John McCormick writes: Jeremy Robson has been busy lately but managed to catch up with the World Cup and pass on his thoughts. His considered appraisal of England’s performance and the reasons for it are well worth reading, be you fan, player, owner or member of the FA council. And, if you’re one of the latter, in the words of the one-year king, “something must be done”.
Few serious followers of the national team were under any illusions about our prospects at this year’s World Cup, Firstly, we rarely do well and secondly, this is possibly the weakest squad to go to a World Cup in living memory.
Roy Hodgson probably picked the best he had available, and to be fair to the players they gave it their best shot. Most of the focus has been on Luis Suarez, “the difference maker”, and rightly so. A pitiful excuse for a human being in so many ways, but the finest striker in world football. This lad hasn’t played a competitive game in five weeks, and is recovering from surgery. He starts a game and can do what he did. He’s phenomenal.
What distinguishes our squad from the other great footballing nations is the “difference maker”. Our “difference makers” don’t actually make a difference at all. I say that, reflecting on the fact that Wayne Rooney actually put in a decent shift in the World Cup for once. Gerrard, the captain and one of the “golden generation” now presides over the early days of the “lost generation”.
The bright spots have unquestionably been Sturridge and Sterling. The former was out of his skin in both the Italy and Uruguay games. I felt sorry for young Raheem as he was withdrawn after being marked out of the game. I also felt a pang of sympathy for the back four, or rather the three of them (Johnson, Baines and Jagielka) who have been found sadly wanting. Gary Cahill is a centre half of real quality but was let down by his fellow defenders. I could blame Roy Hodgson for persisting with Glen Johnson as it was three tournaments ago now that he was clearly not up to muster. Jagielka can’t mark, and Baines put on the white shirt and abandoned all of the good practices that had got him into the England side in the first place.
Time will tell but the development and progress of Ross Barkley will be interesting. He did little to suggest there has been any justification for the hyperbole surrounding his talents. It was a tournament too soon for the young Evertonian who seems to benefit and suffer from the naivete of youth in equal part. He lacks certain fundamentals for an attacking midfield player, like the ability to receive the ball on the move. The World Cup is no stage on which to demonstrate that deficiency. Black marks to Mr Hodgson on that one. The real issue that England face, in international football is that there simply aren’t enough top quality players getting a chance in domestic football. I like Rickie Lambert. He’s a nice tidy, skilful footballer but when you are calling on him to turn round a game in the World Cup finals then there is something seriously lacking. The likes of Danny Dichio and Billy Whitehurst must be wishing they’d been born two decades later.
The commentator made an interesting comment today. Only on one occasion in World Cup Finals history have England come back to win when they have gone behind. England have never been a force in world football. We can’t compare our record against France, Germany, and more recently Spain. In terms of qualification we fare well against the Dutch but hardly in terms of achievement once the rubber hits the road. They have never won but they get to the later stages of World Cups and were crowned European Champions in 1988.
Why do we fare so badly? The simple answer is that we aren’t anywhere near good enough and setting 1966 aside we never have been. Its frankly doubtful that we would have ever been World Cup winners had the tournament been played somewhere else.
The improbable job of leading England to anywhere other than a shady corner where we can hide in the shadows and wear the comfortable suit of sackcloth covered in ashes, has become an impossible one it seems.
I take my hat off to Roy Hodgson for giving the young guns a go. Well done Roy. The dearth of English talent playing in England is a huge problem which needs to be addressed. The problem of a lack of English talent playing elsewhere in other leagues across the globe is just as serious. Looking at other nations lining up in this World Cup you see young players from South American nations turning out for their club sides in Turkey, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England. You can barely find an English player in an English side these days let alone abroad. Foreign ownership at the top of the English pyramid exacerbates the effect considerably. This extends well beyond the Premier League and the Championship. In the same way that the development of players is hindered, the same problem exists for managers. Foreign owners care nothing for the English game and even less for the welfare of the national team.
The recent proposal for a B League was recently quashed, and probably for good reason. However, the inception of such a proposal was at least a recognition of the scale and severity of the problem. There’s a real need to take come action which gives young English players the chance to develop, and mature in a conducive environment. Development is being stifled at lower league clubs as well. If you consider the pathway to the top flight for the players in our last decent national team, the point should be clear. The likes of Parker, Wright, Steven, Pearce, Beardsley, Waddle, Platt, all began their footballing careers in the lower reaches of the football league and even lower. They weren’t being asked to mature in the white heat of a World Cup finals.
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In England too much emphasis is put on the “top players” when the main priority of continental teams is to know your weakness and prevent them from being exploited. Clearly England have good players and we expect a great deal from them, but we lose because we allow our weaknesses to be exploited. The back four Cahill apart was an obvious exploitable weakness but no attempt to counter balance this weakness by reinforcing the midfield, the result England coceeded 4 goals from 5 shots on target. Shots that were difficult to miss because of poor defending.
Yes John, Phillips is another excellent example. He was fortunate enough to have survived the Southampton youth set up as a right back, before honing his finishing at Baldock Town.
Have you ever seen a less likely looking full back?
Your point about talent being coached out of players is a good one. Out of the list at the end if the original post, Pearce and Waddle were playing non league football until their late teens or even later Waddle was working in a sausage factory and Pearce was an electrician.
I’ve often thought that their real individuality would have been knocked out of them by traditional coaching. These lads were class acts, capable of playing against anybody anywhere in their pomp.
You don’t see clubs taking chances on youngsters from the lower leagues and below these days, at least not in any number. Young players development is being stifled in League 1 and 2 as well as the Non League system these days.
Kevin Phillips – a classic example.
An interesting and much discussed subject throughout the country, beginning with the premise that if the Premier League is the best in the world why is it that we never meet a national side of any calibre with the confidence that we will win and then do so with style.
Last week, as an example, the question of Gascoigne was broached and purely as an opinion it was suggested that if Rooney is indeed one of our best players why is it, as a nation, with a talent such as Gazza’s when Rooney is considered good, as he may be, he is not fit to lace Gascoignes boots, in terms of natural talent.
Why was it then that no one was able to harness that talent or quell the destructive forces and internal daemons that nearly killed him in the end.
Some considered that if Clough or Fergie had coached Gazza as a player the outcome might have been very different. The old adage that TALENT IS DELIBERATELY COACHED OUT OF THE ENGLISH GAME may indeed be true.
Surely if a player is good enough he is old enough. Other countries do not seem to fetter their young player’s progression as we do now. Where however we also seem to let them down is in not curbing the excess that players of today indulge in, behaving as if somehow they do not have to earn the ludicrous incomes they seem to command as of right, strutting towards self destruction whilst rubbing the fans noses in their excess, as if there was no relationship between the money they squander and the supporters hard earned income. Perhaps it has all gone too far and the arrogance about the English game has seeped too deep into our few talented players psyche but our opponents, who beat us in the last match, with one exception, were nothing special we are simply not good enough and have not been for a long time. A brick is only as good as the materials it contains and regardless of the brick makers or managers talent, he cannot produce quality without the necessary ingredients.
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