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Can English football ever adapt?

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Matt Slater | 19:36 UK time, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I heard a funny story about how English football works (muddles through, more like) the other day.

Back in 2003 the FA was getting Fabio Capello-sized stick from all quarters about its disciplinary procedures.

Some clubs were angry about how long it took for punishments to be dished out, others were annoyed when rivals played the system to ensure their stars would be eligible for big games, the international authorities wanted automatic suspensions, the players demanded a right of appeal and the men from the counties viewed any talk of change as another assault on their place at the heart of the national game. Only the lawyers were happy, being paid silly sums for straightforward work.

Slow, easy to circumnavigate, amateurish and bad value for money - sounds like England's defensive display against Germany, doesn't it?

But I don't tell this story for the easy gag, I tell it because it illustrates why changing anything in English football is so hard, frustrating and ultimately underwhelming. Too many competing agendas, too many self-interested voices.

So forgive me if I don't get too excited about the result of the soul-searching that has just commenced. We are past masters at the impressive-looking policy document, po-faced press conference and never-again declaration of intent, it is mastering passes we struggle with.

Howard Wilkinson was on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday. It was a great interview - passionate but informed, dismayed but measured.

He explained how he had written a report for the FA which said English football needed to devote more resources to youth development, spend more time on technical skills, build a national football centre and prepare for a future when 4-4-2 will be obsolete.

gerrard595.jpgGerrard looked uncomfortable on the left of Capello's 4-4-2 at times during the World Cup

Wilkinson wrote that report, the Charter for Quality, in 1997. English football still does not have enough coaches, still places too much importance on results at youth level, still lacks a national football centre and still defaults to 4-4-2 under pressure.

Seven years later, after England's defeat at Euro 2004, the FA held another internal review. Questions were asked about the access an England manager has to his players, the importance of friendly matches and the danger of playing too much club football. No change there, then.

In 2005, following more turmoil at the governing body, we had another review, this time looking at the FA's structure. Lord Burns flagged up the conflicts of interest, a lack of representation for key groups and the excessive influence of the Premier League. Among his remedies were the creation of a "parliament of football" and three independent members on the FA board. We are still waiting.

In 2007, it was time to look at English football's youth development system, again. Rugby league boss Richard Lewis was called in and he suggested a number of tweaks to the academy network born from Wilkinson's charter. The most important of those, genuine FA involvement in the clubs' youth set-ups, was fudged.

A year later England would fail to qualify for Euro 2008 and "root and branch" reforms were the promised response. But what we got was the public humiliation of an over-promoted coach, his replacement by the most expensive manager money could buy and...erm, that's it.

Fabio Capello, a man who the FA had looked at when it seemed Sven-Goran Eriksson was off to Chelsea but ruled out because of his lack of international experience and inability to speak English, was now the answer. The only answer.

That's the English response: big talk about far-reaching reforms and thinking the unthinkable, before bottling it and going for the quick fix. Over in Germany, however, they do things a bit differently...they actually do things.

Having suffered the "humiliation" of losing to Croatia in the quarter-finals of World Cup 1998 and failing to get out of the group stages of Euro 2000 (compounded by a 1-0 defeat to a mediocre England), the bosses at the German FA sat down with their counterparts at the Bundesliga and came up with a plan: a 500m-euro investment in youth.

As a result, Germany has almost 13 times as many qualified coaches as England, more home-grown talent playing in its top league (Europe's most profitable) and a crop of young players who have now beaten England 4-0 in the 2009 European U-21 Final and 4-1 at the 2010 World Cup.

Does anybody think the response to England's latest crisis will be as bold, coherent and effective?

Thanks to a rare moment of common sense and leadership, the FA actually sorted out the disciplinary procedure problem in 2003.

The clubs got quicker/more consistent rulings, the players kept their right to appeal, Fifa/Uefa were placated by the reduced timeframe and the amateurs lost their say on professional cases but got back the blazers that an earlier FA regime had taken away - £25,000 being a small price to pay for keeping the peace.

If only assembling an England squad capable of winning a tournament was so easy. Delivering one of those in time for the 2018 World Cup will cost more like £250m and the clock is ticking.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at


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  • Comment number 1.

    This hits the nail on the head when it comes to England's failings, not conspiracy theories about "unrest in the camp". England has suffered from the rapid and aggressive growth in the Premier league and a serious lack of focus on grass roots football. The desire for this rapid success has led to short term fixes in the form of recruiting technically superior overseas players and managers to fill the gaps left by the under-nurturing of domestic talent. Surely the knock on effect has been less opportunity for English players and managers, a shrinking pool of available talent and ultimately a dearth of candidates to compete at the top level. We also cannot ignore the number of games played in a season and the effect this obviously had on (regularly playing) Premiership players. Ultimately if success at international level is a priority, then development in domestic players has to be the priority.

  • Comment number 2.

    A simply superb blog. Although as an FA coach myself I must say it was drilled into us when we were taking our badges not to put any emphasis onto results, even though you claim English football 'still places too much importance on results at youth level.'

    Another problem is that there aren't enough opportunities for home-grown coaches to make a living, because just as English clubs have experienced a huge influx of foreign talent, that has also happened at coaching level. Most of us are quite happy to coach voluntarily simply out of love for the game, but for those who want to make a career out of it, there just aren't enough incentives.

    Otherwise absolutely spot on. Just out of interest Matt, what would you be solution for shaking up the game?

  • Comment number 3.

    Superb blog. I hope that england put a team into the olympics and take it seriously as well. A group of under-23 year olds with 3 older players would be an ideal makeup of a squad for the next world cup. Arsene wenger echoed wilkonson's report when he said that the arsenal youth setup was not good enough for his side when he arrived. Sine then, investment in british kids schooled in the "arsenal way" will make arsenal and more importantly england stronger in the not too distant future. In the meantime, with england lacking creativity, michel arteta cant be far off a call up. every other county uses residency, with eduardo, deco, alex for japan etc. why cant england? he could have 50 caps by the next world cup!

  • Comment number 4.

    I couldn't agree with you more Matt. We have to accept that our priorities need to change and we may have to accept a few more lean years without success (but what's a few more years on top of the 44) whilst we get our youth development sorted. At every major tournament it is striking to see how comfortable on the ball the so-called developing nations are and yet the moment England receive the ball it's like a hot potato. Our youth development has to place the emphasis on basic ball skills before we start worrying about fitness and tackling etc. I remember my dad once telling me that he attended a meeting at a premiership football stadium and that the meeting room looked out over the pitch where the first team were training. He was in the meeting for two hours and in all that time he didn't see a single football. Says it all really.

  • Comment number 5.

    Spot on with a truthful look at the state of the joke which is the FA because they have not done anything to really catch this decline which it seems was spotted over 14 years ago. I'm sure that the FA have it in hand and are looking to fix the problem asap...Mourinho!

  • Comment number 6.

    Excellent blog, exactly what needs to be said and what I knew would never come from a McNulty blog, or the comments of the MOTD pundits. It's so true and I have been thinking about how Capello's excellent qualifying campaign glossed over the mission he came to fulfill, to help develop england's youth set-up and coaching standards. The FA always gets bored of the long term goal, especially when we have fleeting "success" on the pitch, so how does anyone expect or trust them to stand up to the Premier League to make the necessary actions to safeguard english football? How will the Premier League look when FIFA's 6 home grown players rule comes in, and all the young england players are found out?

    I am very pleased the BBC got in Klinsmann and Seedorf, who really know how to talk about football. Southgate, on "the other channel" has been eloquent too, much more so than the England fan club that is the rest of that pundit team. "Oh yeah, Germany have got nothing, they're average and how many of that team could walk into the England squad?" Give me a break! All of them!

  • Comment number 7.

    excellent blog and a point well made. one criticism though.. you forgot the bit about appointing trevor brooking to sort youth development and then ignoring everything he had to say!

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree completely.
    It really does explain why our so called 'English Superstars' are all talked up at the club level but when they don't have the foreign player support they have access too with their club they look like foolish amateurs. Rooney is a perfect example. Unless he is spoon fed perfect crosses he can't score a goal.
    Theres unfortunately no easy fix short of putting a cap on foreign players/coaches and taking the nasty medicine for a few years until it turns around. Of course that requires all the stuffed shirts at the FA to actually care about domestic football.

  • Comment number 9.

    OK, the author's points may be valid, but where does what the FA does lie in causation to what happens on the football pitch at a FIFA World Cup? Are we seeing a cause and effect, or just a mere correlation? Yes, I'm certain the FA could do more to improve the game, but the same could be said of every national football association.

    Fabio Capello has been a disaster for England at this world cup because of his management style. It should have been recognised in hindsight that England's crop of players weren't going to change, and that they needed a manager to suit them, as the pool of players it turned out was just never big enough to suit Capello. More input from footballers was and is needed on who gets appointed the national team manager. Terry Venables is a good example of a manager ideally suited to England. Not a great manager by any means, and a two-bob person to make things worse, speaking mostly rubbish and writing for that bastion of intellectual football publishing - The Sun. But, he knew what the players limitations were, what there strengths were and he was undoubtedly a motivator. That is what England need. They don't need coaching at this level (I actually agree with Paul Merson on this one). International football management is about finding the appropriate set up for the players, and giving them the belief, energy and freedom to express themselves.

