A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away Tom Cleverley was being heralded as the saviour of English football. Such a notion may seem completely ridiculous now, but back then following a decent performance against the mighty Moldova, the collective English media, displaying the sort of rational perspective you’d associate with a drunken Nazi, suddenly declared TC23 as the man destined to carry England to glory. In defence of the press they weren’t solely to blame in their unbridled enthusiasm for all things Cleverley as Roy Hodgson poured petrol on the flames by declaring he felt the United man could a similar job for England as the one Cesc Fabregas did for Spain. The problem with Hodgson’s idiotic ramblings were they were based on a performance against a side ranked a 128th in the world, plus Fabregas was actually very good at football while Cleverley wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not about to regurgitate the whole anti-Cleverley bile that dogged his latter time at United but it was beyond a joke to seriously believe you could build a team you wanted to challenge for major international honours around him. Cleverley’s halo soon lost its lustre when in the match following the Moldova game, he failed to produce anything of note against a Ukraine side much better than their European neighbours and was subbed on the hour.
It’s with all this in mind, I’m approaching Jesse Lingard’s inclusion in the England squad for the upcoming French game with a mixture of apprehension and dread. If Lingard performs as well as he has for United in the last two games then we can fully expect Hodgson and the media to proclaim him the future saviour of English football, just as they have such luminaries as Stewart Downing, Jack Rodwell and Andros Townsend- even Kieran Richardson was once lauded as the ‘future of England’s problematic left side’ following a two-goal debut.
Many people may wonder why if Lingard delivers on the international stage, a bit of crowing from the media can’t be a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with a player being praised, the problem is at the moment Lingard has had a comparatively measured start to top level football. The nation lauding young Jesse may suddenly raise expectations, ones that he’s not quite ready to meet- at least not just yet. There’s also the backlash element that all England players- especially United ones- invariably face if they go through a dip in form for the national side, it could lead to Lingard’s steady progress being upset somewhat if the nation’s press suddenly focus their expectation and inevitable disappointment on the Warrington-born youngster.
Many United fans have little time for the England team, but I’m in the minority of Reds who actually do support the national side and want them to succeed. That being said, I’ve seen far too many players from our club treated like pariahs due to the failings of the collective England team. Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young are just two recent players who were the victims of media, social and crowd venom on the back of perceived failings for Roy Hodgson’s men.
The France side will naturally still be reeling from this weekends’ atrocities and very little can be garnered from the game in football judging terms. Should Lingard shine then I only hope Hodgson and the media take a more restrained approach to their handling of him as the last thing the winger or United need right now is him being placed on a pedestal ready to be knocked back down at the earliest opportunity.