup in the back of players’ and managers’ minds.
Will you be happy with Lampard, Wilshere or Rooney playing in an FA Cup final on 17 May against, say, Wigan, with the World Cup kick-off three weeks later?
England welcome Germany to Wembley on 19 November for a very attractive friendly (or as friendly as this fixture can be). But we’ll find out two things for sure.
Firstly, will Roy Hodgson treat all friendlies in the lead-up to the finals as a chance to experiment with fringe players or hone and fine tune the side he wants to play when in Brazil? And secondly, if English football fans will this time be as excited by an international break as in the past.