    I'm in no doubt that Capello is a great club man. But he is totally unsuited to being manager of England. His lack of English two and a half years in is staggering. His autocratic style just doesn't work, his dire tactics just haven't worked and his inability to change and adapt is a classic failing. And the worse thing is he's only doing it for the money.

    To be honest I don't know what I'm talking about. And I'm not sure anyone does right now. This must be one of the hardest things to analyse in football, where it all went wrong for the England team. What I do know is that the vast, vast majority of the teams at the World Cup will leave having failed. England are no different, at least we made it this time.

  • Comment number 10.

    History shows that we got our backsides kicked by Hungary in the 50s at a time when we thought our football was the best in the world and we were streets ahead of everyone else. It took us more than a decade to change and adapt to the new style of football, but with success, as we know, in the 66 World Cup. I think this tournament should send similar shock waves around the annals of power (was tempted to drop a letter n there) and see that the game depends needs to change from the bottom up.

  • Comment number 11.

    This blog is spot on. I am a qualified Football Coach, I no longer coach though from choice, the system as full of self interest as the blog highlights are the FA, this along with a shocking coaching syllabus that is still stuck in the 1970's makes me very pessimistic. I have no faith anything will change, we are technically inept and seem to have our collective heads stuck firmly in the sand, we pride power and pace, athletes not technical footballers, I'm not sure we want to change. The premier league is not the best league in the world, just the fastest. We need to admit other countries are way ahead of us and learn from the genuine big guns of the game such as Germany who are always prepared to adapt and evolve while we are stuck in the past obsessed with rigid lines of predictable play and 4-4-2.

  • Comment number 12.

    Spot On. Spain have speant almost two decades focusing on grass roots football, increasing the number of coaches and developing coaching skills throughout the country and look at the strenth and depth of spanish football now. The fact Englands starting XI contains Emile Hesky says it all.

  • Comment number 13.

    30,000 travelling supporters.
    20 million peopple watching on t.v.
    80,000 people turn their backs on the stage at glastonbury.

    we all have questions,we all want to understand why?

    apart fron these blogs who listens to our voices?who answers our questions?where is our forum?

    instead decisions will be taken behind closed doors by men in suits who have never kicked a ball will make decisions supposedly on our behalf ??

    where is the progress ??

    2014 brazil - we can blame the temperature

    2018 england? - 8 years to come up with more excuses.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is spot on and how i've felt for years. I have been watching La Liga as much (if not more) as the Premiership as i enjoy the Football being played and appreciate the standard of Refereeing far more. It's a sign of how England has been falling behind when i would rather sit down and watch Espanyol versus Sevilla than Blackburn versus Sunderland.

    This has translated to the National Team and i have found it very hard to enjoy an England game and was not shocked when Spain beat us a while back. I told friends and colleagues that we were struggling with Sergio Ramos (who usually plays Centre Back for Real Madrid) ripping Ashley Cole apart for fun, but this fell on deaf ears. To be fair to Cole he was one of our best players in this Campaign and didn't do much wrong.

    Football was never a choice at any of the Schools i attended as a youngster, i was forced to play Rugby. If we want to have a great England team in the future then Football needs proper UEFA Qualified Coaches at Schools across our Country and every School should be forced to present a Football Team from each year with a League for each County. This may have changed since i left School as it was a while ago now, but i have driven past one of my old Schools recently and they still have four Rugby Pitches and no Football Pitch in sight...

  • Comment number 15.

    The problem with England is that we all think that the players are better than they really are and the only person that has spoken any sense at this World Cup is Chris Waddle who said that technically the players are simply not good enough. Take a look at the Spanish midfield tonight for instance. Are Gerrard, Lampard et al in the same league as Xavi and Iniesta? No way. The continental players are comfortable on the ball in any given situation, marked or unmarked and play in a way that is simple and effective but simply alien to English players. We cant hold onto the notion that we have to play the "English" way because that does not cut the mustard anymore at International level. To see the way we continually surrendered possession cheaply was an embarassment but not a surprise. Why was anyone surprised at the way we went out? We have no recent track record of success in any major tournament so to say we were favourites was a complete joke. Root and branch therapy is the only way forward for English football but as people have mentioned this is a 10-20 year fix or even longer. We have to make sure that the kids that are growing up are comfortable on the ball, happy to keep the ball and we have to produce some creativity because we have none at all at the moment. Im sorry to say that more of this is to come before it gets any better!!

  • Comment number 16.


    From Germany:

    Congrats, excellent observations.

    Over months, weeks and the past few days I kept cringing under the irrational and arrogant contempt of our side, and that of other nations. too, that voiced their views here on the blogs.
    In one formula: No respect. And I hasten to add: Germany had quite some respect towards England. Okay, I said "some". But at least let me quote what I mailed to a British friend after the match: "I wish I were as happy as I was nervous before." ;-)

    I think we have now entered an era when England fans can look to encounters with Germany in a more relaxed way: It's not about rivalry any more.

    It should, for England, rather be about
    learning and reforming their system.

    Our side was pretty mediocre/rubbish some twelve years ago.
    Questions were asked. Solutions were sought. And found. Among other things we learned from Holland, who continually suffered under our successes but by and large played nicer football most of the time.

    So please note: This is no Teutonic boasting at a time of England's bitterness.
    The bottom line is: We were down. And learned from others.
    Stick to the Bible: "Go thou and do likewise."
    And in a few years' time
    you will find yourselves reanimated.

  • Comment number 17.

    Very good blog.
    In my opinion, one of the main problems with the setup here is that although you are supposed to be 'qualified' to take sessions with primary school children, the current FA Level 1 doesn't provide anyone with adequate skills or knowledge to teach the players even the most basic techniques. To teach the players the required skills the coach needs to either be talented or have taken the Level 2 course, something that requires a lot of time and commitment to complete. Within my club, the age-groups that have a Level 2 coach are progressing much faster than those with a Level 1 coach, and I think this faster progression is what should be happening across the country to give our youngest players a technical base.
    The current Level 1 is only a test as to whether a person is capable of 'taking' a group of players for a morning, a token gesture in an attempt to get all coaches qualified. The FA only expect coaches to have the Level 1, so the majority of children across the country are not receiving proper coaching. This means that as the players get older, they don't have a good technique, and so they begin to rely increasingly on their physicality to win football matches. This is also why almost every game of senior football seems to consist of teams taking turns to lump the ball forward, because the players are unable to pass and receive the ball under pressure.
    Therefore, in my opinion, the FA need either to improve the quality of the Level 1 award, which is a complete waste of time for all concerned, or incentivise taking higher coaching qualifications (which could start by reducing the exorbitant prices).

  • Comment number 18.

    I also think that 4-4-2 isn't the problem. It just doesn't work with our players. Man United, for me the best exponent of the British footballing style, have used a 4-4-2 for years. The system relies on having excellent wingers and centre backs who are looking to play them in. The problem with England is that they had neither yet stilled played the system! This surely has to be Capello's fault.

    Today in the Premier League I think we forget that the continental influence is vast. Starting with Wenger, Liverpool, Chelsea and numerous other clubs have all had foreign managers bringing Italian, Spanish and French ideas into their teams, hardly anyone plays with a 4-4-2 these days.

    I also don't believe the touted myth that the Premier League is a 100mph lighting quick league that doesn't do technique. I mean it just isn't true. How often do you watch a Premier League game and notice how fast it is? Over the years the top Premier League teams' style has worked to great success in the Champions League, and the England team is littered with Premier League winners, Champions League winners and finalists. I think it is true that the England team don't have the problem of lacking talent. What they lack is cohesion, belief and direction.

  • Comment number 19.

    Couldnt agree more. Im scottish and we are exactly the same. Play in straight lines and our technique is awful! I can remember being coached when I was younger (im only 26) and the coach constantly stressed getting the ball into the box all the time. Thats all that seemed to matter.

    We are also lacking real craft. Lampard and gerrard are arriving in the box goalscoring midfielders. You central midfield was barry and lampard. Spain have iniesta and xavi, germany Sweinsteiger and khaderia. Says it all really.

  • Comment number 20.

    The FA is really a joke and run by a group of clowns with banker salaries.

  • Comment number 21.

    Great blog. Enjoyed your obvious research and point of view. It seems to be the English way to wait until it is really broken before trying to fix it and then panic at the scope of the task and find a quick fix, just to break it even more. I hope the FA learn from Germany, consult with them, and clear the air and admit it will take some time to fix this. I think we will all accept that if we know there will be benefits in the future. Dark times.

  • Comment number 22.

    wow this is the first blog I ve ever responded too,you couldnt have been closer to the truth the best we have done is 90 italy where are the players of that caliber now no gaza no waddle robson no leadership no quality no idea thats the differance between what could have been and what is now soo sad to be English football fan

  • Comment number 23.

    post 22 do you really think the Italia 90 players were that good? For me England jammed their way to the semis playing some frankly average football, struggling though the group and against Belgium and Cameroon.

  • Comment number 24.

    Ask a fan of any of the clubs who have been pathetically let down by the FA over the last 20 years or more - they will tell you the reality of how the game is run in this country. Nothing will be done, nothing will change - the Premier League runs football, the broadcasters control the Premier League and the media, with their slavish setting up and knocking down of players and managers, makes the whole merry-go-round continue to exist.

