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The curse of being an English footballer

The curse of being an English footballer

The curse of being an English footballer

It has been a successful summer for England's youth squads

England. The nation that invented the beautiful game. The home to what many refer to as the greatest league in the world. The birthplace of the likes of David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne, Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves. The national team that has failed to win a major tournament since 1966.

England's failures on the world stage are not a new issue. The likes of Brazil and Germany look back and reminisce about their great successes in major competitions, whereas the first thing that comes to mind for an England fan is the defeats.

Penalty losses in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2006, the so called "golden generation" falling short in 2002, failing to qualify in 2008, a winless 2014 World Cup and a shock defeat to Iceland in 2016. 

Surely, a nation that fails to come close on so many occasions must enter every competition with minimal expectation, right? Wrong. Whilst the belief and support that the country's fans provide for the team is great, the pressure applied by the media is sensational for a team that has been trophyless for over fifty years.

The coverage of the team by some outlets, however, is not always positive. Instead of supporting the squad and trying to bring the nation together to cheer on their team, it seems at times that they are hoping for defeat in order to sell more copies by giving the latest "facts" about why they were knocked out this time.

Whilst international footballers should by no means be untouchable, the timing of the newest scandal always appears to emerge just days before a major competition, after an undercover reporter has found a reason for supporters to turn on one of the players, or worse his teammates to turn on him. 

The players are professionals and arguably should be able to deal with these sort of outside issues, but it is understandable that they can become unsettled going into the biggest tournament of their careers. 

It is not all bad news for England. After the entire country's youth system was criticised as being miles behind that of rival nations, they have gone on to win the under-19s European Championship, the under-20s World Cup and reach the semi-finals of the under-21's European Championships. 

There are certainly a number of reasons to be optimistic for the future of English football. The issue lies ahead, however, with expectations for coming tournaments rising already. A lot of these players, although playing first team football, have not yet found themselves in the spotlight. 

The youngsters are set to see interest in their performances rise and their transfer values inflate massively. It has been said by many this summer that English players are valued in a completely different transfer market to players from elsewhere in the world.

An ongoing cycle has emerged of English talent showing potential, being sold for values that they potentially are not yet worth and then criticised when their performances do not match the transfer fee. 

This culture has been developing for a number of years now and shows no signs of stopping. Wayne Rooney, for example, is England and Manchester United's highest ever scorer. He has had the expectation of leading the Three Lions attack for well over a decade now and his goalscoring record speaks for itself. 

All it seems to take is one bad performance and suddenly he is "past it" and "overrated". Even when performing well, players in that position are not praised for what they have done but compared to the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, which is a huge standard to judge players on, much of which is again fueled by the mentality of numerous reporting outlets. 

One final issue for England and their supporters seems to be that they are not quite sure where they sit in the world in comparison to the quality of other opponents. 

Qualifying campaigns for major competitions come and go without any major issues, only to be outclassed when the tournament is reached. Being an England fan will never be a smooth ride and the optimism needs to be matched by realism and instead of suddenly jumping to conclusions for future competitions, we should celebrate the great success that the youth teams have achieved and give the youngsters the time to develop their potential.