unitedenglandI’ve never had much time for the “club over country” debate which plagues every international break in this country. It’s a mindset that seemed to engulf our nation in the late nineties, back when the megabuck TV deals started to roll in and English football went truly international.

Alex Ferguson was the number one perpetrator of anti-patriotic rhetoric, his press conferences often featured rants about the damage international duty did to his squad. Every time a player returned injured or fatigued from international duty, a debate flared up over the timing of fixtures or the wisdom of including players considered key to clubs’ domestic ambitions.

Ferguson – among others – helped spread the club-over-country mentality, undermining the great sense of occasion international fixtures used to possess. Once considered the pinnacle of any football player’s career, international call-ups are now seen as an inconvenience by many football fans, overshadowed by moaning managers and fans who fear the potential consequences of additional fixtures or simply don’t care for international football.

Admittedly, the timing of this particular international break is questionable. I’m as eager for Leeds United to resume their schedule as everyone else, but that doesn’t mean I resent the international break. I love watching England. I love seeing players with Leeds United connections stepping out for the three lions and I can’t wait until our squad once again features players deemed worthy of a call-up to the English national side.

I’m delighted for any Leeds United player who gets a call-up to their country, whichever country that may be. I’ll want their country to lose when they face England, but it’s a proud moment for the individual and the experience can only help them develop as a player.

Not all fans share my view however. True to the Alex Ferguson mentality, some Leeds United fans were pleased by Rodolph Austin’s red card for Jamaica, recognising that he’ll now miss the next international fixture and should return to Elland Road less fatigued than he otherwise would have.

They’re right, of course. Austin will return fresher and we don’t have to worry about him getting injured in the next match. But he’ll also miss out on another chance to fulfil his boyhood dreams of representing his country at the highest level of football. He’ll return a man guilt-stricken by the feeling that he’s let down the people of his homeland.

For Rodolph Austin, representing Jamaica at international level is the culmination of a life’s work. I’m sure 90% of the people reading this dreamt of one day representing their country while growing up, but somewhere along the way, we become jaded and forget what it must mean to those who did make it.

Modern football has done a great job of convincing fans (and players in some cases) that they must prioritise club over country. One of the great things about international football is that its free from the dominance of money. Qatar may be able to buy the rights to host a World Cup but they can’t buy the honour of winning it.

Yet the club’s who do battle by throwing mountains of cash at their starting XI to buy domestic honours have an almighty impact on the mindset of their players and fans. You’ve no doubt heard fans justify a club over country rant by pointing out who pays the players’ wages and they do so because managers and clubs are forever making the case to them, as if it’s somehow unfair that a player wants to represent his country.

Take this quote from Roberto Mancini, then Manchester City manager, talking about Vincent Kompany as an example;

“He didn’t play for us for 60 days and went to play for the Belgian national team. I did not agree with it. Sometimes managers of national teams should understand the situation. These players play for their clubs, and every month the clubs pay their salary.

“The responsibility is also sometimes with the player. Managers sometimes don’t understand the reality of the situation. But there are some cases when the club is more important, and all players should understand this.”

Money. That’s all the club versus country divide really comes down to. It didn’t exist before the Premier League era, fans were just as excited to see their players step out for international duty as they were for their club. England games weren’t prefaced by managers moaning about the potential consequences and fitness levels of their players and no one ever uttered the ridiculous “club over country” phrase. When I was growing up, no one expected players and fans to choose, it was always club AND country.

For Vincent Kompany, just as it is for Rodolph Austin, representing his country at international level is a great honour, one which Manchester City have no right to deny him of. He shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting to represent his country, nor should he have to explain his decision to do so. It should be self-explanatory.

Yet Kompany has unwittingly been cast centre-stage in the Premier League’s production of Club>Country and will hereafter be the subject of constant debate whenever an international fixture is seen to impact on his Manchester City career.

But not vice versa. No one in Belgium will ever question Manchester City’s decisions when Kompany is unavailable for selection because they don’t pay his wages. And in the modern world of football, money trumps national pride.

