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August 2021

On the eve of the internationals it is time to ask, “Who needs nations?”

Untold doesn’t do international matches, except to decry them as being a source of pain as already injured players are used by national managers and thus injured even more.

Oh, and we have done our article (9 June 2010) – now oft copied from by the national press and others, but with Untold rarely cited as the source, in which we compared the population, number of registered clubs, number of registered male players, comparative world cup success, and the number of recognised coaches and reached a radical conclusion.

I’m rather proud of that piece, not least because it has stood the test of time.  Turned out to be the most quoted piece on Untold – at least thus far.  Not that anyone really takes any note of the conclusion (that its all down to the number of coaches) but still, the research gets quoted.

The last time I indulged in quoting that article was in a piece called “England leads the world in sporting self-delusion” in which (in passing) I noted Roy Keane’s comments about English and Irish players being at a profound disadvantage in international tournaments because they don’t like hanging around in hotels.

But as a semi-nation (Britain is the nation, England a country within it) we stride backwards into obscurity under an enquiry by Greg Dyke and a determination to win the world up in a country whose world up preparation efforts seems to be build on the back of slave labour, while noting that by and large we “don’t do well in hotels”.

What strikes me as amusing in the current climate is that we all know what the way forwards for English football is:  more and better qualified coaches, rather than people like John Beck (see previously cited articles if you want to know about him).   But we still appoint John Beck.

However having an answer as to what is wrong with English football is no good for the English media, because that means the endless cheap radio and TV programmes in which people who don’t know much about coaching are asked their opinion on football endlessly debate anything other than coaching.  Coaching is a bit technical, a bit obscure, a bit like sitting in a hotel room rather than getting rat arsed in a bar.

And the main outcome of these debates is that England has to play to its strengths which are…

Running (yes, I can see that, running is good)

Tackling (yes,  to a point, although Tony Adams always said that he didn’t tackle – he closed down the player on the 30 yard line, thus forcing the attacker to shoot from that far out.  Knowing who he had in goal behind him he thought it a fair bet that the ball would miss or be saved, so why tackle and risk allowing the player past you?)

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So that’s the new mantra.  Forget skill and tactics, and forget coaching.
Run and tackle.  That’s the English way.
And this “run and tackle” approach now gives us something else it seems.  A “Sense of purpose” which actually means a sense of being English.
The problem with this is that England happens to be a country with a real mish-mash of peoples, people whose origins are different, whose cultures are different, whose visions are different.It has been thus for a hell of a long time.  The Ancient Britains, the near-mythical race that lived at the time of the equally mythical King Arthur and his chum Merlin (who I recently discovered was apparently Doctor Who in disguise) were wiped out by the Angles and the Saxons from the south and east.  Then the Romans stuck their oar in.  Then these Mercians, West Saxons and the like fought but also merged with the Danes, following King Alfred’s attempt at unification of the country.Then the resultant mish-mash was mish-mashed further by the Normans in the 11th century, and thus everyone got very confused as to who they were.  As if that were not enough, by the 19th century we had a bloody big empire, and something like half the world’s trade passed through London which meant that we had an open door to visitors and trades people from across the world.We needed these people if the empire and its trade was going to work – and so a nation already lacking in a sense of self lost what little it had left.   In short England is a country without an identity.  We just make one up sometimes when it seems helpful.

As such we don’t actually need a football team to give us an identity – which is why we have the Premier League instead which is open to lots of nationalities – if the players are good enough.

Now this should be good – because it ought to be the place where individuality and creativity thrive.   And sometimes that happens.  Over time the English throw up a fair number of individuals and groups who do rather clever things like develop the steam engine, invent the internet, discover DNA, develop the Enigma machine and thus modern computerisation (while persecuting the genius who did it and forcing him into suicide), write the most staggering plays of all time, and evolve a game called football.  We even educate some of those foreign chappies so that they can do their clever stuff – I think for example of Marconi.  Or provide boarding houses in which clever Scottish people can develop television and that sort of thing.

