Ten ways to take English football forward (World Cup Braindump #10)
England limp out of yet another tournament, and as much as I hate to say it, I’m glad. In particular I’m glad that it was a rout, rather than an ‘unlucky’ exit, Lampard’s phantom goal notwithstanding. Now we can begin to actually focus on the shortcomings of English football, rather than blame chance (or penalties) for us not being more successful.
So, what is there to hope for, what could/should we learn, and how can we take English football forward – in the short-term, and the long-term?
- Fabio Capello, if he stays, will hopefully realise the size of the task ahead, and build for the future. He has four years to build a side – so he should, and hopefully will, change the balance of the side from the old ‘golden’ generation to younger players pushing for a place in the team. If Euro 2012 goes wrong, so be it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. Brazil 2014 should be the aim. Everything should be designed as a stepping stone for that tournament, if not 2018.
- Fabio Capello, if he goes, will hopefully provide an important lesson to the FA. You shouldn’t firm up a manager’s contract right before a major tournament. If they have to pay him off it will be a colossal waste of money, and heads should roll in the FA. The FA also needs to realise that a good manager alone will not win you a major tournament.
- The FA needs to properly build for the future. There needs to be the infrastructure from the youth systems and grassroots upwards to ensure that England start producing more quality players and more quality coaches. If the FA can afford a £6 million contract for Capello, it can afford to invest properly in grassroots football.
- This means the FA needs to realise there is life beyond the Premier League. It may be the cash cow, but it was the national side in 1990 that arguably paved the way for the Premier League to be a success. If the England side is successful, the Premier League will be too.
- So, the Premier League and FA need to be more supportive of the national side. Scrap the match ball contracts, so that players are able to play competitive games with the World Cup ball prior to the event itself. Scrap the League Cup, or restrict it to under 23s, so players get more rest, or young up-and-comers get more games. Institute a winter break, so players can either rest up, or can meet for an England training camp.
- Get the clubs on board, either by agreement or by decree. Stop the pressure from clubs to cut down the length of international duty. Find a way to ensure every club has to field a least a handful of home-born players. Ultimately, convince the clubs of the long-term financial benefit to all of a strong England side, and they will co-operate.
- Assess the work of club’s academies, bring them closer together and learn from the best examples (and worst). Bring in stiffer penalties for clubs poaching young players developed at other clubs, in order to encourage clubs to continue investing in youth.
- Here’s the big one. Change England’s footballing culture. Amongst youngsters, foster creativity and experimentation, rather than win-at-all-costs and 12 year-olds on full-size pitches. Stop the habit in youth football of focusing on big, strong, athletic players, and overlooking the smaller, more talented ones. Train more coaches, and to a higher level, so good practice can permeate the game at every level and in every age group. Educate fans and players of the value of retaining the ball, rather than lumping the ball forward in desperation, or shooting from 35 yards out. Value skill, discipline and fair play over ‘grit’ and ‘English spirit’, whatever they mean.
- Manage our expectations – England do not have the right to consider themselves a footballing power. We are not good enough to win the World Cup, not by any stretch. We, as supporters, have no right to expect success. The press should know better too.
- We also need to realise that building a side will take time – a new manager, or a raft of new players, will not solve things overnight. We need to breed patience – in terms of how we play the game, and how we see the game developing in England in the long-term.
The FA, and English football in general, has a fantastic opportunity to change things for the better. Will they take it? I’m not holding my breath.
Sadly, Capello has just TEN WEEKS to get his squad ready for Euro 2012 qualifying.
I agree that changing the footballing culture is everything – from grass roots level, as you say, right up to the senior team itself. The only way to do that is to excise the cancerous elements in the squad. John Terry thinks he is the boss; Frank Lampard seems far too complacent.
In reality, England aren’t very good and something has to change. In the last ten major tournaments, we have failed to qualify twice and failed to escape the group on two other occasions. In the other six, we have won just three of nine knockout games – all against relatively average sides (Ecuador in 2006, Denmark in 2002, Spain (who back then were mediocre) in 1996). That’s really not the record of a very good team, is it?
Capello made mistakes – but show me an alternative who will do better? The reality is that the one common factor in our recent disappointments is the squad itself. It’s time the ‘Golden Generation’ stopped blaming everyone else and took a long, hard look in the mirror.
Here are my thoughts on the topic: http://thearmchairsportsfan.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-england/
Hi Tim, thanks for the comment – and for the link to your blog (good read, by the way!).
We certainly have struggled in competitive games against the top sides. However, even if we had got the ‘easier’ draw of playing Ghana, then potentially Uruguay, I think we would have still struggled.
This tournament has really exposed John Terry as an extremely limited centre-half. Throwing yourself in front of the ball isn’t enough. His lack of positional awareness was shocking for a player of his experience. For all his shouting and breast-beating he showed himself incapable of marshalling a defence either. Lampard too struggled throughout, and only began to show flashes of his talent when it was too late.
