Can't Any of These Losers Say Sorry?

I don't care who goes on holiday, or if their other half goes shopping or has her hair done. I don't care if players wax their chests during the tournament, (yes, you Wayne Rooney), or have a glass of wine a couple of days after the team crash out.I  don't care that they slipped away through a private exit when they landed back at the airport. I don't care if they had a meal with their wife in a fancy restaurant near home or are lazing on a sun lounger reading this column now. I don't care about any of it, or at least I wouldn't, if one of that England squad had the integrity to offer an explanation or apology for their pathetic World Cup campaign in South Africa.

In the run-up to the tournament, these players were impossible to avoid; they were advertising crisps, sportswear, pushing building society sponsors, peddling ghostwritten columns and granting friendly puff interviews at every turn, declaring that England would do this that and the other (usually, the other). Now, when there is something serious to be said, when people actually want to hear why these players did not climb even halfway up their own mountains of publicity, they have scarpered, leaving behind a resounding and insulting silence.

Maybe they are saving up all their thoughts for another book nobody is going to buy. Maybe they think no one will notice if they sneak quietly back into a new Barclays Premier League season. But people will remember. They will remember that England trudged off the pitch after the Germany defeat and didn't even bother to acknowledge the thousands of fans who had spent their money travelling to South Africa. Nobody forced those supporters to go to the World Cup, of course. It was their decision. But it's a simple decency on the players' part to at least recognise their effort, as they would have automatically done playing for their clubs.

Big reputations have been seriously damaged here, in some cases irreparably so. Rather than address any of this, the squad slunk away, pandering to every stereotype that persists about the England footballer. They have appeared aloof, indifferent and grotesquely selfish. They look utterly contemptuous of the 99.99 per cent of the country that exists outside their privileged bubble.

In this information vacuum, the significance of brief moments of crass stupidity is magnified. The sight of Aaron Lennon puffing away on a big cigar in the departure lounge is taken as an insult. Images of Ashley Cole laughing heartily on the way home become more than an inopportune photograph, they're seen as a two fingers to the world. Because you remember this is the same individual who posted a message on his BlackBerry before the tournament saying how much he 'hated' England 'and the f***ing people'. The laugh doesn't just look tactless after that; it smacks of a malign glee.

Tittle-tattle within the camp says John Terry's mutinous press conference was actually designed to highlight Steve Gerrard's lack of leadership. Leaks say Jamie Carragher took offence with Terry on Gerrard's behalf. This doesn't sound like a coherent England squad. It sounds more like a dysfunctional shower arguing in the green room before The Jeremy Kyle Show.

So what is the truth of it all? At least Carragher did pop up on the radio to deny there was a problem with Terry, or Capello, or the tactics, or anything, for that matter. He did concede 'maybe we think we're better than we are', which was something, I suppose, but not much in the circumstances. The only other player who broke cover was Jermain Defoe, Lord help us. And the tone was illuminating as his remarkable selfregard shone through. 'I remain convinced that had I played in the earlier two games we would have got off to a better start than we did,' said Defoe.

'That's why it hurts so much to hear people saying we don't care - I care.' Yes, Defoe cares - but only about himself it seems. This is the depressing message of our times. They are not the Golden Generation, they are the 'Me, Me, Me Generation', where egos are out of control and players are just too full of themselves to recognise their responsibilities in this sorry tale. Germany's Thomas Muller was absolutely right when he said: 'England players are simply not mentally prepared to go that extra mile for their team-mates.'

A quote from the late, title-winning Wolves manager Stan Cullis remind us on how selfish are the current England players. When he was asked to explain the secret of his team's success, Cullis said: 'We won because we had players that were not only skilled but they were men of character. They had their own individual flair but they were men of integrity.' Can we say the same about this squad, in a camp where players betray their team-mates, or publicly declare their hatred for the country they represent?

I know there are some perfectly erudite, intelligent players in the England set-up, men who have worked hard to reach the top of their profession and are perfectly aware of a world beyond any circle of hangers-on. I just wish they had stepped forward by now. Otherwise, Lennon, Cole and Defoe, with their cigars and their laughter, are left to do the talking for them. Otherwise, England not only look like an apology of a team, they look like an apology for human beings, too, and that's not right.

Exclusively by Des Kelly

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