Sports Editor’s Blog: Don’t rain on England’s World Cup parade

First for sports news PNL-140425-121437003
First for sports news PNL-140425-121437003

The last snippet of ticker tape had barely fluttered to the floor following England’s second World Cup success in a year than the nay-saying began.

These are heady days for English football. Starved of a world football title since 1966, England’s under 17s and 20s have gone and won two of them in the same year.

Add the European title won by the under 19s this summer, and the comparison to buses turning up is complete.

But within half-an-hour of the England Under 17s’ stunning 5-2 dismantling of Spain (Spain for goodness sake), the euphoric tone put out by Radio 5 Live already seemed to be cooling towards lukewarm.

Instead of marvelling at the result and putting it into its deeply impressive context, the old gripes and worried were being dusted down for discussion once more.

It’s wonderful, but when will their clubs get them playing in the Premier League?

Will their talent go to waste? It’s okay now, but how will they handle the pressure of the senior England team? Will they become overcoached and ruined by impending big money and fame?

On and on they whittled.

In the time it took for the poor chaps to do a lap of honour, we were foisting the gloomy weight of the world upon them - the fearsome fate of what awaits and all its heavy burdens.

It’s wonderful, but.

Of course, the media is not here to go around gooey-eyed 24 hours a day; there’s plenty of dirt within sport which needs sifting through, issues that need raising, and scandals exposing.

But every now and again we could do a better job of donning the party hat and slapping backs when genuinely terrific things happen.

It’s a trait of our national character which is a personal bugbear too far - an inability to truly celebrate achievement, or be happy for the success of others.

At least for longer than its takes to down the first glass of champers.

And anyone who dares to have the confidence or exuberance to challenge this are, more often than not, branded arrogant or naive.

The relentlessly hard-nosed and never-satisfied tone is endemic in how sport is fed to us everywhere.

If a team sweats long and hard over 10 months to win a league title, the very next questions will be, so where do they go from here, how many more can they win, how tough will they find next season?

Of course, for English sports fans, scepticism is understandable.

It’s forged on the furnaces of generations of overhype and underachievement, build-ups and let-downs.

Yet something special does seem to be evolving at St George’s Park, perhaps worth hanging your hope on this time.

No other nation has won three major youth tournaments in the same calendar year, and Brazil are the only other side to have been under 20 and under 17 world champions in the same year, in 2003.

Yes, there’s a big step-up from junior to senior football, and yes, certain players will adapt and develop physically better than others.

Some will struggle to handle extraordinary wage packets. There are a lot of unknown variables.

But there’s a continuity here throughout the junior ranks which is exciting.

And there is an encouraging precedent in junior international success.

Virtually all of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side came through age group sides which won international titles.

Prior to that German football had never really taken junior competition seriously and they performed poorly.

Their decision to revamp their whole game and pour resources into youth football came, like ours, in response to a national crisis of confidence in 2004.

Albeit the German definition of crisis is a little more intolerant than ours - their wait for a major title had only been eight years and they’d reached the World Cup final two years before that.

But those age-group sides had come through years of playing the same style and, unlike many England sides thrown together, were well used to working together as a team.

So let’s buck the trend. Let’s not undervalue the achievements of a generation which could one day soon be genuinely described as golden, unlike their nerve-wracked predecessors.

Let them enjoy their freedom, and cherish their confidence and exuberance.

And for goodness sake, let’s learn how to be happy.