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England: The Lehman Brothers of football

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Paul Mason | 17:46 UK time, Sunday, 27 June 2010

Germany 4 - England 1. Why were England so poor?

It all goes back to the basic truth of modern tournament football: the well-coached sides win things. Now everybody can defend you have to be able to defend, break, find space but above all - in a tournament - adapt to new conditions like a team. You have to be a learning organism.

This is what Capello tried to teach England: to play like a squad, adapt like a squad. But all that happened was that some of the players attempted a rebellion against his system. That is no surprise because it is exactly what happened with France as well. Italy too went home because they could not or would not play the system the manager wanted to play.

Having tried and failed to impose their own system on Capello, the players then lost morale, self-belief and skill.

In the case of England and France this dissent and player power reflects the huge problem of trying to make millionaire club stars play to a system they don't like. In the case of Italy, the "terror in the legs" phenomenon was probably the result of a similar issue. It's not a problem in club football because players get bought by managers with an exact idea of their skills and on-pitch role, so they rarely have to involuntarily adapt.

Maybe in this World Cup we've seen the first real triumph of the economics of modern football over skill and organisation: the triumph of a club-first, nation-last mentality and individualism over teamwork.

Capello did his best to kill the player power culture that was evident last time: the self-selecting team, the WAGs, etc. But it simply resurfaced in the form of failing motivation and failing skill. This in turn reflects England's weak domestic skills base that's resulted from the unrestricted use of foreign money and foreign players.

If you look at the teams that had very little talent but were well coached eventually they too fell apart against teams that had both: Ghana beat the USA for this reason, and for the same reason the next three games are a cert. Argentina, Holland and Brazil should go through. So Capello was not wrong to try to impart system and team discipline to England. Even if he chose the wrong system (4-4-2) we will never know, because England never won themselves the breathing space to try 4-4-1-1 in a competitive game.

The whole English FA now looks very exposed as a result of this poor showing. They failed miserably to keep control of Sven or the players in 2006. Their remedy was to appoint a disciplinarian who could at least control the players and who seemed to get the best out of them until they faced world class opposition.

But if you look at what's wrong with English football it starts with the junior game, where there's a horrendously physical and low-skill philosophy preached; then, for some reason, all the clever people get weeded out by the club system so that the words "intelligent, inventive England player" are impossible to write; finally the money pouring into the English premiership in the form of leveraged club buyouts allows club managers to buy their way out of having to train and develop English talent and we only find out once every four years what is wrong.

England's outstanding badness in World Cup 2010 must be a symptom of something bigger: the fact that we've got the most expensive, highest leveraged club system - and that none of our players play outside it - must have contributed to the weakening of commitment to the national colours, the evisceration of upcoming talent, the creation of an unmanageable team of frightened individuals, each of whom will now be dictating a valedictory ghost-written column to their chosen tabloid newspaper before getting on with life as a millionaire.

Like failed bankers they will pay no penalty for failure other than public opprobium and, as everybody in high finance knows, you can live with that as long as you own a Lamborghini.

Basically, we've just seen the Lehman Brothers of football and it was not pretty.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't give a monkeys about any international sport these days, because money has ruined it all. None of these teams represent ME, and I do my best to avoid supporting them financially.

    Buying "success" by buying players makes me think of Edward G Robinson as Big Jim in "Robin and the Seven Hoods", where he gives a (comic) homily about friendship and how success enables you to buy good friends. (Just before his "friends" shoot him.)

  • Comment number 2.

    Spot on. What counts above all in football is skill and creativity, but Premier League clubs don't need English players with these qualities because with all the money they have they can buy them from abroad. And so we fall back on burbling on about character, which is the great English myth going back to the days of Empire. Skill has always been seen as something swarthy wily foreigners have, almost a kind of cheating. We should always win because we have the character - the heart and the commitment and the work-rate and the patriotism - and after all, we are English, aren't we? You are right to say that the problem is rooted in the political economy of English football (I do love a Marxist analysis), but lurking behind that is the myth of character, which is rooted in the structure of British capitalism since the late nineteenth century. Back in the heyday of the industrial revolution we thought of ourselves as creative, ingenious people (especially we northerners, Paul). Following the rise of Empire and the dominance of gentlemanly capitalism, it became more important to be the right sort of chap. And now we have an Etonian PM who won't lend £80m to Forgemasters. Same old, same old.

