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What now for England?

It seems that just about everybody from an irate Chris Waddle to a distraught Alan Shearer has had their say on England’s disastrous World Cup campaign with accusations of laziness, of a lack of desire, of an absence of skill, of tactical ineptitude, of… well the list goes on and on. One could write a thesis on England’s failings and the potential reasons for them, but that is an article for the Phil McNultys of the world to write. Instead, let’s look at what is next for the England team.

In the aftermath of the 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany, seething fans and pundits alike speculated on the future of Fabio Capello as England manager. The issue divided opinion with some saying that £6 million a year should buy you better, and others saying that he is still the man for the job. It is always easy to blame the manager when things go wrong, especially in England where we love to be able to point the finger at one man. Indeed, it would be reasonable to argue that it is actually part of a manager’s job nowadays. Capello refused, rightly, to enter in to discussion regarding his future after the game simply saying that he would speak to Club England Chairman Sir Dave Richards the next morning to see if he had the unequivocal backing of the FA.

That meeting came and went this morning and Capello did not get the backing he had hoped for. Instead, the FA opted for a two week cooling off period during which they will take stock of the situation and make a decision from there. This is a much better idea than simply making a snap decision in the heat of the moment and the FA are to be commended for this. One just hopes that they make the right decision. So, the question is: what is the right decision?

Capello must certainly shoulder some of the blame for England’s poor performance at the World Cup. When he took over as England Manager in December 2007, he made a point of assuring us that players would be picked on form and that if you were injured or recently had been, you would not be selected, even if you were better than Maradona. He also promised not to select players who had not been playing at club level. The Italian backed away from this admirable stance, opting to bring Jamie Carragher out of international retirement, taking Shaun Wright Phillips over Adam Johnson and leaving Michael Dawson and Darren Bent at home. This was mistake number one. Once in South Africa, pride and stubbornness seemed to get in the way of common sense and tactical nous on more than one occasion. The introduction of Emile Heskey for Jermain Defoe with England 4-1 down against Germany may never be matched in terms of ability to bewilder fans. Capello has failed to solve the puzzle that is Gerrard/Lampard and Wayne Rooney looked disgruntled to the point where he may as well have still been on the plane judging by his performances. Joe Cole was given next to no time on the pitch despite his ability to unlock defences and Peter Crouch has probably forgotten what grass even looks like. Capello looked clueless against Algeria and came across as deluded yesterday when he claimed his side had played well. A man in denial, yes. A man worried about his job, most definitely.

Is it the end of the England road for Gerrard and Capello? (This image is the property of The Guardian)

It is however, incorrect to lay the blame solely at Capello’s door. England’s so-called Golden Generation has now failed to deliver at three consecutive World Cups, one European Championships and even failed to qualify for Euro 2008. In that time, England has had three managers. The only common denominator is the players. Players such as Lampard, Gerrard, Ferdinand and Ashley Cole amongst others look top class week in, week out at club level and perform admirably in the Champions League, which is a much higher standard of football than the World Cup. This time round, there appears to have been a lack of desire and fight and the players look unhappy with something. It may be Capello’s authoritarian approach? It may be something else and no doubt we will get to find out when someone releases an auto-biography. Perhaps the Premiership is not as great as we are all led to believe and so the players are not either? Perhaps our expectations are overly lofty? Whatever the case, no player can come out of this with his head held high and as John Terry stated in his post-match interview after the dismal display against Germany, the players need to take a long, hard look at themselves. JT would do well to look in the mirror himself. No one seems to be able to put their finger on exactly what the problem is with England, if they could they would be earning £6 million a year.

