Alan Biggs: We’re singing for England... or are we?

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You can sense it all around. That tingle everyone feels in the approach to a major event.

Kids, including a few of the adult variety, are collecting stickers. In some cases, expensive outlays are being made, maps being consulted and plans taking shape for lengthy journeys.

Thierry Henry has a hand in THAT goal against the Republic of Ireland

Thierry Henry has a hand in THAT goal against the Republic of Ireland

Squads are being studied. Strengths and weaknesses analysed. It is almost upon us. Yes, the new season’s Football League fixtures are out on June 18.

Why? What did you think I meant... the World Cup! Surely not. That’s more like a warm-up tournament for the main event these days.

Or at least it is in this country, blessed, as we’re constantly told, with the best league in the world. Yes, that would be the one Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham are in. And if you take out the Championship, there’s always the Premier League!

It’s club first, country second - and seemingly a widening gap in between. So are we alone in this? Suspect not. A few years ago I happened to be in France on a break with my son at the time of a crunch game for the French national team.

...but do we really care?

...but do we really care?

It was the notorious play-off showdown in which Thierry Henry “handed” France a place in the 2010 World Cup at the expense of the Republic of Ireland. We headed to a so-called sports bar in the centre of a small town called Arras.

Sure enough, there were TV screens hanging from walls and ceilings. But where were the punters?

Put that set-up into any town of any size in this country and, even allowing for our current England apathy, the place would be rocking.

Many fans prefer to watch big games that way, in a sort of “crowd” rather than from a sofa.

Anyway, father and son were glued to the action and spitting outrage when Henry handled in the build-up to William Gallas’s fateful extra time goal. We could safely do that because we were almost alone. The few French people in the bar barely glanced at the screen, just carried on unrelated chatter in quiet corners.

As for the barman, he knew what we meant but just shrugged his shoulders.

Now I’m not suggesting we are becoming as indifferent and uncaring as that. But there’s such a difference in mood from the previous decade, not to mention the unforgettable home tournaments of ‘66 and ‘96.

Why? Well, we haven’t won for 48 years, but that’s only for starters. No longer do we expect to win and there’s a perception - totally false, in my view - that our internationals don’t care because of the money they earn at their clubs.

What it’s about - pre-Brazil as for other tournaments - is that the Premier League rules English football and not the FA where chairman Greg Dyke was at least right in one of his recent recommendations.

The number of foreigners blocking a path to our best young players has to be cut.

I think even the most besotted fan of any league team would agree that in this we’ve put the clubs far too high above the country. Somehow the FA has to reclaim some power from the Premier League.

Until then, the England team is what it is. We have as good a manager as we could have in Roy Hodgson and the best available players.

Let’s wish them well, encourage their best efforts and - providing we give it a go - refrain from pillorying them.

Because the real fault lies elsewhere – and we are all part of it.