United fan confession: I think I might like England again

Author: Doron

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United > England. It’s what I’ve always believed and what I’ve always been told. Perhaps though, my interpretation of that belief needs amending somewhat now though. I am English and despite my lack of passion towards the national team, I can see myself having something of an affair, cheating almost on my beloved Man United. The freshness brought into the club this year by youth seems to be transferring itself onto the national team and for the first time in 15 years, I’m almost excited to watch my country play. Almost.

My England-supporting history is mixed. I was nearly 8 when Euro ’96 took place on my doorstep and with England playing every game at Wembley, just minutes from where I lived back then I went to every game of theirs. I loved it. Everyone was united behind the players and the 4-1 win over Holland was one of the best games I’ve ever been to. It didn’t matter which club you supported because the team were playing so well. It’s only once a player makes a mistake that the club they play for tends to come into play.

The second league game of the 1998/99 season took United to Upton Park to face West Ham. Only then did I realise the extent to which United players were hated because of their performances with the national side. Burning effigies of Beckham on the gates of the ground remain a symbol for United hatred that sticks with me. From then on I subconsciously vowed to make sure that all my footballing passion went on United and wasn’t wasted on England.

Gary Neville’s autobiography has just been published and in it he recalls the abuse he’d get from ‘fans’ at England games – people he was convinced were simply turning up to abuse the players they didn’t like rather than support the national team. Chants such as “stand up if you hate Man U” were clearly heard during games and United players were regularly booed. If it wasn’t Beckham it would be one of the Nevilles or Butt or Scholes getting the treatment. In truth, England fans never realised just how lucky they were to have such wonderful players available.

So as time went on and I grew up I convinced myself I hated my country’s football team. Despite the fact United had regular representation in squads, I was never too bothered if the team would win or lose and I was never surprised that the ‘Golden Generation’ failed to live up to the lofty expectations imposed by the media. In truth, England grew too soft and cushty as Del Boy might have said – players would be picked based on reputation rather than form or who’d actually work best in the chosen system.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that youth football is something I follow closely – not just United’s youth but the progression of young players at other clubs, youth football in other countries and at a national level. It’s through this that I’ve started to once again take some kind of interest in England again. As the talented Man United FA Youth Cup winning side of 2010/11 have progressed, they’ve been rightfully capped at various international levels. Playing for your country should always feel like an honour and despite the fact I’d rather win a Champions League with United than a World Cup with England, for most players, playing for their country represents the ultimate accolade in football. The enthusiasm the young United players have for representing their country is endearing and it’s nice to see so many of them being appreciated by fans of other clubs.

Take the FA Youth Cup winning team for example. From that group of players, Sam Johnstone, Tom Thorpe, Tyler Blackett, Larnell Cole, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Zeki Fryers, Ravel Morrison, John Cofie, Jesse Lingard and William Keane have all been capped by England at youth level with most of them featuring regularly right now. With their regular involvement and their regular top performances, it’s hard to not be drawn in by their achievements whilst playing for their country and in theory representing me and many other United fans at the same time.

It’s difficult not to feel a sense of pride when Cleverley, Welbeck, Jones and Smalling are being talked about as England players and potential starters. Add in Young, Carrick, Rooney and Ferdinand and that’s suddenly 32% of an England squad. A fresh era is starting for the national team after recent disappointments. For me, it may well be a fresh era too for following my country again. I don’t necessarily expect to see them win anything but these are players who England fans can hold little against bar the fact they play for Man United. After all, Rooney is their talisman and the current England team would be nothing without him.

United>England. My passion lies with United. I think I’ll always feel more for my club than I do my country but that doesn’t mean I can’t want my country to do well either. I can’t make other England fans like United players but given how many wanted to see Cleverley or Smalling start the latest batch of games it seems their attitude may well be changing too. Maybe I’m not an England fan as such, I support the United players within the England team but that in turn means I want the England team to do well.

Plenty of United fans will turn their back on England forever and I can understand that. The FA are a joke and whilst they continue to have one rule for United and one for everyone else many United fans will continue to stay away from admitting any affiliation to the national team – it’s not the cool thing to do. I however may just watch England on Tuesday when they take on Wales. The new breed of United youngsters may just be able to swing my feelings and given that there may well be more to follow in the next few years making the transition up to the full national side, now could be a good time to reconsider my stance.

I won’t suddenly attend every game or buy an England shirt but wanting United players to be successful in an England team is a good place to start. Whether like Danny Welbeck they’re from Manchester or like Chris Smalling they’re from central London, they’re representing Man United and they’re doing the club proud.

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13 Comments on United fan confession: I think I might like England again

  1. Good post. I think the lack of hatred towards the current Utd players in the squad are for various reasons:

    They’ve all been reasonably well behaved on & off the pitch (except Rooney, but as you say – he is the best player England have) thus far.

    Utd are no longer hated like they once were for trying to ‘buy’ the title (Chelsea, City are both resented far more for their financial power) – so less jealously.

    These youth players haven’t been part of a massively under performing team on the world stage.

    People are far more likely to have a dig at someone like Terry – who has been part of the failed golden generation and is a bit of a bellend off the pitch.

  2. Good read tho can’t agree. It would be better to leave supporting England to the skinheaded, tattooed, talksport loving pricks that boo every England performance! England are odds on to qualify from their group but it can be guaranteed that at next summers finals they’ll run into a good side and lose. Then you’ll see how much love there is for Englands United contingent! Answer – NONE!!!!!

  3. England fans have hated United for years , I too have heard horrible angry hate filled conversations by England fans when it comes to United players , I cannot bring myself to support England , I agree with Jamie Carragher when he said England come second to my club , Fergie is angry at the FA for hating united too , Dont forget the Munich Disaster was as a result of the FA pushing united to get home to play a league game.

  4. @Colin – Carragher was right, England will always come second to my club but can one not support a club and a country?! Can’t blame the FA for the Munich Disaster either, that tragedy was not their fault.

  5. I have supported England all the years, of course 2nd to my club but I am going the other way nowadays. I hate that new away shirt and I simply cannot support a team playing in sky blue colours.

  6. If I allowed other fans to dictate my support in football I doubt I’d want to watch football at all. That fans won’t support England because of the way fans of other clubs support England speaks volumes about people getting their priorities wrong.

    I have never had a preference of United or England see no reason to rank them at all. They’re both my teams.

    That I have often not liked England is irrelevant because I don’t always like everything about United either.

  7. “Dont forget the Munich Disaster was as a result of the FA pushing united to get home to play a league game.”


    If the conditions were poor it was up to United to make the decision on whether to fly.

    Stop being absurd.

  8. As long as John Terry and Cashley are in the team, I won’t be rooting for England. End of story. Club comes first for the players, and I for one agree with them.

  9. Any special reason Terry and Cole put you off?

    I really hope it’s not on the “they’re not nice people!” basis because that’d make you a United fan who can’t support Wayne Rooney without being a massive hypocrite.

  10. we’ve got a scouser in our team so i dont think we can not support england for having cole and terry. i shall be england till i die

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