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        Why England cannot win the World Cup

 

1. CLIMATE. The English climate is generally wet and cold in winter and for that matter often during the other seasons! Football is played at a faster pace because of this. In sunnier climes other football nations play a slower, more technical game with less emphasis on speed and endurance. In addition our players are generally more “wooden” and less supple than players from other countries. This is why warm weather training helps players reach optimum levels of elasticity and increases suppleness of limbs and helps joints.

 

2. FITNESS/LIFESTYLE. Notwithstanding the knowledge in this area brought to our game by the influx of foreigners we are not a fit nation. A drinking, laddish culture exists amongst English players and diet and nutritional advice whilst much improved are still a far cry from the necessary level. Players of all levels go to pubs and clubs where trouble and temptations in all forms await them. Getting drunk is still part of the team bonding mentality and whilst a few beers or glasses of wine can have the desired effect one too many can be extremely detrimental.

 

3. SPORTS FACILITIES. Our grass roots football facilities are generally poor. Park pitches are generally inadequately maintained due to councils putting their financial resources elsewhere. No caretakers or park wardens are in evidence in the vast majority of them and pitch maintenance and drainage are all too often not dealt with adequately enough. Vandalism can also be an issue. Our Dutch counterparts have pitches that bowls could be played on whilst our children and young players are expected to show their talent and promise with this disadvantage. Such facilities are not conducive to producing good technical players and passers of the ball.

 

4. COACHES. There is a dearth of quality coaching. Although things are improving there are far more qualified coaches available to provide good knowledge and techniques in European countries than in the UK. Promising young footballers should be coached into good habits and techniques from an early age. They should be encouraged and even made to use both feet. They should be allowed to try a trick and express themselves rather than play in a static one dimensional way in the straight lines in which the English game is played. An appreciation of an individual’s role in a team and the various positions can be impressed on young minds at an early age. Players should be encouraged to play in different positions to enhance this rather than in one position for long periods. Schools now provide a pitifully small level of coaching and it is increasingly carried out by external businesses rather than overworked teachers no doubt fearful of a personal injury claim or worse! (Coaches with A B or Pro licence. 34,790 – Germany. 23,995 – Spain. 2,769 – England)

 

5. WINNING CULTURE. The British mentality is that of winning. Nobody likes losers and it appears that it is better to win using a direct style of play with bigger, stronger players than play an attractive style and lose. A team in England that passes the ball back to its goalkeeper to retain possession is often roundly booed by the crowd. We simply don’t have the patience and want to win at all costs. The emphasis is on long ball play into the area of maximum opportunity. Win. Win. Win. By contrast Brazil for example want to win playing their samba rhythmic football or not at all. In our culture the result means everything.

 

6. PHYSIQUE v TECHNIQUE. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi are by repute the three best players in the world. They would have struggled to get into many English teams where the emphasis is on size, strength and pace. We find athletes and try to make them footballers. Spain are finding footballers and moulding them into athletes. They also have an incredible work ethic. That is why they are enjoying the success that they presently enjoy. When they are as fit and as hard working as the opposition and better technically the other team has problems!

 

7. LACK OF TACTICAL UNDERSTANDING OF TEAM TACTICS. This applies to coaches and players alike. We play the game or coach it without explaining adequately enough the different systems of play and their advantages and disadvantages and the roles which players in those systems are expected to play. We are simply not detailed or knowledgeable enough in this area. England have played with a rigid 4 4 2 system predominantly and this is a good system of play. Our self discipline and organisation are two of our greatest national traits. However, we should be more fluid in our approach and more responsive to different systems to suit the particular opposition and circumstances. Our players play in straight lines. Our traditionalism and reticence to come out of our comfort zone works against us. A final point. Football has never been about systems of play. It is about players. Do not over rely on them!

 

8. AVERSION TO CHANGE. Yesterday does not equal tomorrow! Einstein defined Insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” We keep underperforming at major tournaments. This is because we simply aren’t good enough. There seems to be an obsession with changing the national team manager and that this will somehow resolve the problems with our national game. Rubbish. We are looking in the area which does not need fixing. There are more fundamental flaws in our game which must be addressed. We have not won anything as a national team for approaching 50 years! Our national obsession is football. 50 years! We have to adapt and look at the problems endemic in our game. We have to embrace change. Quickly. We are too staid and predictable. As Napoleon once said “They came on in the same old way. And we stopped them in the same old way.”