    So let me ask you this Matt... when are you and and the entire football media going to stand up and MAKE A DIFFERENCE? One blog isn't going to do that, we all know that, but why can't you journalists scraping around for a story and the next bit of sensationalism do something to actually help? Why aren't you investigating, reporting and exposing the REAL problems in the game instead of who's shagging whose wife? Why aren't you mounting campaigns off the back of this pathetic World Cup campaign to have REAL changes made at the FA and throughout the game?

    Do you expect us, the fans, to do it? YOU know the protagonists, YOU get to talk to them... you ALL have a massive influence on how the game is reported and develops in this country, so when are YOU and your colleagues going to DO something to help?

  • Comment number 25.

    Gavelaa some good points there mate but technically there is no way that the Premier League can even compete with La Liga. The premier league is a spectacle that people enjoy watching but thats all. The money is alsodestroying the game instead of making it better and creating a more competitive England side

  • Comment number 26.

    Evening all, just logged on after watching Spain play keepball against Portugal for last 30 mins of the game. Effortless, hypnotic, clever and, at its best, really quite beautiful. Why can't we do that!?!

    There are some great comments on here already but I'm too tired to reply now. I promise I will be back here tomorrow to answer as many as I can. I particularly want to answer The Amj (2) and Ploughdon (24). Fair questions/challenges, both of them, and I will give you my best shot tomorrow.

    Night night, Matt

  • Comment number 27.

    Matt, you really hit the nail on the head, in both the problems and the worry that fans have. We all know what needs to be fixed but I think everyone is worried things won't change. I know for a fact that if I ever have a son I'll be teaching him how to control a football!

  • Comment number 28.

    What an excellent blog: as I sat watching the latest English team to be exposed at a major tournament I could already hear the FA over reaction getting started. Its interesting that I have completed two FA qualifications, nomally the same one but in two different guises, that emphasied the need for skills development. However, during both of these I have been demoralised by the actual want of the coaches and then the players to want to be coached - when do we get a game? being the usual refrain from players (and parents!). The over emphasis on the result ahead of performance has been a major obstacle in all my coaching attempts. This is accompanied by over aggressive players and parents, who put the win at the top of priorities and never see the long term objective, and sure enough as soon as we come against superior players we come unstuck - usually at this point it was my fault! I must point out that as a coach I probably made a very good ball boy but it does demonstrate the difficulties faced by whoever the FA send in to 'sort this lot out'.

  • Comment number 29.


    Agreed that la liga is superior, and thats because your average spaniard is a better footballer than your average brit. They are coached better, have far superior technique and a few of them seem to have the ability to unlock a defence with a pass or feint. How many british players can do that?

    Been saying it since I was 8. Used to watch Man u get destroyed in the dark days of the early 90's champions league forays when they had to rely on british players. Same with rangers at a time when we had one of the most expensive squads in the world with the likes of gazza. We then went out and got taken to bits by teams like Grasshopper Zurich and Steau bucharest!

    Again, its all about technique. if you have it you can pick ther way you want to play. Otherwise you gotta play the percentages

  • Comment number 30.

    Matt, what a fantastic blog, but you ask a question that can be answered simply. No. It can't.

    Family members of mine were in the lucky situation of being able to be involved with our local football team some 20 years ago through being local dignitaries, and even then you had the ridiculous situation where the women were not allowed to enter the boardroom, and those running the team were more interested, once that team had gowt to the Play Off Final at Old Wembley, in the catering than the game itself. Since then we still only have one notable woman in football in Karen Brady, and even her solo rise in the management and administration of the game was a cynical stunt by adult material barons, even though she proved herself to be much more than that.

    Of course a decade later, they were deciding where to put the new National Stadium and decided to put it in one of the most difficult inaccessible places in the country for the majority of the population instead of placing it in Birmingham at the centre of the national transport network, or Manchester at a much higher cost. The Government, and our current acting lear of the opposition decided to bend to the FA's will and gave the Wembley team an extra month to put the bid in place, where as the other bidding cities had managed to do things on time and schedule.

    Of course that ridiculous decision left the National Football Centre in a mess and it's only now that the centre is finally starting to come together.

    The game has been rotten from the core for years and its making it to the surface finally. It started years ago before any of this mess now, and no one wants to change.

  • Comment number 31.

    Basic technique should be a given for England players but to me they were lacking in that and the FA should hang their heads in shame. Too many of our "superstars" couldnt pass it 10 yards, control a ball at different heights and KEEP POSSESSION. Why are these fundamental skills lacking? I defy anyone on this blog or any other one for that matter to say otherwise coz if they do they were watching a different set of players to the ones I was watching. By the way Matt totally agree with you about Spain, pass move pass move nothing hurried everything simple to feet,the way footbal should be played and an absolute pleasure to watch

  • Comment number 32.

    Citizen0 wrote: "Rooney is a perfect example. Unless he is spoon fed perfect crosses he can't score a goal.

    Eh, are you mad? Rooney doesn't need spoon feeding perfect crosses! I've seen seemingly aimless balls played in to the area and rooney has made something happen from it.

    A perfect cross is the one where another player makes something of it... the striker has to be in the right place and still has to convert it into a goal.

    Can't believe how people are reacting. Ronaldo has had a poor world cup. Torres has been poor. Messi has been ok. Rooney hasn't performed, but who did for England; something was wrong. They can perform much better. And Rooney is quality... tired? dunno? Still struggling with injuries... maybe. Match fit - no. He needs regular training and games to get in to a rhythm. But you can never usually question his willingness, energy, determination, dedication and passion, or his ability with and without the ball. Oh... maybe you can if you're a fickle England supporter.

    As for the foreign players making him look good... who are these players? Valencia... regarded as a poor mans Ronaldo and he didn't help Wigans strikers to score 30+ goals. Or maybe it's Berbatov or Nani that everyone takes the mick out of? Or maybe it's old Giggs (welsh) and Scholes (English) who everyone says is past it. Or maybe it's carrick (english anyway) who can't even get a game for England!

    Rooney is fantastic, but had a poor tournament... and friendlies... against average teams. He played 4 games, never looked like losing his temper or hunting someone down for the ball... and he didn't even get 1 booking - that tells you something was wrong!

  • Comment number 33.

    At almost every competition England "fail". And every time they "fail", a bagfull of excuses are rolled out.

    It's the fault of this manager.

    Or that player.

    It's the fault of the Premier League.

    Or the diet.

    If it hadnt been for that free-kick or this disallowed goal.

    And so on.

    But as England have failed at ALMOST EVERY COMPETITION, the real fault must lie elsewhere.

    There MUST be something much more deep-rooted, much more permanent, which is wrong at the heart of the English National game.

    And maybe it goes beyond football?

    After all, when did England last win the mens tennis at Wimbledon?

    50 or 60 years ago?

  • Comment number 34.

    This is the most accurate blog I have seen regarding England.

    One of my friends summed it up, when he said that for England to be successful, they must play at a fast and furious pace (of the Premiership), as this is the only way to cover up the glaring technical deficiencies of the players.

    If you watch the game, the Germans were prepared to let Upson and Terry have the ball, and take it forward, as these players cannot pass in like a Lucio or Pique, and so resort to diagonal crossfield balls, or long balls to the striker. Without Ferdinand (or King), England's centre backs cannot play their way out from the back, thus if you close down the full backs, long ball is the only option.

    Barry or Lampard coming short to collect the ball off the centre backs is not much of a better option, as while both love the 40 yard "hollywood" pass, neither have the confidence/ability on the ball of a Xavi, Xavi Alonso, Veron et al. Prehaps this might be the reason why Capello attempted to get Scholes to come back?

    Finally, I would say that England resemble Man Utd - can play 4-4-2 against the lesser teams, as they are likely to stand off you anyway, resulting in more possession and more chances. When it comes to the biggest sides in the Prem or Europe, the extra man in midfield with an eye for a pass is required to both maintain possession and do something with it. It is this latter point that England seem incapable of doing, both through personel/lack of ability.

    p.s. With all this talk of England's future, has everyone forgotten about Michael Johnson (City player), who before all the money came, looked like a very able young footballer that I as a Utd fan was envious of. Nobody seems to remember him when talking about Englands future!

  • Comment number 35.

    In terms of youth development, England HAVE TO finally produce a goalkeeper who is at least "international class" ("world class" is too much to ask for right now). With goalkeeping mistakes a la David Seaman 2002, Paul Robinson/Sott Carson 2006/2007 and Robert Green 2010 England will be struggling in the future.

    Just look at all the big football nations. Most of them have produced world-class goalies in recent years: Germany-Oliver Kahn, Spain-Iker Cassilas, Italy-Gigi Buffon...and countries like Argentina and Brazil have had goalkeepers who were not world class but at least were faultless and reliable throughout the big tournaments.

  • Comment number 36.

    I wanted to take up Coaching years ago while i was still playing as a youngster, so i started helping a local Under 10 side. I became disallusioned after a few months and gave up by the end of the Season.

    I tried and tried to push for the youngsters to finish each Session with a quick 10 minute game, but with 2 touch and 1 touch Football only. Everytime i blew my whistle once it would be one touch only and twice you can guess the rest. I actually got them to do this a couple of times and it worked but then the Manager decided it was too hard for them and putting them under too much pressure so stopped me from doing it.

