Things are changing, with players ALL belting out National Anthem…
22:14 GMT, 20 June 2012
Every England player sang the National Anthem before victory against Ukraine. All the way along the line, every one of them. Can you remember the last time that happened
Something has changed. It may be the influence of an English manager, Roy Hodgson, after 11 years under the direction of Sven Goran Eriksson, a Swede, and the Italian Fabio Capello, when being English did not seem to count for much.
It looks to me like Roy has got into their heads and reminded the players that playing for their country means something.
Victorious, happy and glorious: (from left) John Terry, Scott Parker, Glen Johnson, Joe Hart and captain Steven Gerrard look in harmony as they sing the National Anthem before beating Ukraine
You might ask what difference does singing the anthem make. It won’t help England keep the ball better or help them to advance further in this thoroughly enjoyable tournament. England could go out on Sunday, after all, when they face the dangerous Italians.
But, even if this is a good as it gets, this group of players, under a new manager, seem to have a pride in their work. They seem to be enjoying being there, being together. And why shouldn’t they It wasn’t always like that, but sometimes it is the simple changes that make a difference.
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I’ve heard the question: rugby players sing the anthem as a team before an international, why can’t England’s footballers We’ve seen it with other countries. Linking arms, some facing the flag, belting out their anthem, looking like they are proud to be representing their country. Why can’t England
From the outside it may seem that, since the emergence and wealth of the Champions League and the growth of the Premier League, international football has been devalued. The all-powerful clubs don’t like it and they pay the players’ wages.
Wembley can still draw the biggest crowds in world football for a friendly: 90,000 people attended the 1-0 win against Belgium before the tournament began, which shows enduring affection for the national team. But is playing for England still a schoolboy dream like it was for me Not in recent times. Not for everyone.
When I played for England, I always sang the National Anthem before the game. I felt a bit embarrassed; I wasn’t sure if I should or not. For young players, you look to senior team-mates for guidance. I looked for my parents in the crowd, focused on them and sang, albeit badly! The first time, against Colombia, I can remember the emotion of seeing my mum in the stands and thinking that cap was as much for her, especially, for the miles she had travelled to ferry me around as a schoolboy and for what my parents sacrificed to get me there.
Every time I played for England it felt the same; a great pleasure, an honour. I only wish I had won more caps.
Nervous nineties: Ashley Cole can hit 100 caps if England reach the final
This group look hungry for more. Ashley Cole can win his 100th cap if England go all the way to the final, Steven Gerrard is in outstanding form as captain and looks to be thriving in the role. Was it only two years ago, in South Africa, when John Terry was talking of mutiny when there was an obvious split in the camp He, too, has been in excellent form in these finals and concentrated on his performances.
The sideshows that surrounded England before have also been removed. Relatives flew in for a ‘family day’ created by Hodgson and then went home again, leaving the players to get on with their work.
Being an Englishman in charge of the England team has many other benefits. The passing on of information during training is more straightforward and, crucially, communication at half time, with a limited period to force changes, is easier.
Every player will tell you how the ‘spirit in the camp is good’ when they are winning, but the players seem to be responding to subtle changes (as well as winning games).
In the past, I’ve seen England benches with substitutes nudging each other after England have scored, as if to say ‘that means we’ve got to stay out here even longer!’
But this group seem to be celebrating every goal and enjoying the moment. It’s the first time since Euro 96, under Terry Venables, that I can remember seeing that. It’s been too long.