  • Comment number 3.

    England were a complete disgrace from start to such a dismal finish during this tournament.A lack lustre performance throughout.
    The press hawks will be out undoubtedly for yet another England Managers scalp. Let us not forget the Press perhaps were the authors of the England squad misfortune by over rating some of these Overpaid players who have their own individual ego'sto massage whilstsome of them do not know how to play the England team game with dignity and respect.
    It is my view that this squad had its problems prior to and throughout by allowing individuals such as John Terry to divide the England side .Let us not forget that this was a person who was sacked as captain by Capello.It is my view this will be his greatest regret he will have made in allowing him to remain in the squad.

    I am sure the majority of the squad problems were orchestrated by Terry and his followers to undermine Capello which divided the squad into factions.
    The FA should share their responsibility for not identifying this fractured squad much sooner and addressing this problem.It was too late once in South Africa to see that this team were never ever going to Gel as a united team.
    The moral of this story if is Capello goes the FA may as well go root and branch and rebuild the squad from scratch .and sack some of those divisive and under achieving players .

  • Comment number 4.

    Spot on (unfortunately)from my chronic England optimist point of view.

    I wonder if this will feed into the status and financial stability of the Premier League.

    The whole Premier League thing is on a knife edge already, often 1/2 empty stadiums (40 quid a ticket minimum - who will afford that shortly?). Teams supported by billionaires like ' trophy wifes' on the basis of the international prestige of the team and the league, a league which now includes 'Blackpool' as all the old powerhouses who command full grounds of 40,000 plus collapse financially under the pressure of human folly.

    Football in this country was once supported not by human folly but by the passion of the communities which surrounded the grounds, the further away the game goes from that the uglier it becomes. the uglier it becomes the less support it enjoys and the closer to collapse the whole thing becomes.

    How long has the premier league got? what if abramovich and others lose interest? Is Manchester united the Lehmans in waiting of the premier league? One bad season for them and the numbers dont stack up..heck they dont even stack up now.

    just watching the Argentina mexico game as i type, great game, Sepp blater must be feeling uncomfortable though with his technophobia. Sepp is a bit like humanity, we have all this technology but refuse to use it properly which as I type seems to be leading to violence as they are walking off at half time...hmmmmmm.

    Nice post Paul.

  • Comment number 5.


    couldn't agree more. I love international football because it's the one thing where England can't just say: we are rubbish at this, let's borrow loads of cash and buy our way out. We do this in so many aspects of our society. In fact, the only place where we had an option to spend was the manager, and we threw money at that.

    I like football but nobody will die because England underperformed so ultimately I don't care that much. However, hopefully this will feed into the feeling that our society needs to take a long look at itself. I'd imagine we will just blame it all on Cappello and get another expensive manager!

    Will we have an honest appraisal of the root causes of this mess? Or more media driven witch hunts? Will the British people demand a complex narrative or a quick rant followed by watching yet more soap operas?

  • Comment number 6.

    I think you just about summed up the problem.The question is -is anyone going to take the steps that everyone can see are clearly necessary?

  • Comment number 7.

    Spot on Paul, and good comments, especially johnbax.

    Another thing to think about. These underperforming egotists are mostly at their last major championships. Where are the talented 20-25-yr-olds in the squad waiting to burst into the team? There aren't any.

    What's remarkable about this team is the contrast between the over-inflated view of themselves and their total lack of intelligence and adaptability.

  • Comment number 8.

    capello made some howlers. crouch was never played. why put heskey on when you need a goal? the 442 was never going to work. he never changed it even though the results and performances all showed it wasn't working. Einstein said doing the exact same things over and over and expecting a different outcome is a sign of madness.

    its clear the players especially rooney were in some kind of strop. Sven identified a long time ago england players problem is not skill or fitness but mental. was telling them 2 hours before the match good sports psychology?

    in all its a dismal world cup that has no atmosphere. i only heard the crowd once above the vuvu. vuvu just drone out excitement and its a relief to turn the sound off.

    headcases sketch had it right.

  • Comment number 9.

    When the England football team don't have their names printed on the back of their shirts....then we might just stand a chance!

    This evening I watched a fantastic programme on BBC2, instead of watching the was called 'How to build a nuclear submarine'.