England lacked intelligence throughout the side, and seemed complacent too. Dropping some big names would send the message that nobody is safe, and you have to fight for your place. For too long England have had ‘untouchables’. The best sides don’t have those. We should learn from the example of Spain dropping Raul, and becoming a far more coherent unit for it.
For better or worse, Capello probably is as good as we’ll get. I don’t think he is the answer; he is tactically rigid, and seems incapable of making dynamic substitutions, but he is a far better bet than Wheeler-Dealer Harry Redknapp.
Thanks Steve. I liked your list a lot – it really struck a chord with how I’ve viewed our performances at this World Cup.
You know, I think Ghana would have found us easier to play against than the US. Like the Germans, their energy and enthusiasm would have showed us up for the pedestrian, unimaginative side that we are.
Terry is a good, brave defender, but not a great one. Compare him to Ferdinand, say, who at his peak rarely had to make eye-catching tackles because he was in the right place to begin with. Lampard is a great Chelsea player, but a so-so international one. Where were he and Barry (another disappointment) when we needed to shut down Ozil and Schweinsteiger in the first half hour? AWOL.
I would have dropped the ‘untouchable’ Rooney. He is so clearly miles off top form it was painful to watch him reduced to this hobbling, shambling mess. It is an indictment of the squad that Capello had no credible alternative here.
Redknapp for England manager? Best joke I’ve heard in ages. (Well, I am a Gooner …)
One word: Bleagh.
Julie, you’ve summed up the weekend’s results perfectly!
I’m so glad I could be of use. ;-D
[…] to be done longer-term to take England forward, please take the time to read Steve’s thoughts here – thoroughly […]
I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve tweaked your 10 things idea and produced a complementary list of 10 things I think we need to do over the next 10 weeks to get ready for the Euro 2012 qualifiers (I’ve provided a link back to your post for good measure):
The grass roots thing is important and it was what the FA were supposed to have addressed after Euro 2000 when they appointed Trevor Brooking. An interesting (but unverified) stat was quoted on the 5Live post defeat debate when a caller said that while Germany as a country has some 30,000 Fifa accredited coaches, England has 2000. If this is true most of those coaches in Germany must be working at lower levels – there are only 20 teams in the top division. So I’m assuming many of them work with youngsters. Do we not have very many coaches because no-one is interested or because the FA are not encouraging people, making it easy for them to take the courses, qualify for their badges and work with youngsters?
On a slightly different note, in Germany International football takes precedence over club football because it is not all about money to them, it is about success on ther field. Their record? They’ve got the the quarters or further at all but one of the World Cups they’ve competed in. They’ve won it three times, of course. Our record? a handful of quarter finals, one semi-final defeat, one final victory. As long as the Premier League concentrates on the business side of football and not the actual playing of the sport England teams will continue to underperform whoever manages them.
Steven, I’ve just had the same number mentioned to me by a friend in Switzerland. Clearly there is a lack of properly-trained football coaches in the UK.
I fear we have too many pushy dads on school pitch touchlines screaming at their kids to “get the ball in the box, son!” And then they scream at the coach that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And then, worse still, because of the lack of ‘proper’ coaches, they ‘help out’ by doing some coaching themselves. After al, if that idiot Capello can do it, so can I …
Incidentally, on the subject of the Germans, did you know that they have progressed further than England in EVERY World Cup since 1966? Says it all about our true status in the football world, doesn’t it?
Having said that about the manager not being the real problem, Capello should be soundly ridiculed for playing Steven Gerrard on the left wing. Not even Benitez played him out there ffs! If he’d been behind Rooney in the way he’s played behind Torres at club level, he’d have been as effective as Ozil has been for the Germans. Can you imagine Joachim Low playing Ozil wide left just because he hadn’t had the foresight to bring a genuine left footed player? Neither can I.
Tim – thanks for the link back, and will be sure to check out your post!
I read something similar about the number of coaches (and that Germany had planned this and much else besides after their failure at Euro 2000 – and are now reaping the benefits) – and this is an obvious failing in English football. The “get the ball in the box, son!” ethos is everywhere, and that is what we need to change, culturally, if we want to modernise in the long-term. Educating players and fans alike of the benefits of proper coaching would certainly be a step in the right direction.
England throwing everyone forward at 2-1 led to Germany breaking and getting the third that killed the game. There was still plenty of time, yet England took an unnecessary and reckless risk. This sort of thing happens week in, week out at every level, yet we never learn.
And Steven, I agree, Capello made some pretty rubbish decisions, and seemed scared to try anything different or controversial. He shouldn’t be blame-free. After the horrors of the Algeria game he could have made some real changes, and sent a message to the squad to buck their ideas up. Instead, he left us to limp along.
Where were the game-changing tactical moves or substitutions? Why play a clearly unfit Barry? Why let Rooney drift around the halfway line where his threat was nullified? SWP as an impact sub – really?
I’m relieved we didn’t beat Germany as Argentina would have absolutely murdered us. There would have been double figures if we’d continued playing so badly.
And now Germany have just destroyed Argentina.