Support England? No Thanks

When Euro ’96 came to town, I was thirteen-years-old. I was still at the formative stage of my Liverpool supporting life, not yet really aware of the club biases that dominated my existence in later years. I remember certain moments from the tournament: Paul Gascoigne dancing through the Scotland defence, scoring and then doing the ‘dentist chair in celebration; my mum, who doesn’t care about football in the slightest, getting really excited about England’s prospects; my own anger at the fact that none of the England matches were hosted at Anfield. The combination of my own innocence, the fact that games were played at Anfield and that the United Kingdom was the host nation meant that I was very much an England supporter back then. I don’t know exactly when that stopped, but I do remember watching Michael Own score versus Argentina and being disappointed because it meant that he was no longer ‘ours’. Within two years, then, I’d already started to drift away from England.

Even so, I went with my mates to watch England’s matches in 2006, acutely aware of the fact that I couldn’t join in with the chants of ‘Rooney, Rooney, Rooney’ because I absolutely hated him. I remember really clearly how the non-Liverpool supporters in the pub turned against Steven Gerrard as the scapegoat when England got knocked out. The point of all of this is that it wouldn’t be true to say that I’ve never wanted England to succeed, but as my own understanding of club football and the rivalries involved in it developed, my love of the national team began to fade away. Any vestiges of support I might have had for England have long since been extinguished, with the nationalism associated with the supporters largely to blame for that. It has been played out on the biggest stage possible over the past few weeks, with the booing of the players when they’ve decided to take a knee. It is racism, pure and simple, with those doing it an awful representation of the English. Align myself with those people? No thanks.

England Supporters Reflect The Nation

It would be easy to pretend that the racists within the English support are a minority, but I’m not sure that’s true. Whatever they are, they are representative of a large number of people in the country. In some ways, England’s support reflects the nation perfectly: a vocal minority steering the conversation and taking all the headlines. That rag, that I won’t give the publicity of naming, spent years race-baiting Raheem Sterling and then acts the innocent when some supporters boo the taking of the knee. Barely concealed racism in the press resulting in a vocal majority acting against the interest of the majority? I feel like I’ve heard that story too many times recently. The majority of votes at the last election went to parties other than the Tories, yet the system is set up in such a wake that the Tories remain in power. The racists aren’t the only people who support England, but they’re the ones we hear about the most often. It makes it incredibly difficult for those that don’t agree with the nationalism to join in with supporting the team.

There will be plenty of England supporters reading this and annoyed at the idea of being linked with the knuckle-draggers, but sadly it’s difficult to talk of England without mentioning them. If you want to get a sense of why it’s ‘Scouse not English’ for so many Liverpool supporters, look at how Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur supporters acted when in Madrid for their Champions League match and compare and contrast it with the behaviour of Chelsea and Manchester City fans in Porto last month. Many of those same people fighting and causing destruction will be donning England tops this summer and singing about ‘ten German bombers’. The ‘we won’t take the knee’ crowd are the ones that are most closely and easily associated with England, so aligning yourself with them is something that sticks in the throat. I wouldn’t want to wear an England top or fly the flag from my car and make someone of colour feel uncomfortable at my presence. The racists are the ones most people think of when they see the St. George’s flag.

I Hope Our Players Come Home Unscathed

There was a long period of time when it became known in the press that Gareth Southgate wasn’t going to take Trent Alexander-Arnold to the European Championship. Whilst I was disappointed for Trent, I was delighted from Liverpool’s point of view. The fewer of our players are involved in the tournament the better. My allegiance lies very prominently with the Reds, so I had no problem with our right-back not going away with a manager that neither appreciates him nor knows how to get the best out of him. That he picked up an injury in a friendly summed up my issues and I dread to think how many other players might be injured whilst away this summer. Jordan Henderson has only just come back from an injury, so I loathe the idea of him picking up another one playing for supporters that will be quick to slag him off if England aren’t successful. Knowing how much Scotland means to Andy Robertson, I’ll be supporting them this summer. If they end up getting knocked out in the group stage, though, I won’t be heart-broken.

The less our players are involved in the tournament as a whole, the better. That is especially the case with England, given the manner in which our players are under-appreciate by the management team and supporters, then made into the scapegoats when things inevitably go wrong. If England are a reflection of the nation, then that is likely to be best demonstrated when they crash out of Europe because of the incompetence of their leaders. Having spent the last few years saying that Jordan Pickford is a bang average goalkeeper with little arms and that Harry Kane is a crayon-eating moron who would sell his own children for a goal, am I really expected to hope that the pair of them are successful this summer? You can add to that players that play for Manchester United and Manchester City, those that I despise with my club hat on. My allegiance lies with Liverpool Football Club and I couldn’t care less what happens to England. Would I go as far as to say that I hope that they lose? If it means the knuckle-draggers are left disappointed, I’d probably say yes.

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