    Watch it i-player if you can. It restored my faith in this nearly broken nation.

    Real people with heart.
    Doing real jobs.
    With pride in their work.
    Building something of worth.

    To a man and woman, they were each worth ten thousand England football teams!

    Up yours bankers!

  • Comment number 10.

    The more divided the UK becomes...the worse we become as a nation!

  • Comment number 11.

    It could have been worse - I might, like many others, have bought a nice new HDTV to watch this.

    Everything around the football that allows someone to extract some profit seems to work in overdrive - immensely wealthy clubs paying immensely wealthy stars, ticket prices and merchandising, massive media circus, sponsorship deals, brand identities. I'm told (anyone care to confirm or correct this?), that for many of the real fans "supporting their team" costs about 25% of their income. I know that for what a "star" player earns each week, you could hire three or four research scientists for a year - we used to be world class at that, too.

    And then right at the very centre, the national team which is supposed to carry the weight of all this, appears as some sort of cruel parody - almost as a device designed to take such talent as we produce and subject it to international humiliation.

    Perhaps the problem is this - there are factors involved that have to be built rather than bought: skill, tactical flexibility, team spirit, national pride, self belief. That's a long term process, and our greatest and most valued ability - the ability to "spin" and manage the presentation of reality - is actually destructive, since the players arrive on the pitch with a skin deep appearance of unity and self-belief which shatters at the first setback.

    In all the hype which surrounded the abilities and prospects of our team the only note of realism came from Beckenbauer. Perhaps we should listen to him. And we might look at those new talents which arrived in the German team and the development path that brought them there, and contrast that with the path we offer.

  • Comment number 12.

    #9: I didn't catch that programme, but having worked for the RN in the past, know something of what you speak.

    Of course, if both of us relied on press coverage and political comment, we would both "know" that the programme to build those submarines is a grotesque and incompetent waste of public money, as that is how has been presented.

    And it's quite likely now that the knowledge, experience and dedication you saw will be chucked away when the contractors are left with a gap in the order book - "a price worth paying" for a national deficit that keeps the markets happy.

  • Comment number 13.

    4-1, Oh the exquisite pain! That hurt, there's no point lying. It's the hope that kills you, to be sure.

    Not many complaints about the game actually - could have gone either way, we played good football for periods, Rooney started firing, if the 2nd goal had counted i think we would have won, and could well have gone thru argentina and on.

    Before the tourney i thought defence was the weak link and yesterday that was cruelly confirmed. Altho we lost the midfield for periods as well, the fact they could conjure up a chance at will meant it was always going to be a shoot-out, and i thought Capello twigged that and played his cards right - i bet it was a great game for the neutral to watch, which makes me feel quite good, as it means we finally contributed SOMETHING to a great tournament.

    As for the fallout, lets not over-react. We've known about the lack of technical skill for 30 years now, and still haven't reacted so i don't think anything will change now. Football Salao seemed to promise the answer, as did training kids on smaller pitches and not keeping score until they were in their teens, but none were seriously invested in. Too many bullying dads on the sidelines screaming "get into em! Win it!" probably.

    I had many 'full and frank discussions' with my anarchist political bedfellows about my support for England football (not the state, obviously). My argument is that we need to change our national psyche from one of masochistic, pessimistic, dull anger to something different. We need to get post-colonial closure and move on to a new national identity, but there needs to be sugar on the pill.

    We're not going to get that fillip from the economy (the sadistic temperance movement is long dead), or materially (the halcyon days of gorging on cheap credit and cheap imports are also thankfully over). The delusion of religion has largely cleared, the certainties of scientific realism have been post-modernified, so the field has been cleared for Big Change. What direction that change takes is determined by our psyche at the time, hence my wish for the positivity and closure generated by an England win.

    Anyways, ho hum. I hope they keep Capello so he can continue to coach Stuart Pearce, the Once and Future King who will bring us Final Glory. I can't see anyone else who fits the bill, thats for sure.

    I'll bow out from commenting now before people start denying climate change again, keep on keeping on Paul, you're the best thing on the web!

  • Comment number 14.

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  • Comment number 15.

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  • Comment number 16.

    I agree in part Paul.