    Everytime i read an excuse off a Premier Manager or former Player now after our World Cup humiliation about Players being under presuure i remember that Manager telling me off for putting too much pressure on those 10 year olds. If you can't take that pressure and handle it then your not going to be good enough was what i told the chaps running the local team then and 15 years later i can hear it again now at International level as an excuse.

    If a Player can't handle the pressure at a World Cup he shouldn't be wearing that Shirt and should give it to someone else. If we aren't filtering out Players who can't handle it at 10 years old what can Mr Cappello do at 25 years old when a Player should be peaking and at his prime? This is a Root problem for the FA to fix and not Mr Cappello's fault and this Blog is spot on. Well done sir.

  • Comment number 37.

    English football must be think into two directions from now on. One, the national team must be coached by an english coach. I don´t understand why Fergusson is not the english coach of the national team. If you bring on international coaches they´ll have difficulties in getting their messages across english footballers as they don´t understand the english culture. I saw Capelo in this World Cup and he made myself scared in my sofa at home, worse was with the players on the pitch. And the second direction, what England need is to develop young players with more skills. When I watch an english player nowadays and I see them having difficulties in dominating the ball, I find it really mad. This is the main reason why people are saying english players are overpaid and over-rated. Another aspect to take into account is that children like to play football as a way to entertain and should not be warned by any coach as they are developing naturally their skills to play football. When I lived in England I watched a coach training children in a park in Brighton and the children looked as if they were in an Arm basis training, marching. The last english who played football well and respecting the english culture was Paul Gasgoine. I am sorry but this moment of criticism is important and necessary because from now you can improve football there.
    São Paulo-SP

  • Comment number 38.

    Great point there number 24. You wrote everything I was thinking about in such a passionate and calm manner.

    The main problem we have in this country is that the premier league is packaged in such a way that most ordinary people think that we have world class players. Roy Keane's interview today was the best I have heard since England went out. He gave a fantastic and damning verdict on this whole England team.

    I always used to laugh when I heard Andy Gray saying John Terry is world class defender. Having followed Lucio's career from Bayer leverkusen, Munich to Internazionale I was always amazed the skill this 'Defender' was showing on the ball.JT is paid crazy money and he can't do the simple things you see lucio and Juan do for brazil or Pique and Puyol for Spain.

    So something crazy must be happening in the EPL if an average defender with a bloated reputation is talked about as being world class. But come August everything will be back to the same, JT will be the best defender we have ever had, Stevie G will be world class and James 'can not beat a player' Milner will go to Man City for more money than Real paid for Angel Di Maria.

    It good to have hope but there is lots of money at stake here and too many people have a lot to loose if we start thinking about what's good for the game and England.

    I for one will not expect to see anything done about this problem anytime soon. So lets all just hope that our grandchildren might one day see an England team which is able to pass to each other without having to hoof it.

  • Comment number 39.

    Absolutely brilliant blog.

    If there is one thing I take heart from, its the comments from almost everyone on here that agrees with these sentiments.

    I must admit, I had concluded that fans really only care about the Premiership and the success for their team, not so much for England (which disappoints me as I don't follow a prem club). From the reaction to the England debacle, I don't think thats right. SO, the big question can we make this happen?? Who do we have to lobby / put pressure on to get this done???

    Surely if there is hope it must reside with the great weight of supporters who, ultimately, are the reason football in this country is organised like it is.

  • Comment number 40.

    Superb blog. We constantly hear how the talent in the England team will overwhelm inferior opposition with ease but ignore the fact that the opposition retain possession, have advanced technical ability and a fluid system. Romania 1998, Portugal, Romania 2000, Sweden 2002, Portugal 2004, Sweden, Portugal 2006, USA, Algeria 2010.

    Every tournament team has failed, not due to lack of passion as I don't buy into that at all, but because they are not taught that possession and fluidity of system is paramount.

    It is no coincidence that the worst game of every tournament England play, involves England. Being beaten by Germany was like a sick pet being put out of its misery. Painful, but better in the long run.

    Let the football commence!

  • Comment number 41.

    @33 "After all, when did England last win the mens tennis at Wimbledon?"

    Incomparable. Its a sport of individuals, with four tournaments a year that are at their equivalent of the World Cup but at least the LTA seem to be actively doing something at the grass roots level. Murray himself is at least also competing at that level consistently and Tim Henman's achievements before him. At least these sports are producing players we can see the youngsters of this country looking up to. These sports also rely on performances for pay far more than our most elite football players. How often do you see players from relegated teams from The Premier League leave to go back to Premier League clubs almost absolving themselves of the blame of a poor year?

    Compare it to our team sports, cycling, cricket, rugby and rowing where we have consistently performed at a higher level including our much maligned Cricket team winning the Ashes several times recently and won the 20/20 world cup this year. We're going through a poor time in Rugby right now, but its only 7 years since we won the World Cuo in that, not 44.

  • Comment number 42.

    Get more coaches, you'll just get more Charles Hughes long-ball merchants, trust me.

    If you want more, then let any applicants have to explain how they are going to get 6 or 7 year olds trying to emulate Messi/Kaka/Ronaldo/Suarez etc every time they play football FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES and not try & become the next clogging defender for England. And if they can't explain in works like the next sentence, then DON'T give them a coaching badge.

    Kids need to learn to love a football again. In my youth(I was born 1952), you HAD tove the tennis ball or whatever plastic round thing your parents could afford from Woolworths, because if you didn't care for it as if it was the crown jewels, you wouldn't get another one for a few months.

  • Comment number 43.

    One big problem with putting quotas on foreign players and coaches, is that England does not exist as country. The last time it was a politically entity was before 1284 or maybe 1066 as being ruled by a bunch French speaking Normans hardly counts. Since we have 4 football associations administrating one country how can someone put quotas on people who have allegiance to the other 3 football associations? I would really like to see the FA preventing Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish players playing in the English Leagues, this would not even go as far as the House of Lords! Furthermore, a number of very big Welsh clubs play in the English leagues. So why don't we accept the fact that England does not exist and follow the example of the English and Welsh Cricket board. Yes English and Welsh, there is no English cricket team. So until something is done about this fact quotas for "non-English" is completely impossible to enforce and against her Britannic Majesty's laws.

  • Comment number 44.

    You can be forgiven being from Brazil but Sir Alex Ferguson is Scottish, so wouldn't be an English coach, merely British.

  • Comment number 45.

    Thank you by correcting me peejkerton.

    But the last english coach I´ve seen was the one in 1998, then?
    And he was Ok in my opinion. England had a very competitive team by that time, although I know you expect a more competitive team. I also got fed up with the english defeat against Germany because english players are over-rated. And, Beckham is average!!!! Sorry!!!
    I miss Paul Gasgoine and Jorge Best!!!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Total Agreement with the sentiment of this blog.

    Having been a qualified coach attached to a junior football club for 10 years until this last year I believe that part of the problem lies at grass roots where we are teaching kids to play "mini soccer" from the age of 6 upwards with the emphasis on winning games with parents "screaming" from the touchlines to get "Jimmy" to "smash it up front".

    We are not letting the kids learn 1 to 1 with a ball for the formative years, before moving on to complicated things like passing and defending, which as can be seen we have not mastered at a senior level.

    Forget spending millions on sacking a manager only to have the same issues in 4 years time. instead invest that money straight away in the centre of excellence at Burton along with the cream of youth being placed in regional academies away from the greed of the profit making "big clubs"

    Rant over now no doubt that all the views on this blog will not count when the decisions are made by the FA who will go along with what the premier league "foreign legion" want anyway

  • Comment number 47.

    Our countrys problem lies in the old-school brigade still running football - theyre too proud and arrogant that theyve been getting it wrong for 50 years! Why cant we have players like our foreign counterparts who look comfortable on the ball, to manipulate it and do things with it say like the Dutch do? Are they a superior race to us? Do they have bigger resources? Do they have a bigger country than ours? No, no, and no.

    English football needs to accept that what is currently going on is wrong, and that they need to start again properly from grassroots football, to improve technical skills, and promote fun in playing the game! Sadly, its not happened yet and I dont see it changing anytime soon. Yes, our Under 17s won the European Championships but lets see how far they get. We wont be getting near the QFs or SFs of a major championship for another 10-20 years unless the FA swallow their pride and do what the Spaniards and the Germans have done.

    God help us...

  • Comment number 48.

    Matt, Beautiful spot on blog..I believe football fans should hold a protest outside the FA and demand some of the top money grubbers to quit.

    I also think limit of overseas imports will help develop and breed the national team, but also the top four teams in the league to have more English players.

    Also this in turn to limit the number of foreign player that will play in European games to 3 in the squad

    Start to get the Burton project back on which Sir Trevor Brooking has been trying to do for a long time now as has been held back by the FA link below as proof..I have posted this link a few times now but will keep doing so until media pressure can convince the FA things will finally change.

    Sorry about the rant but after hearing Chris Waddle on BBC Radio Five live, I cannot help feel as P****d O**. (excuse my french )

    Thank You

  • Comment number 49.

    Good post. I've been calling for change for ages, and the German model is perfect. More reliant on "home" grown players and youth academies, and the national team is the top priority. A massive difference to football in Britain.

    (Is it too much to ask for a similar ticketing price structure to Germany (a tenner) safe terraces and being able to have a beer while we watch the ground?)

