Monday, November 5, 2007

The demise of England's football team

The demise of England's football team

The problem is deeper than a few poor players or results or managers. It's like a nice pair of prada shoes with dog poo on the laces and lies deep within the heart and fabric of the English game……...As the bashing begins, following the aftermath of the defeat in Russia (1-2) I thought now would be an appropriate time for me to explain my reasoning behind England's debacle in terms of what the TRUE issues are: The first question supporters need ask is how many of the English players are being touted for European clubs? The answer is none. Not even Stevie G! So until English fans accept that they are no better than Ireland or even Austria then and only if they are honest can they can implement a workable plan of action. But honesty is an ugly word which does not appeal too greatly with the new Bently-mock-tudor-Prada wives-brigade. Too make matters worse, the current crop of English players also know this - limiting their options to plying their trade solely in the UK. Yes there have been cases involving David Beckham and Steve McMannaman. Even little Mickey had a year spell all at Real Madrid - but these are exceptions to the rule rather than the norm. This in turn breeds a lethal combination of fear muddled with greed and arrogance. As Tommy Docherty once quoted "We have stars trying to become footballers, not footballers trying to become super-stars".

You need only watch Rio and Stevie G strolling around the pitch the around the other night to see the contempt they displayed. Not knowing anything about football you would have thought they were world class players.Well if Rio is world class what does that make Ivan Helgura of Madrid and Guttuso at AC Milan who are ten times the calibre and quality of these two. I'm not really picking on these two, more like highlighting the vast differences in an attitude of a top class footballer. Talk as they say is cheap. Remind me again – how many teams are interested in Rio?

Another point I'd like to make is that other National teams have 6 or 7 players playing in various leagues around the world. This means when they meet up for International matches, they not only provide an abundance of ideas, tactical nous and football awareness. But an insight into how the other team are likely to play matched with solid technical ability it allows them to play off the cuff and adapt to different situations within the course of the game. The players, also realise they are in the shop window, trying to secure transfers to bigger leagues, so when they come up against England they look on it as unlocking the key to their riches. Players we have never heard of, 18 months after playing against England are later to be found plying their trade in England with Portsmouth, Newcastle and Bolton respectively. Watching Joe Cole play international football is like trying to explain algebra to my five year old. She understands numbers but fails to grasp the concept. This will only come to fruition if and when English footballers travel to play in other leagues and stop being mercenaries to the pound.

In the game against Russia the other night, to keep myself amused, I counted the number of times England strung 4-5 passes together. In the whole of the first half it happened twice. And to hear David Platt and Barry Davies’s summary at half time you’d have thought it was Argentina with Messi that we were privileged to be watching. Granted I was in Amsterdam, in a coffee-shop under the influence, so I may have watched the game through a variety of glasses – none which fitted my head but consumed vast quantities of alcohol. I recall turning to my new found drinking and smoking buddy – who was participating in some lovely Jamaican stuff at the time – "How did you think the first half went"?
He replied – "T’was brilliant. The movement of the front 2 have been excellent and the new boy has done OK at the back".I nearly chocked on my ‘legal’. "Were you watching the Italy vs Spain game"? I enquired, giving a surprised look. "Movement of the front 2!!!". I nearly chocked on my legal whilst mentioning to my new friend "Better to rest that in the ashtray". Needless to say I left the coffee-shop 50 euros richer after backing Russia to come back and win it. Football is a simple game and intelligence and finanical gain far outweighs patriotism. When I ever watch England play I am puzzled as to the tactics. I’ve learnt over the past 7 seasons that for England there are no tactics. Watch again and then watch Estonia or Macedonia or Scotland or even Andorra. They all have a plan – granted it doesn’t always work – but it’s a plan none the less – on how to win a football match. England’s plan is the ‘flick-on’ developed by my team, Liverpool.Heskey and Owen’s legacy to modern day football. How many of England's recent goals are down to a hoof and a flick on or someone getting the second ball? How did Rooney score his goal on Wednesday? A flick-on!And from little Mickey – how ingenious. Hence the reason Guus Hiddink was unable to contain his laughter when asked about England’s recent tactics, which enabled Hiddink and Russia to rescue a game that appeared to be going away from them. When prompted by the reporter after the match, a delirious Hiddink said something along the lines of "What f**ng tactics, mate ?" I wonder how many hours of training does it take to master the flick-on?

It is also a problem of the media to continually grade/mark them as good players. Yesterday I noticed that on (the best football site) rated both Joe Cole and Michael Owen as a 5. A 5!!! What for? Do they get points for putting you’re kit on correctly and standing in the correct position at the start of play?Start by being honest, open and objective and in turn the players MAY realise the they are accountable to the many fans they have - and not play act, like they childish actions we witnessed after the match the other night. Players sitting on the ground, head in heads or looking up the the heavens - giving their best rendition of the penguins in the movie Happy Feet.The English FA has a long way to come and it all starts with coaching at the youth level. Tell the kids it's not about winning and losing but about technique, passing and movement. When I mentioned this on the above site year’s back I was ridiculed and told in no uncertain terms that winning is everything. It's not about performance. Well if that is the case how do you know how YOU won a game? I wonder if Roger Federer, Tiger Woods or Valentino Rossi adopt this mindset. If you don’t know how you won or lose then everything is based on hope and that's what’s it is like when you watch England perform. Again it's like children answering you the question to pi, without knowing what pi means. "Oh, 3.14 x the power of 8 = 19, Daddy". In my house - you need to tell me how you came up with the answer, otherwise you'll be known in the adult world as cheating..... However much England falter that negative mind-set will not change in England, and until it does then I'm afraid there will be many nights like last week and the last World Cup and the one before that and and and and. To the common English fan the result is far more important than how the team play and whether players are actually learning the fundamentals of International football. i.e KEEPING THE BALL. It's as simple as that. Good teams just apply that basic principle over and over again until the gap opens and chances will appear. Quality striker’s do the rest. That simple. ALL international teams play that way. Apart from England. The next time there is a 30 mins show on Eurosport involving the qualifying games. Watch England and the rest of the other games and grimace in horror. Have you ever noticed that on the weekly update on Eurosport, they show every league, highlights and matches, aside from the Premiership? I like to remind others of the story of Brazil, who on their return from winning the 2002 World Cup to find themselves subjected to a storm of abuse, from rotten eggs, tomatoes and other South American delicacies, launched at the team bus and players alike. This to the team with the two Ronnie, Rivaldo and Robbie C.
And they get stick for winning their 5th World Cup. And why may you ask?After all they did win, how harsh? Yes true, but it's about the WAY that you win.


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