Two weeks into the current Six Nations campaign, Martin Johnson and the rest of the England camp were asked about the possibility of winning the Grand Slam. As predicted we got the same routine answer of, “we haven’t even thought about it”, and “we’re only concentrating on the next game”.
I understand that sporting psychology lends itself to various clichés like, “concentrate on each individual game and the silverware will look after itself”, and “talking about trophies doesn’t improve results”. But neither does NOT talking about it.
James Haskell in his Nandos-promoting post-match interview called the Grand Slam a dirty word. I couldn’t help think that this has been ingrained from the powers that be. But why? Do they really think that talking about it means it will jinx it?
My request is this – I would like Martin Johnson with the rest of the team and management to raise the bar on their attitude and on their expectations. Let them tell the world that they are here to win the Grand Slam. I realise that the cynics amongst you will call that the kiss of death, and if they were to slip up in Dublin then they would have egg on their faces and that the players would only have themselves to blame for being too optimistic and ahead of themselves. I can already hear the Celtic Nations now talking about typical English arrogance, but in this era of professional sport, are we really that superstitious? With positive thinking comes positive outcomes, so let’s not be so coy.
Here’s another cliché, “shoot for the stars, and you’ll reach the moon.” Or in rugby terms, train to beat New Zealand, and you’ll conquer the Northern Hemisphere. Shoot a little further and you might just achieve both. That also raises another question, and it’s the question that everybody wants to avoid asking, let alone attempt to answer. Was that performance good enough to beat New Zealand? That surely needs to be the main question in a World Cup year. If Andy Murray wins his first round match at Roland Garros, there is still ultimately only one question that needs to addressed, was that performance good enough to beat Rafael Nadal? Beating FC Copenhagen in the Champion’s League doesn’t mean much if you can’t go on to beat Barcelona or Real Madrid. You get my point…
The number one priority should always be to concentrate on the next game, sure. But don’t ignore the obvious because make no mistake, the England team are going to Dublin to win the Grand Slam. We know it, they know it. Why can’t they talk about it?
By Charlie Fletcher