    Since England's defeat I've posted a couple of blogs myself...

  • Comment number 50.

    Dears, the best players in Brazil come from chanty towns, you know why????????
    answer: They play football as an entertainment!
    I learned a lot when I played with friends in chanty towns here in the countryside of São Paulo-SP.
    Of course, as they get older they and someone oversee someone has a good future in football they have to play it more seriously in a club and develop good fit.
    São Paulo-SP

  • Comment number 51.

    I agree whole hearted with this blog, but is some of the trouble at national level that our premier league is so well paid,that less of our players try their luck abroad and so are not learning from other leagues?
    Have we not done better in the past when Becks was in Italy or Hargreaves in Germany or even Gazza in Italy? so few of our players ever ply their trade abroard. They only ever learn to play the English way, never adapting to the more skillfull ways of other nations leagues and so when faced with it in the world cups are always left behind a bit

  • Comment number 52.

    I agree with #36, we need to put pressure on to improve technical skills. Results do count when you are talking about the elite of any batch of youngsters. The rest can play for fun but the best should play to win.

    Sad that there are only 37 responses to this worthwhile blog, the others debating Capello got 500!! Does that not say it all about football in general. So few interested in real solutions.

    GAVELAA - Terry Venables and Paul Merson, I mean really, a little more intelligence is needed, surely.

  • Comment number 53.

    "weezer316 wrote:
    Couldnt agree more. Im scottish and we are exactly the same. Play in straight lines and our technique is awful!"

    I'm glad to see some people see that England's and Scotland's failings are very similar. We simply have not moved on from old skool football.

    We need a complete review of training, coaching and culture in England, followed by a strategy and implementation. If Scotland wants to do the same I would be very happy for them. Scotland should aim to be like Croatia, a small but sucessful team.

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    A quite excellent piece of writing. Your description of Howard Wilkinson's interview could easily be applied to this blog "Passionate but informed, dismayed but measured"

    We can laugh as much as we like at the French (and i couldn't stop for several days) however you can guarantee that there will be severe and far reaching changes within the French game to ensure that the fiasco that occured in South Africa doesn't happen again. You get the feeling that the failure of the national team in other European countries is taken seriously by government. They look upon it as a sleight to the nations standing. That is certainly the case with the French and the Germans, and as a consequence something is done which actually makes a difference. Thats not the case in England. Politicians here don't seem to mind that our national team has gradually got worse since the premierships inception; until it is now little short of a laughing stock. How is it that the country which has the richest league in the world by some margin doesn't have a national academy and has no cohesive structure for developing its own coaches? In the vast majority of countries this state of affairs simply wouldn't be tolerated.

    The FA will never change unless serious pressure is applied. Why should they? The media does have its part to play, but things will only change if English politicians become as animated as Matt Slater and the contributors to this blog and demand that things happen.

  • Comment number 56.

    Some food for thought. Last year, UEFA stated that Leeds United had one of the best academy systems in Europe, and recently, someone said the facilities at the club were "better than Barcelona"!! It must be true to some extent as Ken Bates is regularly taking 'bigger' clubs to court for poaching our youngsters!! But it poses the question - if Leeds, (a relatively poor but stable club these days), can invest so heavily in youth, why can't the moneybags Premier League clubs?
    I guess the obvious answer is that they all want instant success, but this to the detriment of the future of ALL of our national teams, not just England.
    With regard to the World Cup - I'm afraid the sad fact is that English players have been 'found out'. Week in, week out they play in teams alongside gifted foreign players, and are made to look better than they actually are!! When they are taken out of that comfortable environment, they are exposed as average at best.
    I'm not usually a pessimist, but I'm pretty sure that no UK national side will ever win the European Championship or World Cup again unless our football system is rebuilt from the ground up. My God, even Japan are more gifted than us!!!!

  • Comment number 57.

    You can actually support a campaign that might have helped England (albeit not changed the result perhaps!). has a campaign for signatures to introduce Goal Line technology. Takes only a minute to sign.

  • Comment number 58.

    "Marcos wrote:

    Jorge Best!!!!"

    Who was Northern Irish.

    You Carioca, sorry Paulista

  • Comment number 59.

    Back in the 1980s a solution to the lack of world class players was seen as the FA School of Excellence at Lilleshall.

    It was closed in 1999 by Howard Wilkinson just as it started to produce good players. Graduates included Andy Cole, Michael Owen, Wes Brown, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell, Trevor Sinclair, Francis Jeffers, Nick Barmby, Scott Parker, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe. Lilleshall only had the players from 14-16. Wilko's big idea was to let the clubs take responsibility for coaching through the academy system. This doesn't seem to have worked.

  • Comment number 60.

    easily one of the best blogs ive seen.

    the worst thing about failure to properly implement Wilkinson's Charter for Quality is that others have used (Woodwards world cup winning side in the rugby, and the German FA) yet, here we are 12 years on, same old story.

    #24 raised the point. You blog about it (superbly i might add) but where are the journalists gunning for the men at the top who are to blame? Too many of them are chasing sensationalist stories. Clearly this angers you just as much as it does us, its time to turn the heat up on the money men in the FA

  • Comment number 61.

    I can't stand hearing how the premier league is the most exciting in the world. I do not get remotely excited by it. Most teams have little expectation of winning anything and we all make a fuss over who finishes fourth. I would rather sacrifice some of the supposed 'quality' of the premier league for more homegrown players to be given a chance. There are a lot of players coming in to the premier league who i am not convinced do anything any better than British equivalents. You can't say the talent isn't there. There are loads ok kids playing football week in and week out. There is no willingness to develop talent and bring it on. Lets see some vision for once.

  • Comment number 62.

    The irony of English football is that it is awash with money, but does this filter down to where it is needed?

    I read recently that Shaun Wright-Philips is probably on his way out of Eastlands because even Moneybags Man City are not prepared to pay him 100k a week - that, for me, sums up what is wrong with the game in England - a decidely average player thinking he is worth 5m a year.

  • Comment number 63.

    How about this for a starting position to put things right. In the season 2011/12 EVERY team in the Premier League must include 2 English players in their starting 11. The next year 3. The next year 4, The next year 5, then the next year 6. Watch the premier league managers start to develope English players then , when their results , and their jobs depend on it.This would still allow the richer clubs to be able to afford to buy the best available players English and foreign, but some of them would have to be English.Would such a simple solution be accepted by the Premier League, never in a hundred years , because they dont care how successful or otherwise the England team is.

  • Comment number 64.

    No, I am Paulista endeed!!!! rsss...
    But I reafirm, Paul Gaisgoine is the best I´ve ever seen in England.
    Dears, enjoy Brazil on Friday, Ok?
    Football you play with joy on your face.
    We left Ronaldinho Gaucho, Adriano, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rogerio Ceni out of the national team!!! You could get a second national team!!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    I think we may be overreacting here. The pundits savaged England after the Germany result but the real opportunity missed was in not qualifying in 1st place in the group stage. That would have given them a chance to plot a path to a semi final by playing Ghana and Uruguay. and then to no embarrassment in being knocked out by Brazil in the Semi. It would have been similar to Italia 90 and we would all be singing their praises by then. Instead they failed to seize the opportunity and got well beaten by very good young German side. Beckenbauer got slated for saying that England were careless in not finishing 1st in their group. Our media missed his point He knew that England had missed a trick.
    .let's remember that the French and Italians were awful too. And their approach was not any different to that used in earlier tournaments when they won the whole thing.
    let's face it, unless you are Brazil,you need luck and a kind draw to progress and confidence breeds more confidence and momentum. Injuries to key players can make a huge difference. For example A fully fit Owen Hargreaves may have helped knit together a flawed midfield. England never got out of 2nd gear. And then got bumped out by a top team at a much earlier stage than they should have faced them at.

  • Comment number 66.

    This is excellent and accurate. In 1944 I watched West Ham schoolboys beat the Rest of England. West Ham was traditionally a wonderful nursery of football. I wonder how the London Olympics have effected the Hackney Marshes football pitches where football scouts could watch hundreds of matches every weekend.
    Now I live in Germany alongside a well known club and stadium which, before the days of big money, competed with the likes of Schalke, Dortmund and had 22000 spectators for a cup match with Bayern. We have teams at every age level from mini-kickers to veterans and all have their own coaches and training schedule. Our artificial turf training pitch caters for 27 teams. England must organise for youth development and the Premier League should be physically and financially involved.
    PS. Our under 19s have just won promotion to the Bundesleague so this year our stadium will be seeing Schalke and Dortmund again.

  • Comment number 67.

    ONe idea, the board with regulate the english premier league should oblige teams to subscribe minimum two english youth players in their teams to take part in the competition. They would have to invest in young players though.
    RObinho was 16 when he showed up his skills in Santos and they were brazillian champions in 2002!!!
    São Paulo-SP

  • Comment number 68.

    This might not be entirely fair but let's remember Howard Wilkinson's record as England manager: two matches, one 0-2 loss to France, one draw away to Finland. The point is we should be wary of pundits who seem to have the answers to England's malaise because there is a world of difference between theory and practice.

    We constantly heard TV commentators talk about the quality of the England players and the supremacy of Premier League clubs. About how England "should" beat teams like Algeria, the US and Slovenia "comfortably" because we are ranked higher than them. Time and again, though, we see England's 11 players having rings run around them by supposedly less accomplished teams.

