End of Terry, Lampard, Gerrard and Cole egos
3 March ~ John Terry is no longer considered fit for the England team, and Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard must surely be nearing the end of their international careers. This worries me greatly. How will I be able to cheer on England's opponents when this loathsome clique of money-bloated underachievers are finally deemed to be past their best? Watching England fail at major international tournaments will not be the same without them. There just don't seem to be any young players fit to step into the lurid, lucratively sponsored boots of the swollen generation.
There is no promising young midfielder with the sneering self-regard of Gerrard. Few up-and-coming English central defenders wear a Johnny Bulldog expression in quite such a vile, tin-hatted way as Terry. Show me the left-back with the same sense of whiney, irritating entitlement as Cole. And it's just not feasible that there could ever again be a central midfielder so universally and egregiously over-rated as the mono-faced Lampard – a man with admittedly healthy goal stats, but whose importance to the game somehow remains elusive, other than the fact that he's managed to make an effortless fortune out of anonymity.
It's not just the individual obnoxiousness of the quartet that has made watching England lose such a pleasure over the past decade. Collectively, they have come to represent the distance between the cosseted, ultra-wealthy professionals of the Premier League elite and pretty much everyone else, in particular a public that's never quite had the stomach to idolise them as much as the players and their publicists wish.
Maybe this is why England's regular and inevitable eliminations are now greeted more with stoicism than despair. It stems from a sense that these men have already got way more than they deserve. If most sane people look at Terry, Gerrard, Cole and Lampard now and feel a sense of innate revulsion (and why would they not?), imagine how they'd feel watching them wave their World Cup winner's medals around for the next 30 years.
There's a whole new breed of seemingly quite low-key and sensible young footballers now ready to take their place. There can be little objection to players such as Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and that's precisely my problem. They seem quite likeable young men. True, I don't much follow what they get up to in their spare time, but I've yet to have their screaming, contorted features face me down via my television screen merely because they've done their jobs properly.
The next generation seems to want to play football and then largely disappear from view. You get the impression that they are modest, well-grounded players who might easily refrain from using bigotry to taunt an opponent, resist the temptation to shag their team-mates' partners, desist from mocking Americans the day after a devastating terrorist attack on US soil, and feel uncompelled to write a book complaining that they're only being paid £55,000 a week.
So for those of us who thrive on England's failure, Brazil 2014 could be the final opportunity to wallow in the joy of listening to commentators ignore the fact that 70 per cent of Gerrard's glorious long-distance passes and shots on goal end up hitting nothing more than the ad hoardings. Enjoy one last time Frankie's head lowered in disappointment as the truth finally dawns on him that merely being able to pass a ball accurately over five yards and run from one penalty area to another (and back again) doesn't make you a world-class player. Revel in the permanent look of bafflement on Cole's face that the crowds in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte are not chanting his name (except to call him whatever "wanker" is in Portuguese). Be assured that Terry is sitting at home with his patriotic po-face buried deep in a tear-stained flag of St George.
One final consolation for the anti-England caucus. Should future England teams manage to win a major tournament in the subsequent years, you can celebrate an honour achieved without the aid of the four super-egos whose talked-up talents have, for far too long, papered over the unhealthy ethos of a national team built on hyperbole, pointless sweat and narcissism. Ian Plenderleith