So what now? Removing Capello and his staff would cost the FA north of £10 million following their astonishing decision to remove the break clause in the Italian’s contract two weeks before the squad departed for South Africa. They may therefore be forced to stick with him for financial reasons. This would, however, be a blessing in disguise. If one takes a look at the situation and asks the question: who would England get to replace Capello?, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no outstanding candidate and Capello is not suddenly a bad manager after four games. Such a suggestion would be melodramatic even for us English. The real issue lies in the squad. There is simply too much deadwood in there and too many players who are not bothered about playing for England (anybody remember Carragher’s I’d rather miss for England than Liverpool comment?). Now is the time to start to bring through the next generation of England stars ready for the next World Cup; the Walcotts, Dawsons, Harts and Huddlestones. This needs to be done now so the players can gain invaluable experience before the tournament takes place. If England has to sacrifice the Euros as a result, then so be it. Many of you may not like this next statement but the fact of the matter is that if Capello and the FA want an example of how to do this, they could do worse than cast admiring glances at Jogi Löw and the DFB.

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Categories: Football
  1. Superiorraw
    July 1, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I was going to go on at length about my thoughts on the article and the comments made, I’d love to defend England, the national side and the manager but it’s really impossible to do so when I agree so wholeheartedly with what has been said here.

    I say, Keep Capello on. Let him learn, theres no £10ml loss then to sever him and his team and to bring in a new managerial team. Then let Capello stick to his mantra or at least hope that he does. If he’s truly intent on picking players on form and playing regularly, I agree take out Lampard, take out Terry, take out Rooney – I’m a united fan but it does annoy me somewhat when other players in the Premier league are performing and dont get so much as a sniff because we’re constantly reminded how these big game players perform.

    Just get the team back together and say to them ‘if you want this shirt number you’ll have to earn it back again, as i didnt see anything in the last tournament to prove your capable of playing against world class teams’

    Theres this weird claim made by the press and everyone associated with England at major Tournaments that we are one of the power houses, we should rub shoulders with the likes of Argentina, Brazil or Germany, Guess what.. we only won the world cup in 66, what have we achieved since then? A while back countries like Spain and Netherlands were known as perennial underachievers, I think its time we put England in that category, we seem to talk a good talk but when it comes to walking we are AN EMBARRASSMENT nationally, when we conceded that 1st goal to Germany I wanted to shout obscentities at the tv, a few years back i would have done, but you know what, my honest reaction I just sat back and laughed.

    When Italy were eliminated and South Korea were eliminated they showed passion at the disappointment some even cried, ours tredged off the field accepting defeat and all too eager to return home to their mansions and fast cars.

    I say ditch the playing staff and lets start again. Let Capello have a shot at the Euros and see whether he can stick to his mantra and prove us wrong.

  2. John Platt
    June 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Great Article Nick. As you say, we could spend a lifetime disecting the finite details of the many flaws in the English game. For what its worth, I’ll try to keep my observations a succinct as possible…

    I see England’s latest flop in a major tournament as yet another opportunity to review the shortcomings in our ‘beautiful game’ & feel that it needs to be looked at from top to bottom:

    Starting at the top & with the men in charge at FA headquarters. This collective of individuals who have crafted the beast that is the Premier League & had us all hooked with the party lines ‘ours is the best league on earth’ & ‘one day we’ll emulate 66’. In reality this lot aren’t proper football fans, they’re a bunch of PR guru’s, money men & advertising spinsters – success for them doesn’t come on the field, it comes with the latest sky sponsorship package, the number of white jerseys sold in JJB Sports & the hordes of corporates cramming into Wembley on a windy Wednesday in December. Yes they’re striving to ‘bring football home’ in 2018 but this isn’t inkeeping with Danny Jordan’s vision for Africa (to give football back to the people). This is their chance to pay off the stadium debts & line their own pockets. Credit where it’s due mind, we’ve all fallen hook line & sinker for it as the EPL has become the biggest sporting show on earth outside America & despite ticket prices twice higher than those in the Bundesliga we pour in to our local grounds at an average rate of 30,000 per week. Despite their derisory showings, England friendly’s still attract TV audiences higher than the weekly soaps. So for these men, we may well be out of the World Cup, but with retro red shirts sold out in most stores & an impending friendly with Hungary at Wembley, the show most definately goes on. Just don’t expect these revenues to trickle down to the masses mind. Heaven forbid we ever build a centre of excellence to rival those of the French or the Germans – I mean how would they fund the prawn sandwich lunches then?!