    No matter what root and branch reforms and brave new world you effect, it will always come down to a team of 11 who stand or fall on how they perform over 90 minutes.

    Maybe the answer IS better skills training. But for me this England team looks a lot more comfortable on the ball that past ones (where the main role of centre halfs was just to boot the ball into touch), and until the tide of opinion turned against Capello everybody was saying how he had got England playing possession football.

    England actually created a lot of chances, even against Algeria, but could not put them away. Is it Capello's fault that the paucity of England qualified strikers is so great that Heskey, famously a striker who doesn't score, was his first choice for the first two matches? Add to that Rooney's goal drought and where was he going to turn?

    This obsession with 4-4-2 is frankly rubbish. Wasn't Eriksson widely castigated for trying out different systems? People then said that was the way international teams played and England players also felt more comfortable with it. Now the received opinion is exactly the opposite.

    Having said all that, I do feel the FA should finally get to grips with the national team's serial underachievement. The Premier League has been allowed to become a bloated monster that only has the interests of foreign asset stripper shareholders at heart and couldn't care less if the national team flounders.

    Cricket and rugby sorted the national team out because they created a structure where it's not the clubs and counties calling the shots all the time. By no means everything is rosy in either game, but England won the 2003 RWC and were runners up in 2007 and when was the last time England were the no.1 football team? Probably in 1899.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ #64

    Sorry Marcos, are you referring to the Paul Gaisgoine that broke his leg charging in on a Forest defender in the 1990 FA Cup or the Paul Gaisgoine that broke his arm trying to elbow George Boateng while playing for Middlesbro? He had his magic moments (like against Scotland in Euro '96... sorry Scots fans but he made me say it) but i will always remember him as a daft Geordie who never quite hit the big time like he should have. David Platt was the better of the Midfielders in the 90's and got us a lot of Goals which have become long forgotten it seems.

  • Comment number 70.

  • Comment number 71.

    Comment 14.
    I sympathise and completely agree with you point of view. We need to focus more on football in schools. I was forced to play rugby too when I was clearly slight build and in no way suitable for rugby. No idea why my parents made me go to a rugby school. We say we are a passionate football country but we are nowhere near Brazil where everybody, and I mean everybody, supports a team and gets involved at some point in their life. Until we get up off our backsides we will not change.

  • Comment number 72.

    This is a really astute and intelligent article. I would only add that there are compounding external factors as to why this situation is so i.e. un-intelligent fans and an equally poor media, where the sheer but collective stupdidity of the comments would see instant ridicule in other fields. This narrative of sad delusion starts with irrationally stating our players are world class in the premier league, but not for England. It asks why is this so, but clueless to the irony of the question. It believes we are contenders, depsite having beaten only one leading nation in the world cup since 1966 and being the poorer side in every one of those games. (I would truly like to see just how many times Ashley Cole (herladed attacking left back) has created an England goal in his 75 odd caps, for instance.) It blames a lack of passion and the coach. Until these idiots recognise new attributes - footballing intelligence, ball control, positioning et al - over blood, sweat and tears - or are put to pasture - we will forever be a nation celebrating, thus producing, players that do the latter but not the former.

  • Comment number 73.

    The aim of all brazillians in this woprld cup is to beat Argentina, nothing else!!!!!!!!!!

    I meant Paul Gascoigne - “Gazza“.

    Brilliant on the pitch, brave, strong race, genius inside the pitch. Took england on his shoulders alongside with Platt and Gary Lineker. This was a real team!!!

    São Paulo-SP

  • Comment number 74.

    Some good comments here and a tonic to the so-called pundits on the TV.

    That the game is in a great malaise because of the type of coaching, the FA, too much money at the top and all the rest and many of the comments made here are all true to some degree.
    But they were all true on Saturday before the Germany V England game so why did all the pundits pick England to win?
    Are Lawro, Hansen, Lineker, Shearer, Motson good pundits are not? None of them picked Germany to win.
    So why listen to them now?

  • Comment number 75.

    Because they love England football and their work depend on the sucess of england national team!

  • Comment number 76.

    Comment 38. Well said about James 'can't beat a player' Milner. I remember when I saw the line up for the slovenia game with him in it I bemoaned the fact the Joe cole wasn't starting, as he is the only player with a good touch, and all my friends started saying all I cared about was useless fancy skills and that Milner was world class (yes, they actually said this). Unfortunately for me he had a good game and put in the cross that lead to Defoe's goal so I got completely rinsed by my friends, who supposedly know loads about football, for previously ridiculing him. If he is the type of player we can look forward to coming through our ranks then I honestly don't feel like watching another England game ever again, even if we are winning. WORLD CLASS - Give me a break!!!

  • Comment number 77.


    A mediocre pool of players once again failed to live up to expectations.

    Two of the problems are lack of coaching and resultant lack of technical skill. The others are media hype and resultant delusion. The latter point undoubtedly affects the England players. If England had faced Spain or Brazil I'm willing to bet that the usual tripe would have been uttered by the media pundits - few if any of these players would get in the England first team. This equates to: I know little about these players so they can't be as good as the ones that regularly appear in Hello! Anyone doubting this logic needs to re-examine the statements about the German team before kick-off on Sunday (or dig out the tapes from previous tournaments).

    The media in England needs to do as much soul searching as the F.A. I suspect that the F.A. knows it has a problem. I'm utterly confident that the English media will behave in the same way next time round (44 years of history backs this up).

  • Comment number 78.

    A few points: Just want to know what people think about them.

    It sounds simplistic, but kick and rush football in Britain can be in part explained by the weather that persists during the football season for kids. During this time it is generally cold, wet, dark, windy (the windiest country in western europe). Often kids are forced to run, and compete in games as a means to keep warm! In the summer, when a slower more measured football is required, kids are engaged in cricket, tennis, athletics, etc. We seem to want to be able to compete in every sport under the sun on the world stage, and this is unrealistic (Prior to the football season it's generally Rugby). Unless we embrace football in the same way as the Germans, Brazilians, Dutch, etc future success is probably unlikely.

    On a more positive note many of the younger English players coming through seem to have a fair amount of technical skill - Willshire, Rodwell, Kieran Gibbs, Adam Johnson. They seem to be doing the right things at Man City, Arsenal, Everton, West Ham (by the way I know Adam Johnson is a Boro product, but City have a decent production line). Perhaps the problem being that these academies have to catch talent very early for players to develop with the requisite skills.

    On a further note I was disappointed that many of the players who went close for the U21's were not selected. Unless you blood youth at major tournaments you run the risk that they will freeze like a rabbit in the headlights when they finally get their chance. Young players also often play with less fear and can provide the spark through the enigma factor - think Owen bursting on the scene. I thought with Pearce being involved this might be the intention, but all we got was Milner and Hart.

  • Comment number 79.

    The main flaw in our game has been identified by many pundits and yourselves as us not keeping possession of the ball. This is in a way correct but our coaches have gone about trying to remedy this in completely the wrong way. The key to keeping possession is not so much being able to pass but to be able to dribble. Our players have been brought up to play the simple pass not take the risk of taking on a man. This strategy always ends up with midfielder eventually not taking on the man when in a tight spot and passing back to the defenders and when they have no options and the defenders have to boot it up field. This is best illustrated by James Milner being chosen instead of Joe Cole. Capello was scared that Joe may dribble and lose possession which of course he would sometimes. So instead we have Milner who cant dribble past a cone always turning back and playing a five yard pass and then Johnson would make a pass to someone with their back to goal they would have to pass it back to the centre backs and they would have to hoof it. Capello's philosophy is unfortunately followed on pitches around England with the manager giving anyone who dares dribble a ear full if they get tackled and centre backs applauded for a big kick up field.

  • Comment number 80.

    It seems where there are amateurs, there are problems. Be it Football, Rugby or Tennis, please move these well being buffoons on and allow the professionals to do the job.

  • Comment number 81.

    Scotland used to have the same problem as England - an over inflated view of the standard of our team. We began to be cured of it after Scotland's 1978 World Cup debacle. There are signs that perhaps the English are going to be cured of it too, after their world cup debacle. For quite a few years now it has been apparent that England were not world beaters but nevertheless a good International Team.

    Yes they have good players - International Class ones but not World Class ones (a lady at my work who doesn't know much about football won £170 betting on Germany to win 4-1, explaining that from the little she had seen on TV it was apparent England were far behind most teams being poorly skilled, unable to control midfield and whose system seemed to be hit and hope) So much for the football media and the hype industry.

    I agree with most of the solutions regarding youth coaching, but do wonder additionally why footballers themselves who have at least some modicum of skills do not work generally on obtaining higher levels of technical skills,(rather than more passion and work rate) after all it shouldn't take them so long to improve them. However if they think they have already made it, then maybe they dont see the need. When Bobby Charlton joined Man U originally he could hit 60 yards passes and score goals (Steven Gerrard ?) - but Busby insisted he learn how to do 10 yard passes, the right pass at the right time rather than the Hollywood passes. England have a collection of good midfielders rather than a good midfield. Perhaps the instruction to Gerrard and Lampard, or their repllacements, should be ' You're expected to run the game, get skilled enough to do it' and the job of the coach would be to enable and motivate them to reach the level of ability and discipline to do so. Saying that England now needs this coach or that coach to succeed (nothing wrong with a coach with international experience, mind) rather suggests that nothing is really wrong, its just the magic wand thats wrong. The starting point for improvement is seeing where the players are really at, not where they are imagined to be.