18 Responses

  1. RogerTheDodger

    For me, it’s simple;

    There’s too many players in the England team who I want to break their necks on a weekly basis every time they pull on the red shirt of Scum. I protest my loathing for them every time I see their stupid, gurning fucking faces on my television screen.

    How can I possibly be happy and not be a hypocrite when they play for England?

    It’s not like most of the English FA, the players, or the managers actually give a fuck anyway.

    They aren’t doing it for national pride, they are doing it to feather their own nests.

    If it was about pride, the players would be standing there, screaming the national anthem like it was a Haka, just to show the opposition that they would fight tooth and nail in the game. They can’t even be bothered fucking moving their lips, let alone putting in the sort of effort I would deem necessary whenever they wear the shirt.

    Then you’ve got FIFA, the one of the most corrupt organisations in the world making out that taking tournaments abroad is about spreading the word of football. No, it’s not, it’s about lining the pockets of FIFA and the greed merchant that is Sepp Blatter with his dodgy backhanders from stupidly rich nations that shouldn’t even be entertained as hosts of a major tournament.

    From the gross racism of Poland and The Ukraine, to the poverty laden streets of South Africa that overlooked the opulent new football stadiums, to the summer World Cup being moved to winter to accomodate the fact that a country where it’s too hot to play bloody football in summer has been awarded a tournament, FIFA lacks sensible judgement on every single level.

    FIFA and the FA can both stick the national game up their self serving arses. I’ve been let down too many times by over paid, primadonna cry babies in the England national team not showing the sort of testicular fortitude or technical nous to be a success.

    Club before country? There’s no choice. There is only club when it comes to football.

    • TSS

      I could pick out far more faults with club football, not least of which is the mercenary age in which we live where it’s ALL about cash at club level. Conversely, players (like Kompany and Austin) go out of their way to make international trips for their country and get paid fuck all for doing so.

      “If it was about pride, the players would be standing there, screaming the national anthem like it was a Haka,”

      I attend England games regularly and never sing the national anthem. They’re not auditioning for X Factor. What’s the national anthem got to do with pride exactly? I don’t relate to it in the slightest. I have nothing against the Royal Family but I’d lose no sleep if they lost their status tomorrow. I don’t care much for the religious references either. It’s a religious anthem about the Queen, neither of which represent modern England.

      • RogerTheDodger

        Oh. I’m not religious, nor a royalist, but it is the anthem of the country you are representing. Stand, scream, sing it, show intent or willing to fight.

        If they want to change the national song to Fandabidozee by the Krankies, I couldn’t care, but I’d expect anyone representing the country on a national stage to sing it with pride and show that they mean fucking business.

      • Chareose

        I stopped reading after the first paragraph on your first comment…….you need to grow up mate

      • RogerTheDodger

        But you still scrolled to the bottom to put your well thought out retort. Thanks for that, mate.

      • Irving

        Ergo no ‘we’ve been through it all togethers’ at Elland Road ?! All anthems are more or less archaic or rooted in an earlier period of history (we’ve not had too many ‘ups’ for a while !) and, depending on their melodies,can, through repetition, come to sound like dirges, the peerless USSR, and now Russian, anthem music, the Brazilian and French anthems, being notable exceptions that come readily to mind. Personally I’d like something more specifically English for our football team’s anthem; rugby and cricket have commandeered ‘Jerusalem’, so it has to be ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, sung just by team and crowd. I have a nostalgic interest in our national team, based on 1966. To be honest, I am not much moved by the team today, though the interest is slowly returning, now it is less surrounded by celebrity. Communal singing is a no-brainer, it’s wonderful, when the melody is right and the sentiments pure.

    • Matthew

      There are some genuinely proud players in the England squad that have stuck with the team and have played when asked, same goes for most countries, sure there are some who don’t give a shit but those that have played for the shirt deserve the respect.

