As the national team continues its perpetual failure at tournaments, I wonder if it’s a lack of talent, or something deeper within the fabric of English football.
Monday night’s shock loss against minnows Iceland wasn’t even that much of a shock. I fully expected the Three Lions to progress onto the quarter finals, but if I looked deep into my heart, I knew we where in trouble.
It was all pointing to a disaster, especially with the media quoting facts such as Iceland having the same population as Leicester or Coventry. We even basked in the knowledge that the Iceland manager was a part-time dentist.
What followed was truly one of the worst performances from a modern-day England team – certainly one in the 32 years of my life. Highly trained professionals, the cream of the crop, the elite, struggled with the basics of passing and trapping a ball, something which is taught to kids.
The team looked bereft of confidence and worse of all, passion. It’s one thing being second best, but what is totally inexcusable, especially when representing your country, is a lack of fight. Unfortunately, this is an accusation which is often levelled at our superstar players.
Have we really plunged to the lowest depths of not being able to beat supposedly small fry? Or are we actually not good enough?
I read an interesting article the other day about the Icelandic FA and how they coach their youngsters. Amazingly, Iceland do not have any professional football teams in their country. Quite an amazing statistic, especially when you consider that they were ranked 131st by FIFA in 2012, but are now ranked as the 31st best team in the world. Yet, they have over a 1000 trained coaches with UEFA licences. Not bad for a country with a population of just over 300,000.
The government pay out for artificial pitches; it would appear that most villages have one of these facilities. Anyone in this country who has played the game will know of the horrors of playing on council pitches which more resemble the battlefields of the Somme than anything else.
So where does this leave England? On a personal level, I really don’t think we are good enough to win an international title in the near future, let alone in my lifetime. Tactical naivety surely plays its part, but you have to look at the manager for this. Playing a 4-3-3 system but using centre forwards as wingers? What other country would stoop to this level of ineptitude?
It would be unfair to suggest that we don’t produce good footballers, clearly we do. But not GREAT footballers. More needs to be done in youth development, more money pumped into the grassroots game. With the Britain voting to leave the EU, it will be interesting to see how this will affect football. The Premier League is a great spectacle but it isn’t good for our national team. A crowded schedule and an influx of foreign players means burnout and a lack of chances for youngsters.
Mauricio Pochettino has worked wonders at Tottenham Hotspur, giving kids a chance. Harry Kane is probably the most notable out of all the academy graduates, but look at Jamie Vardy – he is the epitome of what can happened and what NEEDS to happen for the good of the game. It would have been easy for him to be overlooked for an expensive foreign talent but he got a chance and grabbed it with both hands.
With the FA School of Excellence being closed, what will become of our national team? It will be down to club sides to nurture young talent and give them their chance to develop and mature. But as we all know, football is a business and quick results are wanted. If this is the priority for owners, then I can only see the England national team suffering for years to come.
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