World Cup: World class is a common label without any meaning

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Raheem Sterling of England during the International Friendly match between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium on March 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Raheem Sterling of England during the International Friendly match between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium on March 27, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

World class is a label to which nobody has a definition for. Ex-players, radio presenters, and so-called experts don’t know what it actually means.

The World Cup draws ever closer and the usual plethora of football pundits, who have or haven’t kicked a ball, haven’t a clue as to what the term ‘world class’ actually means. They are certainly happy to throw it around like whizz at a summer music festival. In fact, the use of the term, along with ‘great’ have now become so overused that they have, to me anyway, lost all currency.

A ball hasn’t been kicked in the Russian motherland yet for the 2018 World Cup. People who are paid good money to talk about football can’t help spouting nonsense.

They have already worked out who England might face in the quarter-finals and ruminate whether it would be preferable to finish top or runners-up in our group. The other two teams are being accorded the same level of dismissiveness, as was shown to Donald Trump in his bid to become President of the United States. We all know what happened next.

Nothing about England is world class

Panama has been largely dismissed as a decent team who shouldn’t give England too much trouble. Likewise, Tunisia has attracted little more than faint praise. Their lone footballing achievement was winning the African Cup of Nations in 2004. I don’t know about you, but that’s hardly a competition I would bet on England winning, and it contains some of the world’s finest players. Tunisia and Panama won’t lose much sleep the night before they play England, trust me. Honestly, we just never learn.

But it’s sad that, as a nation, we have become so consumed with desperation to produce a winning national team that we’re ready to slap the labels of ‘world class’ and’ great’ on the first young English player who can string two passes together during the warm-up. The list is endless and you can go back to the eighties right up to the present day and replay the same sorry refrain.

In fact, with the number of players we have professed to be ‘great’ and ‘world class,’ it remains a total mystery to me that England hasn’t won the World Cup on at least nine occasions with six European Championships thrown in for good measure. Moreover, we must be the only footballing nation which lauds a ‘Golden Generation,’ the 1966 team excluded, that didn’t win so much as a raffle, never mind a major tournament quarter or semi-final. ‘Golden Generation? Give me a break.

Could anyone on England break the mold?

The names of the recent crop of greats, or who are going to be great and world class are already falling from the mouths of pundits. Here are a few that are going to set the world on fire very shortly and the rest of the world had better watch out. Ready? Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling … again, Dele Alli, John Stones, Jack Wilshere …again to name but a few. All good players I grant you.

Do we really have to start building them up only to see, as we always do, the footballing sand kicked into their faces? Who can forget the players who we built up in the recent past to be the second coming only to watch them crumble like the walls of Jericho? Theo Walcott, Joe Cole, David Bentley, Daniel Sturridge, Ravel Morrison, Raheem Sterling …again. I dare say, Wayne Rooney, whose goalscoring record at World Cups and Euros is quite frankly embarrassing.

Next: England and the World Cup

The so-called ‘world class’ players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard never cut it at the international level. At the present time, English footballers have zero chance of winning the European Footballer of the Year or the Ballon d’Or.

My definition of world class

Here’s my simple remedy for the ‘world class’ label to apply. Each season a panel of footballing luminaries will meet, a panel comprised of, let’s say, former players and managers who have lifted the World Cup. For example, Zidane, Phillip Lahm, Del Bosque, Love, etc.

They will meet mid-way through the season and once again at the season’s end. They will select a world eleven. If your name’s on it you’re entitled to be called ‘world class’. If it ain’t on the world eleven, you ain’t ‘world class’.

To me, being world class means that if a world eleven were picked in the morning,  you’d be on the team-sheet. If the team was picked in the morning, I’ll leave it to you to arrive at the number of Englishmen who wouldn’t even make the bench.