    If I were a kid starting playing football I'd be copying Messi, Xavi, and a whole passel of World Class players, certainly no current British player.

  • Comment number 82.

    Matt let me tell you about things in Holland. Our nationale team were pretty bad in penalty kick offs, I know England's having problems with it as well...
    My son has been playing football at a club since he was 6 years old (now 12). From 6 until 10 years old they play 7 to 7 on a half pitch. And after EVERY game ALL the players take a penalty kick at the other keeper. Just one of the measures the Dutch FA (KNVB) takes in the interest of our national team.

  • Comment number 83.

    To all the people who hale Joe Cole as England's would-be saviour:

    Does it not speak volumes when Ancelotti would rather play Kalou than Cole. Do you think you know more than him?

    Equally, do you think you know more than Capello? Have you won more than Capello?

    To all the Heskey bashers: at leaast he does exactly what it says on the tin. Not like Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, Lennon etc. Respective to his abilities he played ok, the others let themselves down BADLY!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    Comment 54 - Absolutely nail on the head couldn't have said it better myself. I remember my Sunday league team from age 10 to 13, our manager swore and shouted at us at half time as if we were pro's who had just lost thrown away a 3 goal lead - every week!! Part of the reason why I stopped. Very sad if that's how kids' football still is. Oh, and I was also told that I was too small to compete so I was sub most of the time. I bet that having grown a lot stronger and lived in Mexico and Brazil, at 23 I could now run circles around most of those aggressive carnies who are probably still hoofing the ball up to their overweight hungover Sunday league striker. No real competitive edge, just aggression as you said

  • Comment number 85.

    Dears, do this comments make a contribution for what?
    Is there anyone here who can take ideas to the english board of football and assess them?
    If not, waist of time!
    Bye bye.

    See you on Friday. Brazil x Netherlands

  • Comment number 86.

    Do you know why nothing gets done? Because the pressure isn't there for the relevant authorities to do so. Once the world cup hype is over we'll just go back to the Premier League and enjoy the league that has bestowed the English football fans and forget about international football. The FA will convince itself that at least they're getting it right at Under 21/Under 17 level and believe that the future is bright, and that a combination of factors keeps conspiring to produce failure at major tournaments.

    Apart from the tournaments that we all think we must qualify for, the average football fan finds international football a massive drag. And when I say average football fan, I mean Premier League follower. The friendlies are painful. The qualifiers are on the whole uncompetitive in a format that has been long since out of date and dull. I swear most of the time we do nothing but despair of international football, but then when it comes to the tournament suddenly we expect.

    The facts are thus: football in England is not geared towards doing well at international level. And this comes from the perspective of not only the FA, but the players coming through and most importantly, the fans. Yes England has its band of loyal supporters, but it isn't representative of what I believe most of us want out of watching football.

    We've all been sucked in, rightly or wrongly, by the grandeur of the Premier League, the Sky Sports News generation, the plastic seats. No one is saying this is a bad thing. But inevitably we cannot reconcile the two - having superb domestic football which we do, and having a world class national football team. That is because there are two different strategies operating both. The Premier League dominate domestic football in this country, the FA try and produce the national team. They need to work together.

    And I'd like to point out that Spain is very different from England. They have the league and the national team, but the league and the way its success has evolved is so markedly different from the miracle grow that occurred to English football in 1992. There they will argue that they have the two biggest club sides in world football, and who is to argue. Two monumental superpowers in Barcelona and Real Madrid that absolutely dominate Spanish football. Yes the rest of their league is "technically good" - from the way their players are coached? But are being dragged along by the superpowers. In England we have the money, in Spain they have the El Clasico clubs - both have trickle down effects.

    The point I'm trying to make is that in Spain we see the evidence of what they are trying to do at grass roots level in the league, and that Barcelona and Real Madrid are just two anomolies who rely on nothing but themselves. In England the Premier League is of no result or at least influenced extremely little by what focus there may be at grass roots level.

    Only once the league in this country runs parallel with some sort of coherant footballing philosophy developed from the top, starting at the very bottom, we'll always have an unpredictable, and probably bad national team.

  • Comment number 87.

    Post 59:

    Back in the 1980s a solution to the lack of world class players was seen as the FA School of Excellence at Lilleshall.

    It was closed in 1999 by Howard Wilkinson just as it started to produce good players. Graduates included Andy Cole, Michael Owen, Wes Brown, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell, Trevor Sinclair, Francis Jeffers, Nick Barmby, Scott Parker, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe. Lilleshall only had the players from 14-16. Wilko's big idea was to let the clubs take responsibility for coaching through the academy system. This doesn't seem to have worked.


    I remember the story of Steven Gerrard getting turned down by Lilleshall. A man named Les Reed was partly responsible (he managed Charlton in 2006-07 to an appalling standard). The reason given was that he wasn't good enough, they could not recognise his talents. When Gerard Houllier brought Gerrard into the Liverpool side years later after Gerrard has overcome his growing issues, he was doing exactly the same things as before, but he had the physique now to go with it. Namely he had the killer pass, the imagination, the long range shooting ability and the crunching tackle. The genius of Gerrard is that 10 years on he developed his game into so much more off his own bat. Physically he became complete, from a lanky teenager to an adonis who I imagine is exremely good at plyometric exercises. He had the mentality to develop his own game to one, two, three more levels until he reached his peak.

    Lilleshall was closed because it was still run by dinosaurs like Les Reed. They have since not addressed the situation. Classicly England over the last 20 years has produced individuals who are brilliant in their own right, but are largely unique. The likes of Owen, Beckham, Scholes and Gerrard - all world class at one point or another, but all totally different. Their realised potential was reliant on their own determination. By 18 Michael Owen knew it all, and Glenn Hoddle thankfully recognised that. OK injuries have ruined his career, but we were onto something with him. It's the same with Rooney. I'm convinced the only person responsible (aside from his discipline) for his game is himself.

    What does this all say? Of course it points to one thing: the lack of focus on team play. We all love the example of Spain, but basically all of their players, barring Torres who does not fit the mould, are extremely similar - the touch, the pass, the move. This fosters a brilliant culture of superb team play. Maybe they will pay the price in this world cup for not employing more individual and unique contributions, but their system works for them. If England could get their players from a young age playing team football like that while not compromising too much on the sheer individuality of our players, we'd be a top draw footballing country.

    Easier said than done mind.

  • Comment number 88.

    An interesting blog and comments. An additional point on youth development.

    I am a SAffer and visited UK in 83/84/85 and again in 92/93/94. I passionately followed the British premier (first) divisions until about 1992. I went on a Wembley tour in 92 and attended the FA Cup Final.

    England are now appalling / boring to watch based on these 4 WC matches. I can't speak about qualifying.

    There are many comments re youth development.

    I noticed on my visits that fewer schools seemed to have sport available or it was not compulsory. I just wonder how many kids are playing sport at school level compared to 20 / 30 / 40 years ago. Active exposure should begin at a very young age as the bigger the pool, the greater the opportunities to discover and nurture talent.

    In my time at school (60's), only soccer and cricket were available and it was compulsory. My kids had many more choices 80's and 90's. Active participation in some school activity for both summer and winter was compulsory. If a child was not interested in the active sports available viz: rugby, cricket, hockey, water-polo, cross-country, rowing, tennis etc, they could be active in chess, the orchestra or library.

    What I did not like re my kids school was the emphasis on having to win at all costs.

    There are no outstanding English cricketers today in my view. Most are imported. One Scot near the top of tennis. Are there any playmakers in the Hoddle, Keegan, Toshack, Dalgleish, Cantona mold?

    Does the lack of English football talent perhaps have something to do with fewer kids taking part in sport at a young age?

  • Comment number 89.

    Article spot on, and most of the comments spot on as well. In my opinion, there is a fundamental flaw in youth development and coach education in this country. I'm a UEFA B licence coach, and on the coaching courses I've been on, we get taught by well-respected coach educators, but who have learnt all they know by playing in the English football system. In effect, all they are doing is churning out old-fashioned coaches, as most of them teach/coach in the way they were taught/coached as young players, in some sort of vicious cycle. Unless there are people who are willing to challenge the system, and like myself, have a desire to learn from a multitude of different coaching cultures with varying methods, then things will never change. I like to see foreign coaches coming into the Premier League with new ideas and systems etc, but at what cost? The likes of Arsene Wenger et al have wised up to the fact that the standard of coaching at the age when kids have the best opportunity to learn and develop the technical attributes required to be a world-class player (between 5 and 11), is simply not good enough, and therefore the players coming through from Under 15/16 level up to first team level fall way short of the standard of their foreign counterparts. The result - Clubs look elsewhere and you get players like Fabregas coming over at the age of 15, having learnt all he needs to know from the technical side of things, at Barcelona. Don't get me wrong, Fabregas is probably one of my favourite players to watch in the Premier League, but it is clearly no good for the national team. If the standards of player coming through in this country were better, then clubs wouldn't need to go abroad for young footballers and this in turn would produce a much larger pool of 'English footballing talent with Premier League (and possibly even Champions League) experience' for the national coach to choose from.

