by Jack Heaney

Since what appears to be forever, ‘never’ has plagued the England national team. Our bordering on cruel failure to hit the net from 12 yards; our ability to royally screw ourselves over; the way we perpetuate heroes just to contradict ourselves when they do not fulfil the prophecies we cultivated for them. Something always seems to prevent us from drinking from the same pool of success which brought us the win in 1966. There are no easy, simplistic rides for England. Anarchy or false promise rules the day and threatens to rule the forthcoming years if we do not learn from a refreshing humility which helped us overachieve to the quarter finals this year.

Because of the extremity of emotions, excuses also rule the darkest days. When England lose the excuses are whipped out with a blistering, whirlwind pace that would leave Theo Walcott biting the dust. It is typical of the English mindset to inculcate a lack of responsibility post-tournament; perhaps it is typical of most humans. To blame others is natural. It is a product of anger and frustration; annoyance at losing what one dreamed they could win. Yet though it may be natural, it is also detrimental to England’s chances of progression. It used to be (I hope) an near-obsession in our country.

A red card, a petulant flick by David Beckham, the injury Wayne Rooney received during Euro 2004. Sven Goran-Eriksson’s rather public, amorous behaviour and even the World Cup WAG’s who – apparently – distracted our boys sufficiently enough to see us fail. All excuses; all so transparent.

Nothing to do with being inferior. Nothing to do with overrating our stars. No, these excuses – even ones so frivolous as Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink when it was Wayne Rooney who nearly rendered Ricardo Carvalho infertile – are given absolute credence and even considered gospel by some of our more meat headed fans.

The ridiculousness of believing in such excuses is clear. Football by nature is unpredictable – sport by nature is unpredictable. If you were to check through history books or even YouTube, every side could produce an arm-long list of excuses which alleviate responsibility. Excuses are always available but it takes a stronger side – in fact a stronger nation – to rise above them and put their hands up. It was not her, his or the spaghetti monster’s fault. It was mine. Goal line mistakes such as the one England suffered are even considered accurate excuses. Yes, England were cheated out of a goal but by attributing the whole fixture to that one moment of incompetence, we then ignore our incompetence. England were defensively ghastly against the Germans. They were disjointed and chaotic. Why were certain Media outlets not considering that? If you want to blame just one thing, is a defence as thin as OJ Simpson’s not equally as valid?

Roy Keane in an interview gave an excellent dissection of Ireland’s apparent penchant for failure before Thierry Henry handled the ball. Forget Henry: why was the ball allowed to bounce? To him, the excuses were typical and masked their own deficiencies.

Thankfully we have no excuses after Sunday night. England and the media that shrouds them were not blaming others, attributing failings to one player or even throwing their arms up at a ‘lack of passion’. We were systematically out played, secondary in nearly every area and the gulf in class was best shown by Andre Pirlo and his ludicrous concoction of cool possession and commanding, exquisitely timed passes. Isn’t that refreshing? Isn’t that the mature and intelligent route to venture down? There are no ridiculous excuses for our failure; no rolling eyes at the dense, illogical reasoning’s and face-savings from our papers and fans. We lost because we lost. And thank God we recognise that.

Excuses only hinder progression; they are embarrassing and boring and prevent us from being introspective. They prevent us from the all-important self-examining every nation must undergo to succeed and, as such, prevented us from the realisation that has finally hit us before the tournament began: we are at fault; our media, our ball skills, and our poison. Not everybody else or any other manager who so much as dares to speak Italian. We are simply inferior and with that comes a refreshing level headedness where we know where we stand.

And that is no reason to lament; rather, a reason to feel delighted. Of course, it is no positive that England do not possess a player of Pirlo’s quality. But it is a positive that we have, fingers crossed, embraced a period of time where England are quite rightly considered an average outfit and can slowly work towards an attempt at improving that. It is the preferred option than merely having our worth exacerbated and inevitably ‘falling from grace’ even when we never so talented in the first place, in the archetypal fashion.  Roy Hodgson quite rightly focused on our strengths; organisation, defence and hard work. It is not beautiful; but nor is playing in such a way that highlights our technical failings either, is it?

The current England set up begins here. As a nation we have acknowledged our failings – inability to keep the ball for starters – and can work from even ground. England for the first time I can remember are, while disappointed to be exiting a tournament, finally realising that our nation are not great and – hopefully – embracing the next two years under the right man. For once there are no fallen heroes, ‘tragic’ lions who were robbed by foreign stereotypes, or blaming the manager in a vicious manner. We must see not only see that in itself as progression, but a precursor and cleared obstacle to what will hopefully be even more progression within the next few years.