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A Euro Experiment

Sunday 15th January 2012
This year it is 2012.  Year of the London Olympic Games and year of the GB Football team - all eyes will be on the capital this summer. Which means that this year's European Championships could be largely overlooked by the media with the majority of presenters, TV crews and journalists gearing themselves up for the Games themselves.

Never before in recent times will so little media attention and scrutiny be directed at the national football team at a major tournament. If you doubt this, mentally count up the number of Olympic TV, radio and newspaper previews you have seen or heard already this year and weigh this against the amount focussed on the Euros.

Expectations for England's performances at major Championships are always too high and this is often because of the hype that the media drums up, a fact not overlooked by players and managers in the past looking for an excuse for poor showings. This year though, we may well see this factor stripped away, leaving just the England team playing for themselves, rather than with the weight of the countries expectations weighing worryingly on their shoulders.
With budgets for sports coverage directed towards the Olympics, the Euros will be guaranteed to be just an overlooked sideshow in this country – I myself have forgotten several times that the Championships were even taking place. The release of pressure that results from this lack of interest could be a blessing in disguise for England, setting them free and propelling them on to victory.

Or it could be a disaster.

If England find that the lessened attention and expectations do help them focus on the tournament itself then it is highly likely that they will do very well. The media could then learn from this experience and, at the 2014 World Cup, perhaps support the team instead of speculate at their downfall; praise accurately rather than be overly quick to criticise.

However, if without the pressure put on them by the media, England still fail, we will be sure that our team is rubbish, but as usual we will have forgotten this by the next tournament and will be expecting victory and disappointment in equal measures again. It is of course possible that the FA may actually learn something from this bare defeat but this, as we have seen previously, is unlikely. We English are not great at learning from our mistakes, particularly when football is involved.
Personally, I hope that we get the best of both worlds. Ideally, England will progress to the semi-finals or perhaps even the final where they will then lose to a country with a significantly and tellingly better youth infrastructure. This, in a perfect world, would show the media that they need not be so hard on England while inspiring the FA to do something great for the English game as a whole.

I'm not sure what this flash of inspiration will be but it will preferably be a combination of youth leagues and academies, improved coaching and a better club-national team relationship. Yes, this is a big ask and getting the media to back off is arguably even more so but I think it could be done if the Olympic storm is distracting enough.

The Olympics could be a complete disaster and knowing what transport in the capital is like normally it could well be. But, however the Olympics go, this summer could do wonders for the England football team and be the turning point that we sorely need. Who knows, we could even win a second major championship and stop banging on about '66 for once.
It's Round And It's White

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