That’s not to say that English fans don’t support the national team. They obviously do. You just need to look at how well attended England games are (when fans are allowed in of course). Even when it is only a friendly, England games regularly get attendances of 50,000 or more. Tournaments are also very well attended by England fans. There will usually be a few thousand at each of England group stage games and beyond. But it seems to me that most English football fans put their clubs ahead of the national team.
This idea really came about because of a poll I saw on Twitter. It was on an independent Chelsea fan’s page. The question was ‘would you rather see Chelsea win the Champions League or your nation win the World Cup?’ And that really caught my attention. Because I really wasn’t sure of the answer myself. I don’t think I could honestly tell you what my answer would be to that question. I would love, love, love to see Chelsea win the Champions League again. Of course I would. But I would also love to see England win a major competition. But which one would I rather see? I genuinely don’t know.
The results of the poll further highlighted the question I asked at the top of this piece. Because the majority of responses were for seeing Chelsea win the Champions League. And what I think it comes down to is the fact that you are following your club week in week out, for ten months a year. You pour your heart and soul into following them around the country, and around Europe sometimes. It’s part of your routine. The weekend comes, you watch your team. It’s all year, every year that you watch them fight, either for glory at the top of the table and in the cup competitions or to avoid the pain of relegation. I always get rather irritated when international breaks come about. I’ve already explained in a previous post on this site about why I just don’t get excited for the majority of England games anymore. They just don’t hold the prospect of an entertaining game. They are either against complete minnows like San Marino, where the result is a foregone conclusion and the only question worth asking is ‘how many are they going to score tonight?’ Or they are friendly games that don’t have reward to them at all. England, in recent years have beaten Germany, France, Brazil and Spain in friendly matches but they don’t save it for the actual tournament finals. So, it’s two years to wait until England play a game that seems to have any significance attached to it at all. Whereas, club football has vitally important games every week. From the first matchweek of the season to the last, every game matters.
I think that’s really it. Club football goes through a short pre-season before every game really matters. And because every game matters, fans put more of themselves into it. National teams have pretty much the exact reverse of that. They have an extremely long ‘pre-season’, where very few games matter a great deal, followed by an intense period of concentrated activity. There’s not really anything to be done about t either because international tournaments can’t be every year. That is just completely unfeasible and rather ridiculous. Domestic leagues and even knockout competitions can’t be held each year, the sheer amount of effort that would need to go into hosting an annual international tournament would just be impossible. There’s not enough games of importance that England play regularly enough to keep most fans excited for international breaks throughout the season. Most fans just want to watch their teams without having to pause the season for two weeks every couple of months.