The word came down from New York. An SMS simply read "England suck donkey balls". And it was true. A man who knows nothing about football was taunting me after England's "Golden Generation" continued to flatter to deceive. A motley crew of millionaire superstars who, it seems, no man can mould into a team. A team of supposed world-class professional footballers who seem to be tactically inflexible. They want to play their way, or they'll take their ball home. Naaaah.
So what's wrong with English football? For a start, we don't have a philosophy. The Dutch do. England has a 'product', The Premier League. It turned the players into celebrities and enriched them beyond their wildest dreams, and is trying to turn the supporter into a passive, uncritical consumer. Buy Sky Sports, this year's shirt, drink the beer, shop at the supermarket the players endorse. And you're part of the game. The players are insulated, indulged, feted and pampered. Told time and again by fawning sports writers that they were world-beaters, that this time they would heal the nation in their Grail Quest.
But it's all smoke & mirrors, and always will be. England does have 'superstars'. The media makes those. Endless back-channel access via agents and their 'people' gets them favourable coverage. But none of the players is really, truly world-class at what they do. The Germans don't have any world-class players either, but they have a philosophy that seems to always make them greater than the sum of their parts. With England, the parts don't fit together properly.
And if this really is our "Golden Generation", then let history record they let themselves, the fans and their nation down, especially that potato-headed muppet Rooney. They'll come home from this competition maybe next week, maybe after hanging on for a game or two more, but it won't hurt the players. They can come home and count their 7-figure pay packets for consolation. And their agents will soon be selling 'exclusive' stories of their World Cup hell to the papers. Nothing succeeds like failure, especially if you play for England.
And lets look at what the Premier League has bequeathed us after they're gone. Nuffink. Where are the next generation of top England players going to come from? Our top clubs fish in the all the leagues of the world looking for cheap talent. The original idea of a structure that would support development of a strong and enduring national side has long been sacrificed to the chase for club glory with the tacit endorsement from the protectors of the national game.
In two World Cups' time, when England might be hosting the thing, we could be in Scotland's position, with Baddiel & Skinner covering Del Amitri's 1998 plaint to the their team, "Don't Come Home Too Soon". Still, the Premier League will go from strength to strength, leaving a trail of broken clubs and scattered dreams, and a national team wondering if it will ever end "XXX years of hurt".
I've stopped caring.
Lags Eleven was in Scorcher Comic. Published by IPC. I nicked the pic from lovely Brit comix resource, comicsuk.co.uk. If you're wondering why I used that image, do some googling about the current England team.