Stuart Pearce, former England under 21 manager, has come out and told Sky his views on why he failed to fulfil the potential of a group of players proclaimed as being a “golden generation”, including Wilshere, Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain these group of players truly had talent and the opportunity to light the international stage. 17 players who all were set to start, weren’t at the tournament; some due to injury which is understandable but others pulled out.
Under 21 manager Pearce has come out in the press this week and has blamed players like Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain for England’s poor performance in Israel this summer, allegedly the two refused to play for England stating that this was because they had both been capped by the full England team and felt the young Lions team was a step down.
Much like most of the British public I have watched England’s recent performances at international tournaments and have felt they have been very undeserving of the nickname “Lions”, certain players have almost acted like representing their country has been a chore; something their players have made them do when they get home from school. People state that this is because the British football calender doesn’t feature a winter break that many other European leagues have but from a personal level I don’t see an elite athlete will struggle to find motivation to play in June and July if they don’t stop in December.
Another argument for the nations failures on the big stage is the money that currently surrounds the Premier League, where the majority of British players are based, television deals alone equate to £1.78 billion between 20 Premier League teams, and supposing the money is split evenly that is an eye watering eighty nine million per team. It has been argued that the vast sums of money spent puts the players under pressure to perform to the best of their ability for their clubs meaning that come international time they have nothing left to give.
However, the most feasible argument that I have come across is the media. Yes, every country in the world has media and yes, every national team comes under scrutiny from their respective media but few will do so with the same ruthlessness that the British media place players on a pedestal, only to swipe them down as soon as anything goes wrong. The recent Kyle Walker situation is a prime example of this, the young man was photographed in the summer relaxing with friends after a hard season and in preparation for the upcoming season by inhaling some nitrous oxide. The media got hold of the photograph a few days after it was taken and have decided to release it the weekend before England’s pivotal qualifier against Ukraine in order to sell more copies of the paper by giving readers the impression that Walker was taking the legal high just a game.
I could spend hours listing here examples of British tabloids over hyping the English team only to then act disappointed when the dizzying heights imagined aren’t replicated or bettered.
So in answer to the question what does playing for your country mean?, it means taking a lot of abuse from tabloids and some sections of fans which then de-motivates to try very hard and to instead focus on your club side.