But we don’t really venerate the individual, unless we knock him or her down.   Individualism in England is not a good thing.  It is very much knocked out of you at school, where obedience is the name of the game, and anyone who ever dares to show individuality is generally made a figure of fun first by teachers and later by journalists who prowl around looking in dustbins or hacking emails.

So, we don’t do too well in identifying ourselves as a nation, because of our long term heritage.  We don’t do very well with team things, because we think everything comes from the individual, and we don’t like individuals because they are not trustworthy, and do funny stuff we can’t understand.

We don’t do coaching properly, because that might gives the players ideas above their station as individuals.  We don’t submerge the individual to the team, because that is not the English way.

In fact, the English national team is a perfect replica of English society – a place where the individual is distrusted and the social mix is so fragmented it is hard to see it as a unity at all.

Far better, it seems to me, to let these foreign chappies like Mr Wenger, who know a thing or two about such matters, to take a group of people and meld them together into a group.

Who needs nations anyway?

44 comments to On the eve of the internationals it is time to ask, “Who needs nations?”

  • WalterBroeckx

    Who needs nations? Politicians?
    I always try to ignore the nation or country I live in. It is just that the taxman refuses to ignore me… 😉 and when you live in a country that has the highest tax rates in the world you wouldn’t mind if he would forget you 🙁
    Oh well…

  • WalterBroeckx

    I must say that I am not bothered at all by these games. The only reason I am interested in any of those games is when Arsenal player(s) is/are involved.
    I don’t want them to play but when they play I want them to do well as it will help their confidence and I then hope they take that with them to Arsenal. But for the rest I couldn’t care a bit if Upper South Mongolia or Spain would win the world cup. As long as Arsenal doesn’t lose any players from injury I really don’t care.

    So I don’t plan to see any of the games. Could be tempted to see what France will do against Ukraine. To see if Giroud has a good game. I will try to see how many Arsenal players will play in England – Germany (hope none of course) but I will spend my evening watching something else.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Sorry for you guys who don’t do nations. Italy and Nigeria were up for it yesterday at Craven Cottage. It was a great and entertaining game. The reality is that most players and fans don’t mind wearing 2hats: a club hat and a national one. Good games, match ups and intense competitions abound in both formats.
    I agree that there is a lot that FIFA needs to improve upon and the residue of corruption in the FIFA system is getting too glaring to ignore but for a lot of football stars in many developing nations or that have mediocre and uninteresting local leagues, FIFA competitions, starting with the age-based competitions to the World Cup proper have been god-sent.

  • Chris

    We certainly don’t need all these pointless friendlies. Plus the qualifying for World Cup etc should be more brief. Let The Faroes, San Marino etc (Scotland lmao) have their own competition with promotion (and demotion) available.

    It won’t happen of course. FIFA says so.

  • colario

    Walter and Chris.

    I agree with you Walter these games do not thrill me but I watch out for injuries to our players. Arsenal fans are not the only club fans to do this.

    Its become ridiculous. Tonight Slovakia will play Gibraltar. It was reported this morning on BBC Radio 4 that the Gibraltar team have never played wearing football boots with studs as there isn’t a pitch in Gib which will take studs! In fact there is only one pitch!

    What a crazy football world we live!

  • Armin

    As someone who spend 3,5 years in war because “rise and downfall of the Balkan nations” I cant agree more with you Walter.
    Most of “national games” are food for hungry and unhappy ones. It gives you fake feeling of importance. In small countries, as mine is, it is even mater of pride.
    At the same night when whole country was celebrating qualification for WC in Brazil, little baby died because politicians cant agree about identity numbers which babies have to get after birth (don’t know English word for it)and baby could not get passport to be relocated somewhere in EU where could be healed. But that night everyone forgot, on all troubles.
    Was it good? No, it was not. It would be good if it could bring little baby back, but it cant. It is just fake feeling.

  • WalterBroeckx

    LOL Colario… maybe I should ask my neighbours to help us and declare our street independent and form a national football federation. Even I could get a cap that way… 🙂 And then my football federation could list me as a fifa ref… Now that is an idea… 😉

  • Armin

    well that’s nothing, last game Bosnia vs Liechtenstein, guests came here without two best players. One couldn’t get free days from office and other had some obligations in school.

