There’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing England win, the nation rejoicing, the fans happy and members of the press unnecessarily targeting a young black footballer for criticism he’s not warranted.
It’s as deflating as it is pointless.
After all, England beat Bulgaria comfortably, Golden Boy Harry Kane MBE bagged himself a hat-trick complete with a customary brace of penalties, which meant the Three Lions passage to Euro 2020 looks as assured as a wife-beating racists’ knighthood.
The other scorer in Saturday’s defeat of the once great Bulgarians, who now seem a million years away from the halcyon days of the Hristo Stoichkovs and Iordan Letchkovs of this world, was the artist formerly known as Raheem Sterling.
I say formerly known as because the gun tattooed, poundworld shopping, house for his mum buying public enemy number one has been replaced by the gun tattooed, poundworld shopping, house for his mum buying, media darling the press all love. Not because he’s changed or their opinion of his has changed, more because they suffered a massive social media and public backlash after years of targeted harassment that was as a bigoted as a goose-stepping Klansman.
Now though the press have to be nice to Raheem because they want to tap into the zeitgeist to sell newspapers and also because the City winger has now ended his international goal drought, it makes it much harder to treat him like dogshit.
This is England though and just as once one incompetent buffoon leaves Downing Street, another one will invariably replace them, just as a young successful black man stops being crucified in the press, there’s inevitably one waiting to take his place – regardless of how unwarranted it is.
Step forward Marcus Rashford. You awful, goalscoring, cap-earning, trophy-winning, record-breaking, scumbag. Before the 2018 World Cup when Rashford scored against Costa Rica, bringing his record to three goals for his country in 19 games, compared to Sterling’s two in 38, the media were falling over themselves to fawn over the new young saviour who deserved the nod over the 23 year-old spent force Sterling.
A year is a long time in football though and a year and a bit even longer as the two have swapped roles in the media if not on the pitch, where Sterling remains Southgate’s preferred choice just behind Harry Kane, as he more or less has ever since the former Palace defender became England boss.
Following Saturday’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria it was time for the press to remind the world that the 21 year-old Rashford isn’t any good at kicking the ball anymore and should probably try something else.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic and it was only the gutter press engaging in such drivel – but it ain’t. Sterling’s performance, whereby he scored a goal, while Rashford ‘only’ earned a penalty after a 75-yard run from inside his own half, wasn’t the only catalyst for criticism of the Mancunian.
The midweek goal-fest against the mighty Kosovo, saw Jadon Sancho bag a brace which naturally meant one thing – criticism of Marcus Rashford, not just by the press but by anyone with access to the internet and a social media account but not it seems, a brain cell.
The idea that Sancho scoring means Rashford is done is as laughable as the notion Rashford scoring meant Sterling was finished on the world stage, people need to get noticed, sell papers, feel relevant and knocking a United player is an easy win – even better if he’s a young, successful black one.
Goodbye Raheem, hello Marcus, give it a year and if as I expect he will, Rashford starts scoring for club and country regularly then it will be Jadon, who’s name is muck across the back pages. Probably when he dares to buy a loved one a house, or has the audacity to speak out against racism again.
Rashford is still a young man who’s shown despite having a lot to learn his talent is there for all to see, just as Sterling did at Liverpool and his early City days.
An England fan without someone to demonise simply isn’t a fan, just as a tabloid football journalist without a successful young black man to target, should probably look for another job – perhaps one that involves thinking now and again.
Should Marcus not score in his next England game, then we can expect the criticism to continue, after all, nothing brings the nation together quite like bashing a United player, especially one who’s close to his mum and counts Jesse Lingard among his close friends.
Good luck in your next England game Marcus, trust me, you’ll need it.