    The FA needs to be brave, admit there are many shortcomings within the system, and learn from the other nations who have failed, re-evaluated and then excelled at International Level (eg. France, Germany and Italy). We may never have as much natural flair as the street players from South America, but lets at least give ourselves a chance by changing the way we educate our coaches to coach young players. Football League clubs also need to take responsibility in making sure the right coaches are brought in instead of sticking to the traditional 'jobs for the boys' culture as is so common in English football today.

  • Comment number 90.

    English football from top to bottom is largely a joke. I played at "Centre of Excellence" level between the ages of 12 and 16, hating almost every minute of it. I typically played with lads who at first turned up to training with a smile on their faces and natural ability ready to be honed into sound technique but who often left after a short period of time through becoming disillusioned with bench warming for players who could run very quickly in straight lines and more or less bully other teams into defeat. The setup I experienced was effectively a "jobs for the boys" operation staffed by ex pro's whose concern was primarily on getting out on the sauce.

    However, the problem doesn't lie with the ex-pro's who like a drink, more so the FA that allow clubs to employ such individuals to coach the future of the game. I find it bizarre that in a supposedly forward-thinking country, we still have an organisation running the national sport like a communist economy. The FA is populated with old blokes who will fight tooth and nail to keep themselves in their cushy jobs to the detriment of the game. None of these cranks have kicked a ball in the last 20 years - if ever - and their governing of the game reflects this.

    Although the Government has more pressing issues to deal with at the moment, I'd like to suggest that instead of announcing an inquiry into why the English national team got found out yet again - which is a complete waste of time - the Sports Minister go through the FA person by person and asks what it is that they actually do. That kind of inquiry is the only way the FA would get the overhaul that the game needs. It's mystifying why practices from the best teams in the game aren't studied and adapted here. I find it miraculous that English football hasn't been left behind to the extent that English industry has by competitors who embraced change rather than feared it.

    Finally, I agree with others who have stated the problem with encouraging coaches to pursue it to a high level - there needs to be incentives to do so. The game has far more to gain by actively seeking coaches with fresh ideas and something to offer the game to train youngsters rather than leaving it in the mess that it is with pushy parents and ex-pro's who are in the job because of who their friends are rather than coaching ability.

  • Comment number 91.

    Are there any playmakers in the Hoddle, Keegan, Toshack, Dalgleish, Cantona mold?


    Sorry to be pedantic but Toshack was a big burley centre forward and Cantona was French.

  • Comment number 92.

    Victor Moses. He is the fundamental problem with the English game.

  • Comment number 93.

    Hear Hear polykid! My point exactly in the post (89) above yours!

  • Comment number 94.

    Ok as everyone has stated there needs to be a big upheavel of the system from the bottom.. Some people have mentioned how we are obsessed with results and this is something that starts at a young age.. I was kept out of the school team in the latter years because I was apparently "too skinny and short" and I can honestly say that I could at that time pass the ball better with my weaker foot than the others could with their stronger foot.. THIS OBSESSION WITH STRENGTH AND POWER HAS TO CHANGE!! Look at the some of the best players in the world xavi/iniesta/messi/fabregas/villa no man mountains are they?? Yet they could pass the ball better blindfolded than most of our lot.. And bieng of Asian origin I am shocked at how hard it can be for players from certain ethnic backgrounds to make the mark at the higher level.. AND PLEASE DONT GIVE ME THAT DRIVEL THAT IF YOUR GOOD ENOUGH YOU'll MAKE IT! cos I have played in many tournaments and leagues at a 5aside and 7aside level and the difference in technique and ball control is apparent..the Asian teams always play the continental type of football wheras the English teams are based on power and organisation.. Look At the Germans they've got young players from different ethnic backgrounds representing at national level.. I don't see that happening here for at least 10-15 years.. This is another issue that must be addressed otherwise I'm telling you there is a huge crop of players that are wasted.. We need to MAXIMISE the use of resources available to us..

  • Comment number 95.

    Look at Canadian ice hockey. Went through the same when Russian hockey peaked.

    Youth hockey, especially at the elite level, has changed.

    With more people playing, you can't always be the best but you can always learn from the best and adapt.

  • Comment number 96.

    Right now we need a coach who can build a team rather than pick the best 23. McClaren and Sven all tried the best 23 before and Capello, when it came to the crunch made the same player choices and ultimately the same mistakes. We need to see the difference between team and squad and pick 22 players with potential to rise to the peak as a team in 2012. Out must go most of what we have right now and in must come youth with skills. If we learned one thing from Der Kaiser's mob this week, it must be that Loew picked a new squad and with out even Ballack, did for us with ease. Psycho has a part to play in this as he coaches the lower teams and knows the under 21 grads very well. Now is the time for the pensions to be paid out and a new guard hired. As for what we have, Johnson should be a right winger, Hart should take over goal, Terry,Carragher,Ferdinand and Upson et al are like carthorses now and shoud go. We need younger and a coach who is not afraid to drop the bulk of this squad of players and even Rooney if he is off form. If Mr Capello stays I hope he starts from scratch and has a few summer schools before Euro qualifications start in Sept. Here's a hoping anyway.

  • Comment number 97.


    The premier league killed our international team.

    Premier League started in 1993

    We won the world cup in 1966. and nothing since.

    what makes you think its had any effect.

    As bad as they play together has nothing to do with how good the players are.

    Rooney,Lampard,Gerrard,Beckham A Cole, Rio, Terry are as gifted with the ball than any players before them. so this is no excuse. They are a helluva lot fitter too.

    I would love to see liniker and Waddle play 70 games a season and have a great tournament at altitude (baring in mind its the clubs that want champions league and other cups)

    The premier League has given our players people to look up to and worship. Don't tell me kids at grass roots level aren't doing Cristiano Ronaldo tricks and rooneys runs and Beckhams Free Kicks because they are.

    You can talk about your Football schools, what Football school did Maradona, Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Van nistelrooy,Rooney, iniesta, xavi , etc etc go to, hell some learned on the streets

    Now if you were to use the argument if Rooney was to get severely injured in South Africa his club may be very unhappy plus he would miss CL games so he is only to play at 75% and step out of every tackle then you might be onto something. Nobody played with will to win except John Terry (that attempted diving headed defence) and Gerrard.

    I'm a man Utd supporter and it pains me to say that.

  • Comment number 98.

    i tottally agree with a lot of the points made by this blog. im 24yrs old and this reminds me a little of what i was going through i was playing locally when i was 12/14 and the coaches and parents were more motivated on winning than actually teaching me new techniues and skills. it wasnt untill i moved to a different team at 15 where i learned simple skills like how to hold up the ball under pressure and little training exercises like "through the gate" where you pass and move in a confined area i think these skill should be taught as soon as possible to young players as soon as probably 10 years old. its amazing how simple training techniques such as how to position your body when receiving the ball underpressure can improve players. and im truly gratefull to my coach of that second team for teaching me such techniques as i sometimes watch under 8's play at my old first club and its still the same. "lump it forward" "just clear it" play it into space let him run after it" not once do the coaches ask the player to take a touch hold onto the ball or play it short and unfortnately the parents are just as bad. the english game needs a whole new approach and that includes parents. obviously its demoralising for a team to loose but surely at 8/10 years old would you want your children to imrpove technically than just win because there physically stronger and have 1 child who had a growth spurt early and can score a goal from the half way line.

  • Comment number 99.

    Fair comments from most of you regarding passing and possession - the England squad were poor in the 4 matches played in SA. But the solution is not as simple as technical ball skills. Lamps, Gerrard, Terry and all could have fantastic ball skills and still the England team would have failed - the solution has to include "motion off the ball".

    I watched all 4 games from an analytical viewpoint and the glaring problem was lack of motion off the ball. Modern football requires motion not just by the forwards, but by the whole team - fullbacks making the runs to get behind the defense does not work effectively if the defending wide midfielder or winger is allowed to focus defensively on the fullback. The team "formation" needs to be fluid with constant interchanging of roles and positions. I am not suggesting that England can or should try to emulate the "total soccer" of Holland in the '70's, but this England team was very static (playing in ordered lines). When football is played correctly most runs off the ball are not rewarded by "a pass and the ball and a shot on goal" but by opening up the defense so that a teammate gets a pass, the ball and a shot on goal. Simply put soccer is not a selfish sport.

    Yes, the youth academies probably need to be shaken up, and technical skills are important. I have been coaching youth soccer for almost 20 years in the US and see the same issue over here. Perhaps this is a coaching issue since technical ball skills are easier to teach by demonstration and repetition, but juggling the ball 100 times will not open up a defense.

    If any of you are unsure of my emphasis look at the Germany goals again - note the movement of the players without the ball.

  • Comment number 100.

    I don't think it is Balls skills or positional play.
    Its the amount of games they play.

    People often make a mention of all our players pretty much playing in the premier league and not abroad like the leagues abroad are technically superior but the truth is if your playing for Athletico Madrid or Panathaniakos your probably not playing 70 games a season.

    Your not taking part in 2 League cups and getting to the Final stages of Euro Competitions. (ManUtd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Fulham had long runs)
    Many of the games are also over 2 legs.

    So for all the talk about control and positional play I would put a fit Wayne Rooney up with anyone in a ball contest and think he would do well.
    Obviously he was either played in the wrong system, not given the right service or (what I believe) He's Injured.


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