Making a splash

21 June 2018 | Aaron Wise

The World Cup only comes around once every four years, so you have to forgive us for writing another blog on the world’s biggest sporting event.

In the build-up to major tournaments, England are always put under the spotlight and receive intense scrutiny by the nation.

With the St George’s flag flying around every street corner and on passionate fans’ cars, while Fat Les’ Vindaloo blares out, England expects.

However, we’re all very used to how the story ends now. England scrape through the group stages with a few draws and an uninspiring win before crashing out to the Germans (or in last World Cup’s case, not even progressing out the group stages).

We seem to forget 1966 was a long time ago. I grew up getting used to the saying ‘England versus the press’ every time the World Cup came around, and although our recent performances on the global stage have been poor, the team have taken, in my opinion, an unfair battering from the media.

But this time is different. With the golden generation of Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard behind us, a relatively young side with no expectation have flown to Russia without the pressure of being put on a pedestal.

Under manager Gareth Southgate, the side have been kept largely out of the media’s eye compared to previous years, and low and behold, we end up winning our first game.

I could be here all day trying to decipher if pressure actually does play a part in a team’s performances, but I want to highlight how well the England camp have handled this tournament.

This week, for instance, the young Lions warmed down from their 1-0 win over Tunisia by riding inflatable unicorns in a pool at their Russian base. 

If this was the side of four years ago in Brazil where England only managed to gain one point from three matches, the whole nation would be going hysterical at such a sight.

But Southgate’s quiet approach to the competition and his light-hearted team bonding and recovery sessions seem to be paying dividends. He's even dislocated his own shoulder to take any potential heat off the team.

Despite not being favoured by many when he was appointed, Southgate and his players have been well looked after and England’s PR have managed to keep the media at arm’s length in the build-up to Russia, which they must be praised for.

For the first time since I can remember, the England camp’s PR seems to be turmoil free at a World Cup and our cutthroat media have yet to pounce…that is of course unless we lose to Panama on Sunday. Come on, England!