  • WalterBroeckx

    And talking about fickle fans… and at Arsenal we have a few but not as many as in Belgium.
    Only 2 years ago people wouldn’t go for free to see the Red Devils (as they are called and just for that name alone I can never support them) play. We had an away match for the Euro2012 and we had 1 (one) supporter going there. Don’t know if it was Letland or Estland or whatever… (not really important). That person even got coverage in the whole country in the papers and on TV. 1 (one) supporter.

    And now the stadium is filled with success supporters now we are doing rather fine for the moment.

    For the game against Colombia the stadium was filled and sold out. We lost that one and now for our game against Japan I can still buy tickets just a few hours before kick off.

    This is a fine example that for many it is just a way of belonging to a winning team. And if the team stops winning they will stop supporting them in a heartbeat.

    Fick fufa and Fick them all…

  • Like every Gooner (and virtually all supporters of football clubs), I am not always comfortable with internationals but I am in agreement with Shakabula that they are a good part of the game.

    On the other hand, as a staunch Globalist (I like to see myself as a citizen of the world), I am uncomfortable with the unbridled nationalism that accompanies international games. It is why I love club football and why I love Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.

    One of my most enduring image of the game is that of George Oppong Weah of the small West African country called Liberia having his world footballer of the year award dedicated to AW with the great man being called on stage.

    That was only possible because of club football, as Liberia are perennial minnows in African football. It is interesting that Africa’s greatest export would have been a nobody but for club football and a genuine talent spotter and nurturer in Arsene wenger

    It is because of stories like that of George Weah that we all love this game.

  • TJ

    Walter, fickle glory hunting fans supporting a team nicknamed the red devils- now where have we seen that before!

  • AL

    Internationals ought to be played in the off-season, when we have 3 or 4 months of no football. Sure they will be very welcome then.

    Sorry off-topic
    Couldn’t think of what to make of this really, nice intro, but then in there that muppet Gordon Taylor called for video banning after ‘Santi’s dive against West Brom’…Yes, that one ‘dive’ by Santi was enough for him to call for video use to ban cheats, as if that was the worst dive he’d ever seen. If it was a dive in the first place.

    Would be curious to know if Walter agrees with Riley’s ‘facts’:)

  • nicky

    On the subject of internationals but slightly off topic, I suddenly remembered Flory van Donck, probably Belgium’s greatest ever golfer and a hero of mine in my golfing days.
    Your little homeland doesn’t produce too many world beaters so Flory deserves a mention……along with chocolates, beer and chips.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    The Seven Dwarfs were marching through the forest one day they fell in a deep, dark ravine. Snow White, who was following along, peered over the edge of the steep chasm and called out to the fallen dwarfs. From the depths of the dark hole a voice returned, “The Spurs are EPL contenders.”

    Snow White thought to herself, “Thank God… at least Dopey’s survived!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Q: What’s the difference between a Liverpool fan and a broken clock?
    A: Even a broken clock is right twice a day!


  • Brickfields Gunners

    It being international week….

    Aussies: Dislike being mistaken for Pommies (Brits) when abroad.
    Canadians: Are rather indignant about being mistaken for Americans when abroad.
    Americans: Encourage being mistaken for Canadians when abroad.
    Brits: Can’t possibly be mistaken for anyone else when abroad.

    Aussies: Believe you should look out for your mates.
    Brits: Believe that you should look out for those people who belong to your club.
    Americans: Believe that people should look out for & take care of themselves.
    Canadians: Believe that that’s the government’s job.

    Aussies: Are extremely patriotic to their beer.
    Americans: Are flag-waving, anthem-singing, and obsessively patriotic to the point of blindness.
    Canadians: Can’t agree on the words to their anthem, when they can be bothered to sing them.
    Brits: Do not sing at all but prefer a large brass band to perform the anthem.

    Americans: Spend most of their lives glued to the idiot box.
    Canadians: Don’t, but only because they can’t get more American channels.
    Brits: Pay a tax just so they can watch four channels.
    Aussies: Export all their crappy programs, which no-one there watches, to Britain, where everybody loves them.