    Next the Manager. Before taking on the job of England manager, Fabio Capello’s record across Europe was largely unrivalled. Renowned as a winner wherever he’s been, he’s also managed to successfully negotiate some of the most testing ego’s in the world game, namely Cassano, Ronaldo, Figo to name just three. He’s commanded respect wherever he’s been & therefore its fair to say that Fab was & still is as good a manager as anyone around (Save Sir Al’ of course!). For what ever reason (he is human afterall) Capello decided to go against his footballing mantra & took plenty risks in South Africa (without risks you rarely find success remember. Unfortunately for him, almost all of them went wrong. The biggest errors in my eyes was the bare faced hipocrasy faced when selecting the squad / teamsheet. If we’re told that he’ll only pick players on form, fitness & commitment then what sort of a message does this send to messers Heskey, Carragher, Terry & SWP – It tells them that they’re untouchable & automatic choices. Straight away they lose their incentive to train, to play & to focus. On the other hand, players such as Crouch & Upson must’ve been utterly despondent wondering ‘what else do I have to do’. His ‘I’m strict, I’m laid back. Beckham is no use to me, he’s my right hand man. Theo is our best hope, Theo isn’t good enough’ left us all dizzy! Then we must look at the tatical layout of the team. It’s universally recognised that 4-4-2 is dying a slow painful death in the modern game. As a man of many cultures I’d expect Fab to embrace this & actually utilise the few strengths of G Johnson & the many strengths (pains me to say it) if A Cole. Instead we saw a static, one-dimensional group of individuals looking for the same side pass every time they got the ball. ‘When in doubt, boot it out’ became the philosphy when the opposition exerted any kind of pressure on our players, which wasn’t helped by the presence of Heskey who seems to be an easy target for our narrow minded centre halves right feet! Furthermore his substitutions were baffling at times. Quite what he feels SWP (a slower, less mobile, poorer crosser of the ball) offers that Lennon doesn’t left me bemused? Introducing Carragher back into international football against one of the strongest, fastest teams at the tournament was ill judged. His reluctance to utilise Crouch against Algeria (PC has time & again tormeneted the percieved lesser teams) was disapointing. Much like his predecssors however, Capello’s past must not go unoticed. This is a man who has a proven track record of getting the best out of his players. A man can only work with the tools provided….

    And so to the players. Those loveable rogues who’ve over promised & underdelivered for over a decade. When will they learn? But is it really their fault? Do they actually know any different. Afterall, we create this facade that these guys are just like us when in reality they’re robots disguised a crying, diving shemales. Take Wayne Rooney – the original working class hero. Lets be honest, Wazza has probably had everything he’s ever wanted since he signed for Everton (I believe as an 8yr old). He doesn’t know poverty, never will. At 18 he had a mansion in Cheshire, a new pair of boots every game & a heard of journalists scrambling to hear him speak. As a result we’re left with someone who tants at a camera because a bunch of people who spent their life savings watching him mope around a pitch for 90 minutes didn’t think he quite did enough. They expect to be cheered, they see it as their god given right because its all they’ve ever known. John Terry can’t stop being a w%*!&r, its who he is. If he’s not in the paper he wants to know why & promptly calls a press confrence to put things right by telling us he’ll chop his arms off to win the world cup. For the record, I don’t think its a lack of effort – at least not conciously. I mean expecting them to bust a gut is like asking a lottery winner to take a full time cleaning job – would you get 110% every day?! Regardless of their salaries pyschology kicks in & they’re all rife with fear /adrenlin when they step across that white line. Not that I feel sorry for them mind you. Afterall I thik they kinda like the rock star status, they just cant live up to it. Because they’re modern day pop stars we hold them in far too high regard. In hindsight when was the last time Gerrard really had one of ‘those games’ for Liverpool? From what I saw Terry was turned inside out every time he was tested at a decent level last season. Rooney has flopped in both CL finals he’s featured & at both world cups he’s played. Is he really a world beater just because he’s quite fast for a fat lad & kicks the ball really hard when he’s mad?! Yes, these 3 along with Lampard & the Coles are what I would deem ‘good’ players – but as is Van Der Vaart, Oscar Cardozo & David Suazo – It’s just not rammed down our throats day in day out. On the flip side G Johnson, R Green & G Barry really aren’t much kop. But lets be honest who do we have in this country to replace them (I’d say G Neville, J Hart & A Johnson but that’s an arguement for another day!)…. We often ask how many Germans or Argies would get into our team, but after being harshly exposed at World level again, do we all now concur that these players we hold in high regard aren’t the side we thought they were?!

