Holt Would Have Made England Sparkle
Ahead of the upcoming friendly against Norway, it occurred to me that I have virtually zero affiliation with the England team anymore. I dare say I won`t watch much of the game, if any and I would also add that my enthusiasm for Euro 2012 adds up to the sum total of diddly squat. I feel nothing but abhorrence for the majority of the players in the squad.
This saddens me, it really does. As a boy growing up watching Terry Butcher, Stuart Pearce and my favourite player of the time Gary Lineker, my understanding was that representing your country was the highest level of achievement possible in football. It was an honour, a distinction reserved for only the most talented and hardest working players in the game.
Somewhere since that period from 1986 and the post-Terry Venables era, something went wrong, drastically wrong. I watched every minute of those tournaments, kicked every ball, felt every tackle. Not now. Perhaps it was the greed that came with the Sky money, or perhaps it is an example of how the world just got too greedy generally.
Whereas Butcher, Pearce, Gascoigne et al would have run through brick walls for the team, often shedding blood, sweat and tears in the process, they were slowly replaced by ego-centric individuals more intent on self-promotion and self-satisfaction rather than legacy, loyalty and effort.
As good a player as David Beckham was, I would never expect him to leave the field having put his faultless face in the way of someone`s boot, for the good of the teamů and he was probably one of the more committed of his era.
Gradually the ego`s have worked their way into the team. John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and their chums are incapable of connecting with the fan base of today, meaning a wave of apathy has swung over the country, when excitement should instead. We just don`t empathise with these players anymore. The average Joe would crawl to Wembley if they had a chance to play for England, whereas the current generation seem happy to crawl back to their clubs having crashed out again. It seems they don`t really care about England. So why should we?
When Paul Gascoigne played for England, the fans didn`t just like him because he was extremely talented. They liked him because he wasn`t perfect. He was slightly tubby, had a lack of discipline and was incapable of concentrating. He was a flawed genius, but he cared and it was obvious. He cared so much he famously broke down on the pitch at a World Cup, and even trashed a hotel when he wasn`t picked for another one. I`m not saying his behaviour was right, but how many of the current crop of players care one iota as much?
What the England team needs to reinvigorate it is characters. Freddie Flintoff types that bring a smile to your face and make it easier to connect with the team. We need Butcher`s, Pearce`s, Lineker`s and Gazza`s. Not in terms of ability but in terms of heart and enthusiasm. We need lion hearts, to inspire us and reignite our interest
Alan Shearer had it (possibly the last one who did). I`m not a huge fan of his punditry. His lack of research is blindingly obvious, and he never communicates a rounded view. However, I recall when we were knocked out in 2006 in Germany following the infamous Ronaldo wink. Without a thought for what he was saying, Shearer exclaimed live on the BBC, "it wouldn`t surprise me if Rooney lamps Ronaldo when they`re back at Man Utd", capturing the pure emotion and sense of injustice of the event. He captured the mood of the nation. Rooney didn`t lamp Ronaldo of course, because he simply doesn`t care.
Roy Hodgson had a chance to fix this issue when he named his Euro 2012 squad on May 16th. For example, he could have chosen not to name, say John Terry who`s become a laughing stock quite frankly, or Stewart Downing who does not comfortably make the transition to international football. He could have chosen not to pick Andy Carroll, clearly a man who carries emotional baggage on his person. He could have left more of the egos behind. He could have chosen someone without an ego. Someone with passion for the game. Someone like Grant Holt.
Holt combines the pantomime of a Paul Gascoigne, with the will to win of a Stuart Pearce, with the heart of a Terry Butcher.
Holt physically shouldn`t work as a footballer yet is the second-highest English goal scorer. He`s not the second best English striker in the Premier League. He wasn`t even necessarily the best striker in the Championship. However what he was (and still is) is one of the most effective players anywhere in the country.
Grant Holt playing for England would have shown that hard work, heart and determination are still valued and rewarded. He may not be stylish or fashionable, but he sure is effective, just ask any central defender in the Premier League. He may have lacked the necessary composure. No matter, he would have given us all hope.
Does Holt care about England? Well after his rejection by Hodgson, Holt has behaved very oddly in the last week, handing in a transfer request at the club and referring to unfair comments about him in the press. It`s possible that he feels that his role as a figure of fun has cost him an England place, and this has made Mr Holt very cross. Whether he had an implosion akin to that of Gazza in 1998, we don`t know, but Roy Hodgson had an opportunity to bring the passion, commitment and feel good factor back to the England team and much like those since Terry Venables, he failed.
Will I be watching England without Holt? I`d rather mow the lawn thanks.