As England complete their season with a friendly in Brazil, the modern day players appear to have a different ..."/> As England complete their season with a friendly in Brazil, the modern day players appear to have a different ..."/> As England complete their season with a friendly in Brazil, the modern day players appear to have a different ..."/>

Alan Mullery And Great England Players On Playing For Their Country


As England complete their season with a friendly in Brazil, the modern day players appear to have a different view on playing for their country compared with great players of the past.

Playing For Your Country. The Views Of Great England Players From Another Generation.

Alan Mullery captained England in Malta in 1971 [Photo: Logan Holmes]David Beckham having announced his retirement from playing – we wish him well. A great player of the modern era, who nonetheless espoused traditional values when it came to representing his country. If only more of his colleagues had displayed the same commitment to England, the “golden generation” might have actually realised its potential and won something.

I drafted the main body of this article when preparing my retrospective on Man City 1968 a couple of months ago. I came across some interesting views expressed by famous and well respected players of the era. I was delighted but not surprised to see two of them, both Alans – Alan Ball and Alan Mullery speak so passionately about playing for their country.

I know I have already blogged about how I feel that representing your country should come above your club’s interest, despite the fact that you are their employee. Clubs for most players are after all temporary and rarely your local team. Roy Hodgson has recently taken up the cudgel on this subject in the press and he deserves all our support because club managers and the Premier League will do their best to ridicule him or sweep his views under the carpet. We all know Roy is right when he says clubs are using international time as a holiday break for their players and they have every opportunity to manage the frequency that they play during the rest of the season but do not take it.

We all sympathise with his surprise at a player that has a special club regime that allows him to travel half way round the world to commentate for Al Jazeera and that he puts that before joining up with his England colleagues. No wonder that player received dog’s abuse from betrayed and insulted England fans. Even worse, he then uses accusations of racism as a smokescreen to obscure his unpardonable behaviour.  When that player announced his retirement from international football recently, it was one bit of good news for England. One less problem for Roy Hodgson.

Contrasting Attitudes

See how this contrasts with the attitude of a true Manchester United great. This is a quote from a conversation between Graham Taylor the former England manager and Dennis Law the great Manchester United and Scotland striker shown on Sky Sports recently.

Taylor asked, “There is this sort of difference between playing for your club and playing for your country and some managers don’t like them to play consistently for their country. In your time did you ever get any of that from some of your managers or were they happy for you to be selected internationally? If you had got pressure on you to be unfit would you have done that? Withdrawn from your international duties and stayed with your club?”

Dennis Law responded,

"“Never, and I don’t care what the manager whoever he would be regarding playing for my country. To be selected to play for your country is the greatest honour. I don’t care what any other manager thinks I don’t care about playing for the rest of the world about playing for your league or whatever playing for your country is the greatest thing ever. What an honour to be selected, don’t forget in those particular days as well there was 11. There wasn’t subs in the early days now of course it’s what? 24 in the squad? You can come on 2 min from the end and that’s a cap. What an honour to play for your country! It doesn’t get any better than that. I don’t care where ever I played you can’t get better than being selected to play for your country.”"

So, I make no apology for reminding you of what other truly great players and World Cup stars had to say on the subject.

Alan Ball said,

“If it were possible I would like every football fan to stand alongside an England player when he is lining up for an international and the anthem is being played. That is the moment when you realise the full implication of the greatest honour in a footballer’s life” (clearly not for all of them these days. Poor Alan must be turning in his grave). He continued, “Some say that because of the high wages and bonuses in the game today (remember this was 1971!) we do not value international caps as highly as our predecessors. To both charges I say ‘rubbish’. I’m not only speaking for myself but for every lad who has played for England since I got into the team. They cherish the honour and glory of representing their country as highly as anybody. And perhaps higher than others. While we get paid to play for England I am sure every player in the country would play for nothing. When I am playing for England, particularly abroad, I am conscious of the fact that I am representing everybody back home. Even at such a well-supported club as Everton  I am only playing for a small proportion of the population.”

Tottenham’s Alan Mullery said,

"“Representing your country puts a player even more in the spotlight. I’ve only ever played under the managership of Sir Alf Ramsey, but he has done so much to build a club type atmosphere amongst his men. Even now after many appearances for England, I still get a great thrill at being selected… as I shall always”."

Emlyn Hughes, another player with a lion heart said shortly after his debut, “The importance of winning for the country of your birth speaks for itself. You can’t fail the man with the confidence to select you and give you the honour you have always wanted. And you want to play well for yourself so you will be picked again. An England shirt carries a heavy load of responsibility. But it’s a weight that England can place on my shoulders any time they like. It’s a great honour, a marvellous experience and a wonderful thrill. If you ever get the chance, don’t turn it down.”

Reassuring. Now I know where my attitude to representing your country comes from. I was beginning to doubt myself. No more.