By complete coincidence I watched The Dark Knight Rises on the afternoon before England lost 1-0 to Germany. And, because this is the way my mind works, Bane’s words of wisdom became applicable to our (assuming you’re English) current national footballing situation.
In The Dark Knight Rises (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT), Bane says that there can be no true despair without hope. As a nation, our expectations for our national team probably come from the hope we have been given in its various guises over the years. We have been penalty shoot-outs away from semi-finals and finals; freak free-kicks away from beating Brazil, the eventual champions in 2002; unfortunate injuries and red cards have taken away key players at times of great need. We have possibly had more ‘what if’ moments in recent years than Bane had blows to the face in that underground well of a prison he was in.
The previous ‘what if’ moments are genuine ones, but we’ve had more tenuous ones as well. What if the ‘Golden Generation’ had performed to their full potential; what if we’d ‘solved’ the Gerrard-Lampard ‘problem’ sooner; what if Lampard’s goal had been given? This hope magnifies our despair. If we hadn’t been seemingly so close on so many occasions, we would probably accept that a 1-0 defeat to a second string German side is where we are at the moment.
Look at our squad. It’s not exactly stellar. Here’s a personal run-through of our starting line-up from the Germany match:
Hart – Good keeper, occasionally makes errors but on the whole a very good goalie.
Walker – Had a few good games a while back, but hasn’t lived up to that recently. Fairly average.
Smalling – Doesn’t play much for United and, when he does, looks like a slower, more tired version of Rio Ferdinand.
Jagielka – A decent Premier League centre-back, maybe not always convincing at international level. Plays for Everton and so little experience at top level (ie Champions League and international).
Cole – Getting on a bit but a very good left-back indeed. Age may be starting to diminish ability though.
Townsend – Young player, shouldn’t expect too much of him at this moment in time. Exciting at times, but only in that youthful, trying-to-impress way.
Cleverley – Lots of people don’t like him. Most United fans recognise him for the sort of Carrick understudy that he is.
Gerrard – The only player so far in this line-up that you can see bossing other players about and motivating them which is why he’s captain (and maybe part of the reason why he gets played).
Lallana – Plays for Southampton, young and ‘exciting’ like Townsend but, like Townsend, I wouldn’t want to be relying on him at the World Cup, mainly for lack of experience if nothing else.
Rooney – Good, but can be inconsistent and stroppy. Runs around when the rest of the team is playing poorly which can, arguably, be to the detriment of the team as well as saving them from conceding (this is known as the Rooney paradox)
Sturridge – In good form for Liverpool and could develop a good partnership with Rooney.
If you put that team together and stuck them in the Premier League, where do you think they’d come? Certainly not in the top 4. Top 6? Seems unlikely at the moment. 8th probably. And our full-strength side wouldn’t be much stronger than that. Maybe they’d get 7th.
Now think of Germany’s first XI or Spain’s or any of the other favourites for the World Cup. Where would they come? 1st? 2nd? Maybe that’s the easiest way of assessing how good we are and what our expectations should be: imagine where we’d come if international sides competed in a league.
I would guess (disclaimer: without doing an intensive study of other international sides and going mainly on the little I know and public perception of the sides) that we might come 7th if we were lucky, but probably more likely in a competitive 9th-12th area. Which, if you look at past tournament form (failure to qualify for Euro 2008 aside) is about where we are.
So there we go; if we look seriously at what we have we’re probably not far off what we should be achieving and Batman quotes can be applied to football. Another example: when Alfred said ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’, he could well have been talking about Sepp Blatter.
Agree? Disagree? What do you think? Are there any more Batman quotes that can be applied to football?