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England: Sorry Shadow of What Could’ve Been

By | 22nd August 2008

English football suffered an uncomfortable night as a muddled display from Fabio Capello’s side was played out against the backdrop of high-level political intrigue in Soho Square. While England struggled against an impressive looking Czech Republic side, whispers of Brian Barwick leaving his post at the FA echoed around Wembley Stadium. Confirmation swiftly came that Barwick was indeed on his way as part of what might be politely termed a “re-structure”, this time instigated by Lord Triesman, the FA’s first independent chairman.

However, this was the least of England’s worries as the long night drew on. Joe Cole’s scrappy equalizer summed up the performance: disjointed and ugly. Czech Republic were both tactically and technically superior. The evidence is there for all to see that England are looking no better than the side that was sent crashing out of the Euro 2008 qualifiers. England may not be going backwards. But they are most certainly not going forwards.

The ‘team’ doesn’t play as a team. They play as a group of individuals. 42 years on and England have not built upon their solitary World Cup triumph. The team back then had 2 or 3 “world class players” (Banks, Moore, Charlton), the others all had a job to do, and most importantly played as a team. It might be forty odd years later but the ethic is still the same. It’s the team that matters, and right now we have a “team” of individuals. There are just too many players in the squad who are playing for themselves. I really hope that Capello can come up with a team sooner rather than later.

If he can’t, then it looks like Britain’s biggest hope of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup could come in the unlikely shape of Scotland or Northern Ireland. At least these two teams try and play with their pride upon their chest.

Right, I’m not going to bark on about the game, tactics, or who plays what position. Every man and his dog has a valid opinion about that. However, I do hope that getting rid of Barwick will change certain things. I’m a firm believer that those that are in the FA have a huge responsibility to the supporters. They have the power and influence to change things. Make English football better and something to be proud of again. How much do these ‘suits’ really care about the football or are they just happy to be making huge amounts of cash? I’m not specifically talking about Barwick, but the FA is comprised mainly of men who I’m sure can run a good business and hold a meeting, however what are their credentials in regards to football? What experience do they have? Have they ever paid to watch a game before? Have they ever stood in the terrace and cried, sung, cheered their team till their voice has gone?

England need someone who can really understand football from the grass roots level to the international scene and not someone who is in it to make the best profit. The average supporter is getting very sick of the money being thrown around the game with wages, corporate and sponsorship. Fans just want to see the pride back in the national team – and some common sense.

And when you look back over the years gone by who has played for England since 1998, then it gets even more depressing. In 2006, the so called ‘golden generation’ was supposed to turn up in Germany and sweep all before them. What England fans got instead was easily their worst World Cup performance since the ill-fated trip to Brazil in 1950. England brought almost nothing to the party. It took Rooney’s dismissal against Portugal to bring about the first sighting of the traditional English values of character and bloody-minded determination, but it was too late.

The unmistakable signs of hubris were everywhere. Eriksson and Frank Lampard both said they thought England deserved to win. Rio Ferdinand, the same one who now says he was embarrassed by England’s performances, said fans would forgive the team playing poorly if they won the World Cup. Michael Owen unwisely predicted he would be tournament top scorer, Alan Shearer said on television that only Michael Ballack, Henry and Zidane would get into the England team. My point: the game is about results not reputations. David Beckham and Gary Neville were waving to friends in the crowd when England lined up against Portugal. No one in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team did that; Portugal just played the tie and saved the waving for later. A little over an hour later, Beckham, realizing his dream was over, burst into tears on the bench.

Then again, there was always Euro 2008. England, though, once again ultimately flopped. BIG time, failing to qualify for a tournament for the first time since USA ’94. A country, producing such talented individuals such as Paul Ince, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, and Andy Cole. Never, has there been such an array of talent that has come to absolutely nothing. Zilch.

So called smaller footballing nations than England, such as USA, Russia, Scotland and Croatia, teams that play with passion and work hard, are all beginning to show they can mix it with the best of them. England certainly can’t.

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