    So all that’s left is us lot. The ‘Fans’. The one’s who said we were going to steam roll all comers after watching us ‘hammer’ everyone (including Andorra & Kazakhstan) in qualfying. We turn out in our droves, flags everywhere because we ‘believe’. But then one game in, we drawn (against a team ranked only 4 places below us mind you) & then the hatred spills over. Its like Jekyl & Hyde. Much like if they’d stolen from our grans or slept with our wives, we feel personal anger towards these guys as though they owe it to us to win without failure. Perspective is the word that springs to mind. Throughout time we’ve built em’ up only to knock em’ down. Think Gazza, Becks, not just football look at Jordan, The Royals, MP’s – celeb fest has taken over our psyche. Its part of life & because we throw so much money at Football we feel as though we own these players & they owe us victory. Part true I guess, but hey – you pays your money you takes your choice. Someone once told me that ‘too little knowledge is a very dangerous thing’ & it rings true. In the lead up to the WC we’re all Uefa B coaches. We know every player in the world & decide ours are better than them all. The Sun Newspaper rates Lennon as an 8 & Forlan only 5. Adrian Durham claims USA players wouldn’t get in Championship teams despite most of them plying their trade at top European clubs. We hang onto every word the players tell us & think that ‘if we have Rooney, everything wil be alright’. Whilst our game wallows in a pit of commercial greed, the rest of the world has silently taken the reigns. I saw it happen to the Italian game when Serie A collapsed at the end of the 90’s & I see it happening to us to. Let’s hope perspective is the one thing we take away from this plance wreck – somehow though I just don’t see it. This time next year, it’ll all be sorted we’ll beat Guinea 3-2 in front of 300,000 people in Abu Dhabi & we’ll be ‘back on track’. Meanwhile the next infulx of foriegn players wil infiltrate our domestic league & earn £45m for 2 seasons just so we can put bums on seats & satisfy our insatiable need for ‘the beautiful game’ – at least that’s what I used to call it…..

    • July 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

      Well John, where do I start!?

      I have to say that I think you make a lot of points I have put forward for a long time. The FA really is not run be people who have a clue about football and who have the sport’s best interest at heart. It is a commercial organisation that the Americans would be proud of. Bringing a lot of money in to the game is great, provided it is then channelled into grass roots football and facilities such as the acadamies to which you refer in France, Germany etc.

      I do think the Premiership is over-rated in terms of players’ technical ability and tactical awareness and this is shown up time and time again in international tournaments. We have all fallen for the marketing schtick and like you say, fair play to them (Scudamore et al) for suckering us in. If it were a major corporate, they’d be lauded as men of vision.

      The manager did make some odd decisions but as we have both said, he isn’t suddenly a bad manager after four games. Your point about hipocrisy is interesting and it is something that baffled me as I found his original stance not only admirable but also necessary.

