Last week, England played out an insipid 0-0 draw with recent foes Italy at Molineux Stadium. A much-changed team featuring Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse, and Aaron Ramsdale created few goal scoring chances and were unable to trouble the famous Azzuri defence.
The game marked the first meetings of the two sides since the heartbreaking Euro 2020 final on July 11 of last year. What was supposed to be England’s great revenge instead ended up being an uninspired, dull display of pragmatic football that led to further criticism of the players and Gareth Southgate.
Much like last year’s final, England had plenty of chances but faced extreme difficulty unlocking Italy’s compact backline. Raheem Sterling hit the crossbar - which was the one thing of note that happened on the pitch. Harry Kane came off the bench but failed to make an impact, whilst Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire delivered uninspired performances.
No Fans In Attendance
Fortunately, there were no fans in attendance at Molineux, and the backstory for this is far more interesting than the boring game of football that was played there. You see, the scenes at Wembley before last year’s final were so rancid that fans of Three Lions were handed a two-match ban. Last week’s game versus Italy was observed by only 3,000 fans - most of which were schoolchildren and those looking after them.
The shocking, dangerous behaviour of a minority of supporters included jumping ticket barricades, storming the stadium, and indulging in the archaic hooliganism that this country sadly has a reputation for having. Watching these scenes unfold took me back to the 1980s, and not in a good way.
Ban Was Too Harsh
I, however, think that the ban was a little bit too harsh. The Euros final may have seen bad behaviour and poor conduct, but authorities have to remember that was a highly emotional occasion as it marked England’s first appearance in a major final in 55 years. Whilst I can’t condone the actions of the supporters, we must remember that those responsible were only a tiny minority of fans.
The vast majority of England fans are calm, respectful, and deeply patriotic. Last week, fans travelled to Germany and an overwhelming majority were as good as gold. Banning all English fans from their own stadiums is a massive step backwards and will only fuel stereotypes about our fans even more. Supporters of our national team have greatly improved their image overseas, with most countries welcoming England fans into their stadiums due to their kind demeanor and our country’s penchant for producing generational talents.
Gareth Southgate, England manager since 2016, called the ban an ‘’embarrassment’’ before adding: ‘’A lot of the people that caused the problems I’m not certain were football fans.’’
England are currently bottom of their Nations League group and are yet to hit second gear in their performances. With an almost nailed-on World Cup victory in Qatar only a few months away, England’s players and fans need to unite to unleash the full power of this outrageously talented squad.
It is unfair to subject all of England’s fans to a punishment caused by a handful of idiots. It achieves nothing and risks harming the performance of the team. We need all the support we can get for the inevitable World Cup victory in December, and we can’t afford to be handed another ban due to the actions of a few bad apples.
We were lucky that this behind-closed-door game happened to be dull, but next time we may not be so fortunate. Can we really risk another stadium ban once we’re World Champions once again?
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