This season, Rob Green will be the one to blame. Just as the general anger and disappointment surrounding England’s shameful World Cup exit was beginning to fade away, the pre-season friendlies offer up an opportunity to vent those frustrations. In West Ham’s friendly with MK Dons, Green’s first save of the match was brought with ironic cheers from those in the stands. This will be just the beginning.
The consistent and impressive performances of Green, will count for nothing compared to one error, which cost England, in the grand scheme of things, next to nothing. Green wasn’t even ‘dropped’ in the true sense of the word; he had been picked because David James was unfit, regardless of his display against the US, he would have made way for the more experienced keeper anyway.
With each game the Hammers play this season, and with each away day especially, Green will be taunted and abused all day long. As with most footballing failures, the English football fan must find a scapegoat, and Rob Green is that. Rather than taking the England team as a collective, and realising that very few, if any, of that squad performed remotely close to what they are capable of, Green’s single mistake was the most glaring and highlighted – thus he fits the bill.
I totally appreciate the anger with England’s performance at the World Cup, because I felt exactly the same way. But it was England that under-performed, not simply Green. Any England player that has missed a penalty in the last fifteen years spends at least a season putting up with tirades from fans across the breadth of the country. When David Beckham was singled out as the reason for England’s departure in France ’98, effigies were burnt. Effigies? He made a mistake but really? When Ashley Cole lost possession against Kazakhstan and they scored – in a game England won 5-1 incidentally – he was roundly booed with every touch he took for the rest of the match. Cole may not be the most popular of players, but he is one of the few players who England have who is genuinely world-class, and potentially the best in the game in his position, and abusing him for a mistake is how he is treated.
If Rob Green is called upon to play in another game for England there will be a huge overhanging sense of mistrust in his ability, which is a shame because the bottom line is that he is a good goalkeeper. I am not saying Green should be No.1, but he will almost certainly be involved in England squads in the future, and having been taunted on a regular basis will be the worst possible preparation for him.
It is important to stress that I believe fans are entitled to their opinion and chants at football grounds are part of what we go to games for – I don’t want to sit in silence in the way the match stewards would prefer that I do – but I also believe that songs, chants, and for want of a better word, banter, should all be reasonably justified. Rob Green was not the reason England performed so badly this summer. It looks quite probable that he will however become the symbol of that failure, which for a good player, and from what I can make out, a decent man, would be a sad state of affairs.