A worrying trend?
Sport, like many aspects of life, goes through periods of great change. For sport, these times are represented by which sides are winning tournaments, or which are losing them.
For example, the Brazilian sides between 1958 and 1970 only lost 1 World Cup. Liverpool in the 1980’s, United’s 2 decades of dominance in England, Celtic and Rangers up in Scotland are all examples of club sides being forces in their domestic leagues. Throughout the history of sport, there are always phases of domination by one (or more) team(s) or player(s).
England’s, or Britain’s if you prefer, might well be fading.
What period of dominance I hear you cry? And, I admit – maybe “dominance” is completely the wrong word to use. We certainly haven’t won everything we’ve entered in the last 10 years, however more than enough has happened across a range of sports to suggest we’ve just passed through a golden patch of British success.
It probably all started with the Rugby World Cup win in 2003. It definitely included The Ashes victory in 2005, which led to ones in 09, 10-11, 13 and 15 as well as being the first step along the way to England becoming the best Test side in the world. Of course, let’s not forget the cricket side’s World Cup victory in 2010.
We should also certainly consider Team Sky’s emergence in cycling along with Wiggins and Froome’s Tour de France victories. While on the subject of cycling, Hoy and Cavendish are two of the all time greats in track and road cycling respectively, and both are products of this millennium.
One vast area of sport to see major improvement is the Olympic sides. The improvement between 04 and 08 and then 12 was immense, even for a country getting ready to host the event. The success at those London games was apparently unprecedented however I’d argue it was obvious if anyone had studied the upward curve of British sport to that point.
The Brownlee brothers, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis – stars made by the Olympics but favourites to win medals before and no-one was shocked when they did. If we include the 03 WC, then in athletics we have to consider Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes for kick-starting the running success in this country.
We’ve always been successful in the Paralympics as we, quite rightly, pump loads of money, time and commitment into disability sport. On top of all this, we’ve actually started winning Winter Olympic medals that aren’t curling too, albeit all in the same sport.
In fact, the more you look at it, the more it seems that football has been left behind. But even then, the England side that travelled to Portugal for Euro 2004 had the quality to come home with the trophy, and arguably should have done. When you consider how we lost, who won and how they won the argument becomes more solid.
It’s fair to say that the last 12 years have been incredible for British Sport and that’s without even mentioning the fact Andy Murray finally broke the Male Grand Slam duck!
So, and here is the crux of this ramble, should we be worried about recent events?
Should we be worried that the Brownlee’s can’t beat Gomez anymore?
Should we be worried that England have lost in the Group Stage of the football, cricket and rugby World Cups within the last 18 months?
Should we be worried that our track cycling dominance over the last 2 Olympics will almost certainly stop in Rio next summer?
The simple answer is no, we shouldn’t be. And the reasons for that are multiple.
Firstly, there are individual circumstances for all the questions mentioned above. There’s nothing to say a Brownlee won’t win Gold in Rio, indeed no one in triathlon would be surprised to see it, despite their poor form. England’s rugby and football sides had tough groups and England’s cricket team was going through a fairly substantial overhaul of personnel and ideas. In terms of track cycling, no one can keep our level of success up.
However, there’s something more general than that. As I’ve said, sport goes through stages of form, purple patches extended over many years. By definition, even if that mini-period of high level is over, another one will begin in time. Sport won’t die in this country, it will continue to flourish and we needn’t worry because even if we aren’t challenging for honours, we aren’t exactly failing to qualify for these events either!
Thirdly, there’s no guarantee that I’m right anyway. Froome won the Tour de France this year, the Cricket side won the Ashes and in the only other major World Cup to happen recently, the Lionesses reached the semi-final.
Maybe, and I’m purely dreaming here, this is the start of an era in which women’s rugby (who are already world champions), football and cricket start to reel in their more illustrious male counterparts.
It’s likely that I’m jumping the gun by saying our era is starting to fade.
It’s disappointing to see England exit a World Cup time and time again without fully showing potential and seemingly lacking in desire however for a start we should be used to it and furthermore it needn’t bother us. We will always be there at these events, barring extreme circumstances; therefore we will always have a chance to compete. I hate saying it’s the taking part that counts, however there’s a level of truth in that. For it’s only through taking part that you can win, and we will win again one day.
Although, maybe not a football world cup!