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By Will Boyer and Matt Handley
Is retiring from international football a good decision? Yes, bus pass bumblers should preserve themselves for a long club career, argues Will Boyer
Remember Andrea Pirlo’s cheeky penalty kick against England in the summer? Born in 1979, Pirlo was one of the oldest players at the Euros, yet he dominated the midfield in every match except t
he final. Had Italy won that, then surely he would have been named player of the tournament. Nevertheless, he returned an Italian hero, after what probably will be his last international tournament.
Exhausted from international duty, he is now struggling to find his form for Juventus in the Italian Serie A. Perhaps it is time for his international boots to be hung up, and give the youngsters a chance. International football is considerably less lucrative than the club game (perhaps explaining the lack of passion in the England dressing room, but that’s another story), so why carry on playing for your country, when it could put your club career at risk? By their mid-thirties, many international players will be astronomically rich megastars; but they still have the drive to prolong their involvement in the career they love for as long as possible. International caps should be rejected if the player is concerned their club career would suffer.
David Beckham, ex-England footballer, happily married, still playing for LA Galaxy, was absolutely fuming at being left out of the GB Olympic squad. Head coach Stuart Pearce was restricted by the rules to selecting a predominantly young squad; arguably stronger than if Golden Balls had been selected. At such an ‘old’ age fitness would be a problem for any footballer.
As Brian Clough once said, “nothing beats pace”. That’s why the older players should step down from international football and let younger players fill the squad. Maybe this idea is also true at club level, but club fans tend to be much more loyal no matter who is selected – take Ryan Giggs, for example.
If there was more space in the international set-up for younger players, there would be more competition for places and perhaps under-performers such as England would start to achieve more, and maybe one day win a penalty shoot-out.
Have pride, don’t quit, says Matt Handley
When I was a boy, I had two life ambitions. The first was to become a Power Ranger. The second was to pull on the England shirt and lead the line for the national football team.
The former was curtailed by the realisation that, despite fannying around with cancer research, scientists hadn’t got round to developing awesome suits that shoot lasers (seriously guys, priorities). The latter was nipped in the bud by a tragic ankle sprain in a Christ the King primary school under-9s fixture which put me out of action for the next decade. Oh, and the fact that I was chronically shit at football.
It doesn’t take Inception-esque technique to work out that this was a dream shared by many; on every football pitch and playing field the nation over, kids dream of imitating their idols and representing their country. For this reason alone, it’s unacceptable when players turn around and say they simply don’t fancy it any more.
In return for being endowed by the gene pool with an athleticism that brings you riches, you’re obliged to give something in return. Just as when the Orcs were battering down the gates at Helms Deep and even the youngest and feeblest of Middle Earth took up arms, when Woy picks up the telephone and tells you that the mighty San Marino are coming to town, you better get your arse on that coach.
An emerging theme of the last decade or so is that stars have sought to shirk their obligations to their national side, deciding to spend time between club games recuperating rather than joining up with their national teams; Alan Shearer retired in 2000, managing to bag over 60 goals at club level in the subsequent three seasons. Whilst Newcastle fans will have been delighted at this, those who still cared about England will have been aghast, as an evidently still lethal striker left Emile Heskey and Darius Vassell to share the coveted number nine jersey. Whilst Shearer playing for both club and country may have been less effective than one only turning out at St James’ Park, he would have been indisputably better than Darius fucking Vassell.
We should cherish players like David Beckham, who, despite being left out of squad after squad refuse to give up on the chance of a recall or turn their back on the team. Ooh, Paul Scholes, you were worried about hurting your knees if you kept playing for England? Shut up. That’s not your knee. It’s England’s knee. And if we say we want it, then it’s ours.