      As for the players, I have no idea what it is with them, but there is most probably something in what you say. They are overpaid and even get people to change their light bulbs for them! (according to Patrice Evra, but again, that is our fault as it is people like me and thee that pay for Sky, tickets, merchandise etc. Karl Marx famously said ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ this now seems to have been replaced by football. We simply cannot keep away and that is why, as you say, we will tune in to ITV’s dire coverage of a meaningless friendly against Guinea or the Cook Islands in Abu Dhabi in the not too distant future.

  3. Chris
    June 29, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I hate to quote Franz but we do play kick and rush football…from as early as 8 years old. We are taught and trained to get it out as quickly as possible to the big kid, who looks 4 years older than the rest, so he can score.
    Whereas in Brazil, Spain etc their kids are playing passing football on small pitches. Players like Messi simply would have never been given the opportunity in England.

    …but like Nick said this is another debate and we need to look to the immediate future.
    I say keep Capello, the guy is a proven good manager. His mistakes could be down to this being a new experience for him, next time he will be ready!

    Let him build a new team.
    Get rid of Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Terry, Ferdinand – anyone over 30 basically. They didnt do it when they were 26,28,30 so what makes us think they could do it at 32, 34?
    Bring in a new squad of youth now. Let them develop and gain experience, and most importantly, become a team! a unit!
    If we dont do it at the Euros, then no worries, we can go in for once with less expectation, and who knows we may be pleasantly suprised and actually overachieve.

    It annoys me when fans mindlessly say ‘sack him’ just so we can get someone else in to make the same mistakes, let them learn from them and correct them.

    Lastly, i find it incredibly ironic that Wenger may have provided us with the next generation of England players, he said give me 10 years and I will have a batch ready for you. If these kids (Wilshire, Gilbert, Hoyte, Randall) go on to perform better than this laughable current “golden generation” then a lot of Wenger haters will be eating humble pie.

    • June 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      Yeah, spot on Chris. I have never, ever understand this mindless ‘sack him’ mentality. What on Earth will that bring? Sometimes it will work sometimes it won’t. In this country, it seems to be the default answer to any issue. Ludicrous.

      Cheers for the comment Mike. I checked your blog, some good, insightful stuff on there, keep up the good work. It does need a major revamp, but I fear it will not happen. Everyone is too interested in money and international football is no longer viewed as the pinnacle. I am only 25 and I am pretty sure that I never heard the phrase ‘international retirement’ until I was about 14. That shows where players’ priorities lie. I think we are in an age in which club always wins over country

    • June 30, 2010 at 12:20 am

      Yeah, definitely putting club before country if you want to prolong your club career. Alan Shearer would be a prime example. I just checked your blog, I like article, mainly because I agree with all of it! I won’t go in to here as I’ve commented on the post on your site

  4. Mike McKenna
    June 29, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Good post this, Nick. A very enjoyable read.

    I’ve been saying for a couple of years that the model of the English game is all wrong. It’s all well and good having “the best league in the world” (nonsense, by the way) but without a progression of young players coming through, the national team will struggle.

    English football needs a major revamp. Limit foreign players, cut the ridiculous wages and put the power back in the hands of clubs, not their players, cut all ticket prices by 50% and encourage the ‘real’ football fan back in…the list is endless.

    However, now is the time for the biggest club-v-country argument we’ve ever had. I only hope that ‘country’ comes out on top, or England will just become another also-ran on the world scene.

    http://mjmckenna.wordpress.com/

  5. June 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Great blog you got going here and a very well written article! I think it was brutal to see the Germany-England game go the way it did. Also, you think you check out my post cuz I really wanna hear your opinion on my thoughts. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/lampard-non-goal-didnt-matter-are-you-kidding-me/

    • June 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

      Cheers Chris. Keep checking back, I post stuff pretty often on here.

      Just checked out your blog, nice work mate! Left a comment too on your story about the non-goal. It would have changed the game but how, we’ll never know. We were just outclassed and didn’t deserve anything more.

  1. June 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

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