    Americans: Will jabber on incessantly about football, baseball, and basketball.
    Brits: Will jabber on incessantly about cricket, soccer, and rugby.
    Canadians: Will jabber on incessantly about hockey, hockey, hockey, hockey, and how they beat the Americans twice, playing baseball.
    Aussies: Will jabber on incessantly about how they beat the Poms in every sport they play them in.

    Americans: Spell words differently, but still call it “English”.
    Brits: Pronounce their words differently, but still call it “English”.
    Canadians: Spell like the Brits, pronounce like Americans.
    Aussies: Add “G’day”, “mate” and a heavy accent to everything they say in an attempt to get laid.

    Brits: Shop at home and have goods imported because they live on an island.
    Aussies: Shop at home and have goods imported because they live on an island.
    Americans: Cross the southern border for cheap shopping, gas, & liquor in a backwards country.
    Canadians: Cross the southern border for cheap shopping, gas, & liquor in a backwards country.

    Americans: Drink weak, pissy-tasting beer.
    Canadians: Drink strong, pissy-tasting beer.
    Brits: Drink warm, beery-tasting piss.
    Aussies: Drink anything with alcohol in it.

    Americans: Seem to think that poverty & failure are morally suspect.
    Canadians: Seem to believe that wealth and success are morally suspect.
    Brits: Seem to believe that wealth, poverty, success and failure are inherited things.
    Aussies: Seem to think that none of this matters after several beers.

    Read more:

  • Brickfields Gunners

    England vs Germany .

    Why do women love German footballers?
    Because they’re on top for 90 minutes and still come second.

    Why are Englishmen such lousy lovers?
    They’ll wait 90 minutes, then put it in twice in the last
    minute and think there the world’s best lovers!

    What’s the most popular song, sung by drunken fans,
    at a Germany versus England soccer match?
    ‘Take Me Out to the Brawl Game’.

    A recent press report unveiled the latest sponsor of the English football team, Tampax, believe it or not.
    The Football Association thought it was appropriate as it is no secret that the team is going through a particularly bad period!

  • colario


    I have a small collection of jokes and I have been tempted to may be post one or two. I haven’t because your jokes are far more insane than mine.:) Keep them coming!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ colario – Please ,do post them .I’m just about getting ’round the bend with this international break !

    What is common between between a 3 pin plug and the England football team?

    They are both useless in Europe!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    From the good ole days ….

    The fire-brigade phones Harry Redknapp in the early hours one Sunday morning. “Mr Redknapp sir, White Hart Lane is on fire,” he tells him. “The cups man, save the cups!” cries Harry.
    “Don’t worry sir,” the caller says, “the fire hasn’t spread to the canteen yet”.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And that’s nighty- night from me !

    A woman in the bar says that she wants to have plastic surgery to enlarge her breasts. Her husband tells her, “Hey, you don’t need surgery to do that. I know how to do it without surgery.”

    The lady asks, “How do I do it without surgery?”

    “Just rub toilet paper between them.”
    Startled the lady asks, “How does that make them bigger?”

    “I don’t know, but it worked for your ass!”

  • colario


    At your request but nervously and fearfully

    Q. Why are blonde jokes so short?
    A. So men can remember them.

    What are a woman’s four
    favorite animals?
    A. A mink in the closet, a Jaguar in the garage, a tiger in the bedroom, and a Jackass to pay for it all.

    One of my favourite one liners is from Benny Hill.
    ‘How is it that a woman’s best friend is her diamonds and a man’s best friend is his dog!

  • Gord

    Arsenal’s Jenkinson breaks the record for goals in a England U21 game. Final score 9-0. From Daily Mail commentary:

    > Goal! England U21 8 (Jenkinson) San Marino U21 0

    > 61mins: Wow. Well the goals are flooding in then, and there’s no question that this is Jenkinson’s.

    > The right-back bombs on down the right – a feature of his game today – and slots under the ‘keeper.

    > This would be a record win for the Young Lions, as it stands.

