Sterile England Take Verve out of Football

The England Management position is perhaps the most toxic and vilified seat in football. This mantle has seen the decline in many a Gaffer’s stock over the years. With hindsight, most have been warranted. With a spotlight brighter than any floodlight and with every scribe coming equipped with the most powerful of magnifying glasses to pore over every nuance – is it really mystifying that the country that started football has failed to find an answer to their failings?

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Most pundits if asked will lazily point to the fact that last season saw less than a third of English players grace the field for their respective clubs. This figure is unarguably low – especially seeing as the Bundesliga had 50% of their natives playing at home and in La Liga, the number sat at 59%. In conjunction with the fact that these two nations also have been the last two winners of the World Cup, you could be forgiven for setting off the alarm which these experts brandish so flagrantly.

It isn’t exactly proven though, that more foreign players diluting the playing field makes English players weaker. In 1993/94, the Premier League was rife with Englishmen yet World Cup ’94 took place without the Three Lions. Also, if former luminaries of the England jersey were posed with the subject, the majority would say that it makes them stronger for the competition and to train with more technically gifted teammates benefits them too.

Scaremongers would then point to English youngsters struggling to break through into the first team thanks in no small part to a glut of Spaniards, Germans, Brazilians and a handful of other nations who take up valuable spots on the roster. It is rarely mentioned that when an English starlet goes on loan to a lower league club, the recipient club benefits from having another soldier in its ranks, the player reaps rewards from having more minutes on the pitch and from the inevitable knocks he will take and the parent club can rest easy knowing they will have a talent improving and will return to them far better than if they were to stagnate in the reserves.

Jack Wilshere. David Beckham. Frank Lampard.  All are players who were endowed the opportunity to hone their skills and improve at another club. They came back with more skills to their armoury and the rest is history.

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A lack of a winter break. Weather conditions at top tournaments. A lack of time to build rapport at international training. A simple dearth of decent players. All have been used as the whip to lash the underachieving national team.  The World Cup in 2010 was perhaps the nadir for the England fan. 2 goals scored in the group stage proved strangely sufficient to progress to the Last16, where Germany duly doled out a 4-1 thumping which was far more comprehensive than the scoreline suggests. The squad that made up the dismal effort comprised of world class players. So why the abject failure?

It comes down to tactics. From youth all the way to fully-fledged stars. As of 2013, England had just under 1200 registered football coaches at Uefa ‘A’ Level. Spain had 12720, with Germany having 5500. A huge disparity and a telling clue into England’s current football culture.

A brief visit to any local park on a Sunday will tell you all you need to know. Parents barking out orders to ” Clear the ball!!” taking precedence to praise – even coaches panicking on the sideline instead of a focus on working with possession. Players aren’t comfortable with prolonged exposure to ownership of the football. The ones who are normally have the unpredictable flair and skill eked out of them by way of a strange combination of peer pressure and guilt. You cannot dribble round players. You can’t do it all on your own. You must be economical with the ball. Wayne Rooney when bursting on the scene was a far more vibrant player than the current England talisman we see today. His goal return is still fantastic but where is the potential world-beating player we saw thump in a 30yard volley on his Man Utd debut? Where is the precocious talent that saw him bend a 25yd shot around and over England’s Number 1 as a 16yr old? Will the same happen to Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain?

I spoke of this attritional coaching approach on social networks and one of the people I speak to on a regular basis kindly gave me some titbits regarding coaching as he was taking his badges at the time. He informed me of another struggle that I wasn’t aware of when it came to obtaining the necessary qualifications to coach at a decent level. Money.

Many steps have to be taken and a number of levels must be reached before you reach ‘Uefa B’ level, but as an example, it is anywhere between £990 and £2450. In Spain the price is 1100 Euros and in Germany it is 430Euros. When you take a step further along the ‘Coaching Pathway’, the gaps get far bigger.

With a deadly mix of sub-par coaching, expensive prices to better the level of coaching and tactics that smother any creative thinking, England could take a leaf out of Germany’s extensive book. Implementing a blanket method from youth all the way up to ‘Die Mannschaft’, the rewards were finally reaped by the nation as they held aloft the World Cup in 2014. The preperation started in 2000 after a terrible Euro2000. England don’t need a new ‘Mission Statement‘ that is a blatant copy of Germany’s successful manifesto. They need to utilise the strengths that are exclusive to England – playing with fierce determination and at a breakneck speed – and make them work more effectively, from the ground up. They need a new foundation and a moment to realise that there isn’t a quick fix. No matter if Hodgson or Guardiola were at the helm, failure will follow until change is given a chance.

With thanks to @marklomasSport and @GoonerDyllan for their input.

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