    • The Tamperer

      You small minded little man. How can you state “you want to break their necks” you don’t know them.
      We have just signed one of their players on a 3 year contract. Do you want to break his neck too? I don’t like the arrogance of Man U, particularly their fans. But having such vociferous feelings towards a collection of individuals is just pathetic.
      As for club v country – MOT Leeds AND England.
      Now lets go out and break some Ukrainian necks tonight!!!

      • RogerTheDodger

        Oh I don’t just want them to break their necks, I want them to die horribly, along with anyone else who likes them, supports them, cares one jot about them, ever so much as uttered that they appreciated anything about them.

        My prerogative, because despite what the PC brigade would tell us, I’m perfectly entitled to wish ill on whomever I choose.

        It’s not small minded, it’s well thought out, calculated loathing and logic.

  2. Chareose

    I dont think all this could be blamed on Alex Ferguson and to be fair to him, his methodology for developing young british players the right way has been highly successful and by definition has helped the general standards of England players.

    The problem is the system and culture and the people running our game. Just as with our government……antiquated, bureaucratic, jobs for the boys….useless old farts who have no idea whats best for our game and care even less….

    I noticed Brian Mcdermotts comments on the subject of kids coming through and he suggested we shouldnt force clubs to have british players in their squads…..thats the first time i disagreed with him…… Greg Dyke is right, the quickest way to force change and an improvement in the quality of british youngsters is to force clubs to have say 10 or 12 british youngsters in their squads. That will then force premiership clubs to invest more in local youth development rather than just buying foreign kids or ready made full internationals….. The first team could be all foreign but the rest of the squad british………. This method is the quickest way to force change because of all the money thats pumped into the premiership….. currently it goes straight out the door to europe, rather than invested in developing british youth players, improving our coaching standards and worthing with schools and community more so talent isnt missed.
    But it wont happen………because too many people still think that making some pathetic academy like lilleshall will sort it out….its called pissing in the wind. The change required needs to be on a massive scale !

  3. Sam

    Club does come before country for me when it comes to football, because Leeds is a bigger part of my identity than England is. It’s nothing to do with money.

    That being said, I do love watching England play. Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, players of clubs I’m not overly keen on to say the least, but I can’t help but like them when they play for England. When they play for England, they are on the same page as me, and I want them to win. Another thing about England is that people don’t like us. We’re not that good on the grand scheme of things, but we expect better than what can realistically be achieved. England are very much like Leeds imo. I love both teams, but I’d rather see Leeds promoted than England win the World Cup.

    • mrlew

      Totally agree, club over country every time for me too.

      Internationals bore me but club games have much more bite and entertainment.

    • michael

      Totally agree as well. I might feel differently if England were more entertaining to watch, but they bore me to death.

      I also find I’m much prouder to be from Leeds than from England.

  4. markman

    I would like internationals more if,when every leeds player that we sold,made an appearence the club got a fee as part of the sale agreement.i cant recall that ever happening to a leeds player.

  5. henrymouni

    In the Golden years we had players who appeared regularly for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and we all watched, supporting our players, and hoping they played well.
    England was full of top players from each club.
    Now the players are not the top players for their club, in many cases.
    Some are not even in their first teams.
    Also, you cannot forget how much money they are getting, when they hoof the ball miles over the bar!!
    Our chances of winning anything are more remote than ever.
    If we had one or two players playing tonight I would watch with anticipation and excitement.
    As it is, I will watch but won’t be too excited.

    • Irving08

      Don’t think the fact that they aren’t top players is the reason Henri. The celebrity stuff and a bunch of foreign managers has been off-putting, plus the fact that , there is just too much football at all levels nowadays; the palette gets jaded. Lack of success too plays a part. If Cloughie was the Manager and Tony Currie was running midfield (your point, albeit with a bias), with Sam Byram at full-back, I might be more interested though. As it is, I am more concerned whether Yorkshire win the cricket.

  6. andy LUFC

    club before country all day for me . if England were in a world cup final at the same time as Leeds were playing chesterfield in the league cup id be watching the league cup . So in a nut shell if it ant got a leeds shirt on im not interested .


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