    Oh, Canada chalks up another loss, this time to Slovenia.

  • colario

    France disallowed a goal for a close on side. Few minutes later given a goal when the scorer was clearly off side. And we think we have ref problems!

  • colario

    Arsenal score against England

  • Thanks Per! You are the man.

    Did anyone else hear Ian Wright being positive about England after they were totally outclassed by Germany’s 2nd string. This from the same guy who sees nothing good in Arsenal.

  • TJ

    Bootoomee…Ian Wright cares more about Arsenal and has contributed more to Arsenal and Arsenal history than you ever will

  • TJ,

    Woah woah woah! Where is that coming from? Are you Ian Wright’s minion or what? You need to get your mouth out of his arse because you are embarrassing yourself.

    What the hell!

  • Arsenal1Again

    hmmm, I remember Tony asking people to report to him if posts don’t appear.

    A post has not appeared. The website continuously seemed to be loading. When I tried to post again it said, “Ooops, you’ve said that before” (paraphrasing here) so it’s in there somewhere.

  • Pat

    About Riley – he gives a whole interview about diving. Is this the biggest refereeing problem in the premier league? I think not.

    About Ian Wright – yes he was a great player for Arsenal but he is not a good supporter or a good pundit.

    About the internationals – Per Mertesacker played well so that should be good for Arsenal. He nearly scored before his goal and cleared a few as well. And he was very excited about scoring when he was interviewed after the match. I was surprised to see Jack Wilshere playing again; hope he’s all right for the weekend. Hope Kieran Gibbs is ok as well.

  • Pat

    Nothing against the Ukraine, but I’m pleased for the Arsenal players that France has qualified.

    In the photograph you can see from the faces of Olivier Giroud, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny how much it means to them. They should come back happy for the weekend’s match.

  • Gord

    I seen a picture on the BBC site about Mertesacker celebrating his goal. He is on his knees, and all the team-mates around him are standing. And he is almost as tall as they are. Our BFG is really quite big (in many senses of the word). Congratulations to him!

    Sagna and Giroud didn’t play long, and looking at one set of commentary, I see no evidence of injury to either. Which is also good. This is apparently the first time a UEFA team on a 2 goal first leg deficit has gone on to win and be sent to the WC.

    Jenkinson writes himself into the record books in his game. It was his goal that broke the record, and then another U21 for England added another.

    Somehow Spain lost to Venus (South Africa, I am missing how South Africa gets called Venus in this). It looks like Monreal started, and Cazorla came on as a substitute. But, one news report suggests the records for this game will be expunged, as Spain (who lost) used 7 substitutes instead of the allowed 6. Expungement makes sense if Spain had of won, it doesn’t make sense in that they lost.

  • TJ

    Bootoomee. Ian Wright left his guts on the pitch for us winning two titles and has a right as a respected ex player to let his frustrations be known, like any fan. He has also been to the Emirates and Highbury. Arse in his mouth? There is no need to be personal or insulting,and I believe it is you sir who has just embarrassed yourself,or at least you should be after your reaction.keyboard warrior

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ colario – Nice , do keep sending them . Here’s some more of the same ..

    Q -What do men do after sex?
    A – 2% eat; 3% smoke cigarettes; 4% take a shower; 5% go to sleep and 86% get up and go back home to their wives.

    A man was carrying 3 babies in a train.
    The lady sitting next to him asked: “Are they your babies? ”
    MAN : “No, I work in a condom factory and these are customer COMPLAINTS !”

    Women’s top 5 lies: from the whitest down

    5. I am a virgin.
    4. It is so big.
    3. I can’t do that to my best friend.
    2. I won’t gain weight after marriage
    1. I am coming! I am coming!!!

    The teacher asked: “Which part of the body goes to heaven first? ”
    A Kid replied : “The legs…because every night I see my mum’s legs up high and screaming “OH GOD! I’M COMING”. “

  • colario

    If you mean league titles he won one, and that with Arsene.
    I agree on the pitch he gave everything.

