Are we expecting too much from England? Gary Lineker doesn’t think so. For those of you who had nothing better to do this week, you may have caught the England vs Republic of Ireland game on TV. It was, through all intents and purposes, a fairly average game. It will go down in history as just another statistic with no further details highlighted. Mr. Lineker commented that the 4-4-2 formation adopted by Roy Hodgeson was “a step back in time” and that England played a two dimensional game with no depth. The game, he said, was “boring.” While I agree that the game was nondescript, ultimately, I do not care. Firstly, it was a friendly game and its sole purpose is to provide teams with an opportunity to try out different formations and players. Secondly, not every game can be a classic. Sometimes they are boring and unremarkable, that is simply part of the sport. So why, then, was there so much brouhaha?
I am a massive Formula 1 enthusiast and have not missed a Grand Prix in 20 years. Through good times and bad times I have remained a fan. I remember those long, boring afternoons in the early 2000’s watching what was essentially the Michael Schumacher Show. He would plant his Ferrari on pole position, pull away, pit, come out in the lead and win ahead of a linear procession to the reverberation of the robotic clap from the Ferrari liveried crowds. They were dull times but my loyalty and interest never waned.
Resultantly, viewing figures plummeted so the commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, together with the FIA, decided to shake things up. Ever since, Formula 1 has barely gone a season without a massive regulations overhaul that a) confuses the hell out of people and b) makes the races superbly exciting. One set of tyres per race, two different types of tyre per race, a ban on re-fuelling, qualifying lotteries, ban on electronic driving aids, and high-depredation tyres. All have been introduced to raise viewing figures by creating entertainment.
It has not been without its critics. The purists are constantly up in arms claiming that the true sport has been diluted and that it is no longer a true test of speed and blah, blah, blah. And perhaps they have a point. I enjoy every lap of every Grand Prix because I am an enthusiast, but Johnny Channel-Flicker will only stay tuned in if the cars are on fire or are constantly overtaking each other. What remains a fact, however, is that for every classic Grand Prix there has been, there have been hundreds of boring ones, too. The real fans will stick with it regardless.
Conversely, I have little time for cricket. Have you ever watched a five day test from start to finish? Mother of God, spare me from the ennui. If you concentrate really hard you will notice your watch starting to tick backwards. But as it turns out, the cricket bosses have made efforts similar to that of F1 bosses to draw in new audiences. They created something called the T20 which is aimed at dullards like me. I don’t know all the rules yet, but basically they go mad and smash the ball and run a lot. It’s great to watch and I have given a great deal of thought into the possibility of following the sport. But the cricket enthusiasts will still insist on going to watch the five day tests. They love it because they enjoy the sport.
So how are we going to please Gary Lineker and the rest of the football experts? How are we going to re-write the football rule book to ensure that boring games are a thing of the past? I have several flippant ideas; for example no player is allowed to play in the same physical position for more than 10 minutes; i.e. they have to run on their hands, or their tongues. Or perhaps every team is allowed one animal in their starting XI and they are free to play in any position they like. My personal favourite is to abolish goalkeepers. No, really, why not? Surely by removing the keepers it will permit basketball-like scores, and that will unquestionably make for more entertaining football games. It will certainly give England the best possible chance of winning. And if we still can’t beat a team who don’t have a keeper, then there really is little point worrying about qualifying for Brazil.
If nothing else it will keep the football pundits quiet and prevent the media from getting our hopes up, again. Good old England…