By Stephen Curnow
So Euro 2016 is over.
Yet again England have failed spectacularly and one of the increasing numbers of teams who we don’t like has ended up winning it. But at least Eder’s daisy-cutter has put the whole tournament out of its misery.
We are now free to return our collective focus to our own club and get back to the real summer business of scouring the papers for spurious transfer rumours, planning holidays around away games and banking some brownie points with a few jobs around the house.
The even-numbered years featuring an international tournament always hold such promise. Once the Cup Final is done we are soon ensnared by the fanciful notion that the tournament will “see us through” football-wise until the main business of the following season. It rarely does. In truth, international competition between domestic seasons in no more fitting an interjection than the ice-creams in the interval of Hamlet.
But none of this is new. Germans, penalties and vuvuzelas have long-since signalled the decline of the “major international tournament” but despite its familiarity, Euro 2016 seemed to be a particularly potent irritant. Why might that have been? Here’s a few for starters:
1: Supporting players you don’t like
By this of course I mean the England team. Forgive me the nostalgia, but England teams of the past were surely infinitely more endearing. There was always something begrudgingly admirable about a rampaging Robson, an ebullient Gascoigne or a lethal Lineker despite any reservations that we might have had about them at club level.
It wasn’t necessarily because they were more successful either. The fact that we all actually quite liked David Beckham is evidence of this. Of course, there were donkeys in these eras too, the original donkey in fact. However, trying to mentally cajole the giraffe-necked Gary Cahill into playing a sensible pass from the back, wondering if Raheem Sterling is seeking a legal divorce from his own talent or passing a game evaluating if Kieron Gibbs is actually worse than when he was contributing to our slide into League One, are a bunch of new and particularly soulless lows.
Even one of the few genuine high-points, Daniel Sturridge’s winner against Wales, carried with it the cringing inevitability of his exhibitionist cavorting by the corner flag.
2. Mark Clattenburg
There seemed to be some campaign this summer to anoint him as some kind of national treasure, as if he were the love child of Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley. In truth, his main attributes as a candidate to referee the final was the fact that his own country were always a good bet to be knocked out early on and that Ed Sheeran isn’t touring at he moment.
Clattenburg might be one of the Premier League’s better referees, but amid the Lee Proberts and Simon Hoopers of this world, even the most objective Norwich fan is entitled to look upon that as faint praise.
Our relegation will save us from his pompous pontificating next year, but we can at least go back to vicariously vilifying him as the spineless incompetent show-off that he is.
3. Mass bench celebrations
A bit of a creeper this one. Somewhere along the line FIFA sneakily ex-communicated the idea of naming substitutes for tournament matches, instead allowing the entire remained of the 23-man squad to be available.
This means that there are 12, rather than 5, players desperately looking for a way to convincingly look pleased about a goal scored by the guy who’s been picked ahead of all of them.
Cue the mass celebration. Substitutes running amok down the touchline looking like they are trying to re-create the D-day landings, ideally supplanted by a goalkeeping coach, a sports psychologist and the fella who puts the cones out.
No matter how many times we were told that Iceland was only the size of your average village with a Spar and a Red Lion, they always seemed to have a Chinese army to call on for a late goal celebration.
We don’t have to suffer such absurdity in Championship football. For a start we have fewer subs and the dug-outs look somewhat trickier to get out of in a hurry, but fundamentally it’s just a little bit more acceptable not to look that excited about nicking a late equaliser at Barnsley.
4. Blurred lines
International football blurs the lines between who is on your side and who isn’t. Once a player has hoisted the yellow and green scarf aloft, they are more intrinsically “ours,” no matter how brief their stay or how questionable their ability.
This isn’t necessarily about badge-kissing, chest-beating or even their “delighted to be here” statement on the club website, although all of that can help of course.
It’s because you know that they have to listen to Chris Goreham’s questions, wear yellow and drive on the A11 just the same as you do. You’re in some of the same boats at least.
So then. Blackburn away on August 6th? I’ll drive if you like. In fact, I’ll walk if I have to.