  • blacksheep63

    silly Tony, if we didn’t have nations we couldn’t have wars. And England is rather good at war, in fact we have an unbeaten home record since 1066.


    p.s Romans after Saxons? tut tut
    A historian

  • TJ,

    I suspect you are new to this forum as I believe that regulars here understand my comment on Ian Wright. He bashes the team at every opportunity and after minor slip ups. He gets negative whenever the team’s performance or (mostly) results don’t match his expectations. But last night, he went out of his way to find positives for a lacklustre England perfomance against a weakened German team. This is a courtesy that he seldom extends to Arsenal. That was the point of my comment and I think it was clear enough.

    He was an employee of Arsenal who EARNED his pay. He did well for us a player and he got his rewards financially, trophy-wise and in terms of accolades.

    As an ex-Gunner and pundit, he is one of the worst out there. But as an ex-England international (where he enjoyed little to know success whatsoever) he was more positive. He exemplifies what the original article of this thread is all about. Excessive and blind nationalism.

    About being personal: Pot calling kettle black! When did it become necessary for us fans to have contributed as much as ex-players have to Arsenal before we can criticise them? Going by your logic, no Gooner should ever say a bad word about RvP. EVER!

    All I ask is that we think our comments through before posting them. It saves us all the embarrassment of your 11.38pm comment.

    And TJ, until you and I can meet to iron out our differences, I am no more a keyboard warrior than you are.

  • TJ

    Ian Wright is an Arsenal legend who never publicly questioned the ambition of the club as a player, or to my knowledge ever asked to leave for a rival, and I believe he has earned the right to criticise what he thinks is wrong at the club. It is obvious to me that he does it out of love for the club and frustration, just as Tony Adams often does.
    Your “need to get your mouth out of his arse” comment was totally needless and should be the only source of embarrassment on this thread. I certainly hope you do not react like that when your students question you educator

  • TJ,

    You are a butt kisser and at most charitable: a sycophant. If you are too blinded by your hero-worship of Ian Wright to get my point about his willingness to see “positives” in England’s best being outclassed by Germany’s 2nd team when he wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to Arsenal in less humiliating circumstances then I cannot help you.

    If Tony Adams is your poster child for constructive critics of Arsenal well……

    Robin van Persie “has contributed more to Arsenal and Arsenal history than you ever will”. FACT. So no Gooner should ever say a bad word about him, going by your logic.

    The “caring” part of your comment is neither here nor there. There is no way you can tell whether Ian Wright cares more about Arsenal than I or any other Arsenal fan does. How much you care is not measured by how much noise you make in the media.

    Apologies if having your mouth stuck between Ian Wright’s butt cheeks is too painful for you but that is how you come across with your “totally needless” knee-jerk reaction to my initial comment. If the cap fit, wear it and wear it with pride.

  • TJ

    Why should I respond to infantile name calling

  • Gord

    Dortmund picked up another centre back injury courtesy of the International break. They are hurting for centre backs. I see in the news now, that it is possible that Napoli may have to play behind closed doors for our Champions League game with them.

    Some Arsenal fans will be happy that Dortmund and Napoli may be at a disadvantage. I would rather say fair competitions. The Napoli situation may result in no away fans being able to go to the game.

    The Daily Mail is reporting that Wilshere picked up another ankle
    injury playing against Germany.

    For Southampton fans coming to the Emirates, there is a note on your club website about some kind of trial processing for some fans.

    Arsenal apparently picked up Lanvin Homme as a partner. The news article has a picture. It does not look like Flamini has shortened his sleeves (sorry, there has been news of late about Flamini taking scissors to his uniform, I’ve no idea if they are true, or important). All the guys look sharp.

  • TJ

    Tony and Walter, and all the other bloggers here. I would like to personally apologise to all of you for descending into an argument with someone on this excellent Arsenal blog

  • TJ

    Tony and Walter, and all the other bloggers here. I would like to personally apologise to all of you for descending into an argument with someone on this excellent Arsenal blog. i will add I never resorted to name calling or insulting remarks towards anyone

  • TJ

    We all love the Arsenal and at such a positive time in our great history i am so sorry for any negativity