 

9. NATIONAL PRIDE/JINGOISM. Part of the reason that we are not prepared to embrace change is due to the arrogant conception that we invented the game and therefore have nothing to learn from Johnny foreigner! We are swept away with a media driven patriotic fervour every time the national team departs with almost certainly the best support in every competition. Who did first coin the phrase “golden generation?” Comically, television schedules were interrupted so that we could watch live footage of the plane carrying the England team taking off for South Africa. This seemed all the more ridiculous several weeks later when the Germans had inflicted on us our worst defeat in World Cup history. All this adds massive pressure on to the England Team. The weight of expectation is huge.

 

10. TOO MANY ALTERNATIVES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. We live in an affluent society compared to previous generations and many other countries. Our youth have so many other interests and options available to it than at any other time in our history. PCs and computer games are now a national obsession. Many youngsters would rather play on FIFA than play the actual game! The power of the web and the internet has opened up a whole world of information and interaction with people of similar ages in this country and abroad. Cable and digital television has enabled us to have far greater choice of what and when to watch. It is all too easy to sit at the computer desk or stay in the armchair rather than play sport. Compare this to poorer countries where the only way out of poverty is perhaps through showing sporting talent. Many of their skills are honed playing street football which has almost disappeared in this country.

 

11. TOO MANY FOREIGNERS. Whilst in many ways foreigners have enriched our game for the reasons stated there are simply too many of them. This is preventing the development of good English players at the highest level. Sir Alex Ferguson tells the story of Eric Cantona who one day after training asked for a spare goalkeeper and a youth team player to provide crosses so that he could hone his volleying skills. No-one had ever done this before. This was very positive. However many Managers at the top level are more likely to look for foreign talent than take the risk of throwing a younger English player into first team action. This limits the amount of experienced young players available to the National team.

 

12. THE POWER OF THE PRESS. The England team promote much media interest. A nation of people obsessed with the beautiful game means that any news items will be scrutinised by sports fans the length and breadth of the Country. Tactics and players performances are disected in the smallest detail. Whilst much of what is written is positive and informative the Tabloid Press in particular can also be extremely damning of what they perceive as a tactical error or a substandard performance by the team or even certain individuals. This means our management are less likely to take chances in the sure knowledge that a failure will be highlighted. In the two tournaments in recent times that Portugal eliminated England Scholari took huge risks. In the first game the national hero Figo was withdrawn and in the latter Costinho the only Central defender who could match England In the air. These were huge gambles. If you take long chances and they come off it makes you brilliant. Scholari did just that. England managers are cautious by comparison.

 

13. MANAGER PRESSURE. The pressure on the England team manager is immense. It is the highest paid manager’s job in World Football and much is made of the salary. The pressure from that alone must be hard for many managers to bear. Bobby Robson’s hair went white carrying the burden. Sven Goran Eriksson with all his calm air was sacked even though he only lost three competitive games in 5 years (we were eliminated in two others on penalty kicks). Details of his personal life within the FA were leaked to the media which meant that he was obliged to step down before the 2006 World Cup. This must have affected the manager and the players.

 

14. THE SEASON IS TOO LONG. There has been much talk about the Winter break enjoyed by many other countries. Our players are generally not fresh when they compete in the major international tournaments. The demands and frenetic pace of the English Premier League take an incredible toll on players both physically and mentally.  The tempo is far higher than games played in other countries. It is a question of building a team which can compete successfully in international tournaments or having the most exciting domestic League in the world. There is a price to be paid for the latter.

 

15. CLUB v COUNTRY. The Premier League is arguably the most exciting in the world. Television means that players are on huge salaries compared to previous eras. In addition this attracts the top foreign players. Managers are reluctant to allow their top players to play for the national team especially if it is a meaningless friendly. They are concerned about tiredness through long distance travel and the possibility of injury. This further emphasises the individual as opposed to team spirit that is more prevalent in other national sides.