England plays their first match of the 2010 football World Cup today when they take on the USA. But in the Reverse Sweep household our former fervour for the nation's football team has dissipated to such an extent that we are not sure how well we want England to do in this year's tournament.
But why is this? We are as patriotic as the next Englishmen. We are mostly proud of the great heritage of our relatively small country, which once had the biggest Empire the World has ever seen - where the sun never set. From Agincourt to El Alamein and Edward Longshanks to Winston Churchill, there is plenty to stir the blood of even the most docile native of England.
So why the problem with its football side? When it comes to cricket, there is no doubt. Ever since we first saw David Gower cream an effortless and glorious cover drive of an Indian bowler in 1979, we've been hooked on cricket and the fortunes of its cricket side. We cheered as loud as anyone when England won the Ashes in 2005 and 2009, and were also delighted at the recent success of the World T20 side.
But there are a number of reasons why it is much easier to support England's cricket (and rugby) team than it is their football side, and here is why.
Unsavoury Characters - The England football team is full of them. Perhaps the worst of them was the one who was sleeping with the ex-girlfriend of a supposed friend and former team mate who also happened to be the mother of his child. When the affair was discovered, he used his money to first try and gag the press and then to allegedly silence his mistress. And has it stopped his arrogance and unpleasantness? Not one iota, or so it seems.
Primadonnas - The "victim" of the above incident certainly displayed his hurt in effectively retiring from the England side and thus throwing away the opportunity to go the World Cup. Can you imagine an office worker resigning because one of his colleagues was sleeping with his ex-girlfriend? No, so the over-reaction and preciousness of a certain Wayne Bridge was hard to believe. Unfortunately, it is indicative of our beloved footballers.
Money - This is the drug of choice for England's football side. The amount they earn has turned them into a bunch of primadonnas who are seemingly detached from reality and the mostly working class backgrounds they come from. Perhaps the worst example concerns Ashley Cole, who brazenly wrote in his "autobiography" of his horror and disgust when his former club offered "only" 55,000 a week instead of the 60,000 he thought he was worth. It's hard to support teams that contain people like that.
The say nothing generation - If you thought that press conferences with cricketers were boring then the ones with footballers are a whole new ball game. Bearly hiding their disgust at being there, the players mumble their way through a series of cliches, grimaces and platitudes before leaving as quickly as they arrived. If you don't want to be at the World Cup, just leave.
Brains, or the lack of them - It says a lot when an Italian with a fairly limited grasp of English is the most interesting and erudite person in the England football camp. With the possible exception of Frank Lampard, who can at least string a sentence or two together, the rest of the players would struggle to change a light bulb between them. For the most part, the England cricketers are engaging, balanced and likeable individuals. Their footballing counterparts are not.
The Celebrity Factor - It's not the fault of the footballers that the nation's TV and press are obsessed with football. Watch Sky Sports News if you don't believe me. However, the arrogance and the "we're above mere mortals" attitude of most English footballers is quite sickening. Even within football, more grounded individuals like Roy Keane rail against the new generation of footballers who think they are big men before they have actually achieved anything in the game.
Despite it all though we will be grudgingly watching the game tonight and no doubt will cheer if and when England score. But we cannot help feeling that unlike the current Carlsberg advert, should England go all the way (they won't) this bunch of primadonnas are not fit to join Bobby Moore and the 1966 side amongst the immortals.