A note from the future: Decadent Progress

By Ed Carter

20th May, 2018 – 10 Years From Now

We used to be optimistic. Haughtily expectant and perpetually dissatisfied, but insuppressibly sanguine: a nation of boisterous, red-faced hope.

For every false dawn we had a golden generation; every quarter-final “crash-out” an inquest. Every four years, it used to be ‘our’ year. At the very least, we used to care.

It is difficult to trace the growth of such apathy, but many believe the seeds to have been planted over a decade ago, citing an undeniable correlation with the country’s widespread recoil from its own domestic league. The Barclays World Series now propagates all but the most reclusive corners of the globe, and with buyout culture having spiralled into the excessive – Cristiano Ronaldo taking over Manchester United after an embarrassing oversight with the winger’s pay packet – it is little wonder to find Newcastle United’s refreshingly inert chairman Mike Ashley in ever heightening esteem among exhausted fans worldwide.

Improvement, however, looks imminent. The last season alone has been one of immense change. In January, league officials shocked the world with their controversial approval of the FA’s 39th game proposal – a poorly received plan suggesting that each season a round of matches be played in England.

Fans decried the scheme for appearing simply to satisfy local supporters, and its lack of ambition regarding the ongoing proliferation of the Barclays World Series.

Concerned by such extensive unease, the FA were quick to reassure the formerly-titled Premier League (who’d relocated to Switzerland in 2013) that the proposal’s intentions were to crack what they perceived to be an untapped, financially lucrative English market. Though there was no official word – Sepp Blatter was quoted, but not particularly understood – experts believe it to be this angle that swayed the vote.

To FIFA’s public disquiet, English fans saw the move as less an adequate compromise than the tip of the restorative iceberg in resurrecting their national game – the plan merely stirring a bout of vociferous nostalgia from domestic supporters. It took the reinstatement of separate home nation football to quell the country’s unrest – the 2012 GB team having practically hit the self-destruct button on such division, much to everyone’s surprise but the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish FAs.

With ‘Team GB’ a mess of inherent rivalry and sabotage amid its short existence, the most recent British appearance in a major tournament remains that of Fabio Capello’s England in the 2010 World Cup – coincidentally, the catalyst for another prevalent transformation in public opinion.

Yet it was not anxiety or expectation that gripped the nation pre-2010, but perspective: a sudden rush of clarity, alerting the country to the numerous, deep-seated problems within the England team.

Terrified by the implications of such rife public reason, the FA were keen to impress upon Capello that he attempt to salvage the country’s long-standing tradition of knee-jerk reactions and vitriolic backlash.

In less than three days the Italian had recalled Frank Lampard to his squad. Speaking at a press conference before the tournament, Frank set the record straight in an ambivalent monotone that betrayed the midfielder’s political significance.

“Scapegoat’s probably my best position,” admitted the Chelsea man, speaking up as his teammate John Terry attempted to wrestle back a ravenous West Ham fan, “I think it really suits my underplayed efficiency.”

Enjoying a tournament of respectable pass completion and irritable indifference, Frank played every game. Contributing twelve corners with twelve deflected shots, he returned to a country bemoaning his inclusion after the team’s second-round exit – Fabio Capello retiring to Italy after a consequently generous severance package.

Today it seems almost alien to imagine a time when we even wanted someone to blame; when we booed ourselves hoarse, then booed some more; when adversity was matched with a confident swagger that belied our past failings. Maybe it was an attitude that encroached on the team’s mentality; that diminished its chances of victory – but at the very least, it was an attitude of a country that cared.

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