This nation of football whiners frightens nobody

England captain Wayne Rooney is greeted by Sir Bobby Charlton
England captain Wayne Rooney is greeted by Sir Bobby Charlton
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It was Napoleon who called Britain ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, though he wasn’t the first or the last to say it.

But Boney was wrong in 1799, as he eventually found out to his cost, and the phrase is clearly not true today.

We’re now a nation of moaning, short-sighted, over aggressive, spoilt-brat football fans with no loyalty, vision or patience.

We are, if the sad sample that calls football phone-ins is anything to go by, simply a nation of mard-arses - if you’ll pardon my pre-revolutionary French.

And captain Wayne Rooney gets the worst of it.

It’s his fault he didn’t go on to become the player we all fantasised about when he was 18.

It’s his fault he hasn’t led England to anything like glory and it’s his fault that we can’t hammer ‘teams like Slovenia’.

In short, it’s all his fault.

But he did help the England team to a 3-1 win to make it four wins in four in a poor Euro 16 group on Saturday.

As in the last couple of games, England’s young players showed more co-ordination, teamwork, pace and aggression than they have for years. There is hope in this new generation of players - and more coming through from under-20 and U-21 levels.

I’m not waving the flag and I don’t think it’s naivety or over-optimism, but we have the potential to be better.

But listen to the Five Live phone-ins and you’d think we’d become a nation of Veruca Salts - Roald Dahl’s over-indulged horror from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Spiteful, ill-informed and petulant, the foot-stamping calls kept coming demanding a new captain, new players, a new manager, new tactics, new everything and all delivered in the adult version of the over-tired kid’s lying-on-the-floor supermarket strop.

To get all historic again it was Wellington who said of his troops: “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me.”

Today the heart of our football nation is too self-pitying and whining to frighten anybody.

‘Grow a pair’ is a phrase Wellington and Napoleon probably never heard.

But if they could listen to our gutless 21st-century bleating they’d know exactly what it meant.