I was officiating at a great Confirmation Service on Wednesday evening as the England team limped out of the European Football competition. I didn’t think that Croatia would be a pushover, but I did think England would do enough to qualify. Most of what needs to be said has been said – ‘not the losing, but the manner of the defeat;’ the derogatory comments about Steve McClaren, a good man, who in the end did not come up with the goods etc. etc. There are however some questions that need to be addressed
Firstly, ever since my time as a footballer, it has been readily acknowledged that foreign players are technically superior. Why then is the same observation made thirty years on? After the millions of pounds spent on academies, the training (over-training?) of young and raw talent appears to be still churning out players of lesser technical ability than our foreign counterparts. The obvious answer is that either there is something fundamentally wrong with coaching staffs or our game still thinks that you can achieve in the modern game without possession of the football. A novel idea I suggest.
Secondly, it seems to be in the English psyche that you pick players on the back of reputation rather than form. Our national cricket team suffered the same problems till recently. It is certainly true that teams need a balance of experience and youth. It is certainly true that Scott Carson was the form keeper before the first goal on Wednesday. But the obsession with trying to play Lampard and Gerrard in the same midfield, the reliance on a non-match fit Michael Owen are just part of a bigger package that lacks courage and imagination. However good in theory these players are, in practise they have not even qualified for a tournament from a group of mundane teams. The conclusion is inescapable.
Finally who next will seize (want?) the poisoned chalice called the manager’s job? The debate about whether to have an Englishman at the helm is another piece of evidence that in little England we have not yet woken up to the fact, that like it or not, football is now a global industry. I have no idea who will succombe to the temptation, but whoever it is deserves our prayers!