    However, there is little sign that Capello was trying to implement a more intelligent, 'organic' style of football. From where I sat it looked like he was inflexably demanding that the same players play exaclty the same way as they did (successfully) in the qualifiers. When this was unsuccesful in the actual tournament, he was slow and stubborn in his response - just a change of like-for-like personnel, but no change to the system, ever.

    However, England do not have the quality of player to play 'total' football, where players can change position or formation easily. This is not Capello's fault, but the FA's. They seem to have learnt nothing from 2006, or further back. Simply changing the atmosphere from an open, relaxed, relationship to a prep-school style management was never on its own, going to be enough.

    We were art least one, probably three, friendly games under prepared for the tournament - a direct result of too much club football leavng no space in the calendar? We lost momemtum from the qualifiers and did not have time to try out alternative formations.

    Squad selection was very conservative, yet key positions in the actual starting 11 were unknown until just before kick-off. This has nothing to do with Capello's 2 hour rule, but everything to do with not enough practise time to make an informed decision.

    In 2003 England rugby 15 picked itself - they had played together as a unit for months and were gelled as a team. Ditto, England's bowling attack in 2005. But England's starting 11 against the USA had not played together at all prior to the match. So, as you pointed out in a previous blog, England were still at the "forming" stage of team building when the first match kicked off. This is simply down to poor planning and preparation.

    Given a little luck our approach may take us to the quarter finals, or even the semi's, in any given tournament. But it is not a recipe for repeatable success. Germany has never gone more than 20 years without winning the World Cup. Now there's a nation that knows how to plan. Coincidence? Hardly.

  • Comment number 17.

    If there's one player that epitomises the English malaise it is Joe Cole.

    A hugely gifted youngster who could skin the best of his contempories inside out, over and over again.

    But, no, if he was to succeed in the English top flight at Chelsea he would have to tone down his skill, track back and become an efficient machine like the rest of them.

    In the process the gifted boy with the heady runs and an eye for the equisite pass become yet another predictable, functional player. If he'd been born Argentinian he would have been romping and destroying the Mexicans alongside Lionel Messi last night, rather than coming on for England with 20 minutes to go and doing nothing against the Germans.

  • Comment number 18.

    The comparison is with a national economy that is concerned only with individual firm 'efficiency', even when this is contradictory to the wellbeing of the national economy.

    Cheap foreign labour is just the thing for individual firms 'efficiency', and the transnational firms that really benefit from shifting people around the world to capitalise on the wage differential also have the power to get national, EU and international rules that facilitate this.

    But at the national level; there is the cost of UK workers displaced and the costs of other unemployment pain; services that foreign workers dont pay for (no NI) have to stretch even further as they use them; the government income from NI is down, also from tax, as firms use ways to minimise foreign worker tax, making cheap foreign labour an even more attractive proposition.

    Overall its individual firms using every trick in the book to drain the national economy - what's left of it.

    So - a need to reassess national priorities - beyond football

  • Comment number 19.

    Speaking as a Welshman who simply wanted to watch a great game of football - it was a great game of football. In some respects it was one bunch of Germans playing another.

    But watching and listening to the self-flagellation of the entire English nation is now almost too good to be true. Any minute now I am expecting the icing on the cake will be the inevitable sacking of the manager.

    Thoughts. Behaviour. Action.

    You have to break this cycle somehow as a country. I don't know how you do it but please you have to stop whipping yourself like a Westminster based Dominatrix whips her clients.

    The simple, blunt truth is that virtually all of your 200K a week footballers are ruddy hopeless. The English meeja builds them up as being fabulous and you give them awards to somehow make it fact - but it ain't true. They are no good.

    You can sack every manager in the World but it won't make the players any good.

    Murdoch owns the Premiership via the money he funds the clubs with from Sky. It would be a farce if the Premiership was simply full of foreign footballers so you have to have a handful of English players in there to make it legit and get all those subscribers in.

    Those English players should get down on their knees, be grateful that they are playing in such ludicrous times and thank Mr. Murdoch for making them rich and famous.

    When was the last time that an English footballer went from a Premiership club to a European one and was successful? If you answer honestly you will probably say Kevin Keegan and that was 23 years ago!

    Right, back to watching you all whip yourselves.

  • Comment number 20.

    Enjoyed the post and the comments.

    Would add that it all goes back to fundamentals. Foot and Ball.

    Look at the adverts around the matches. Bet 365- how many corners, yellow cards. TVs, Alan Hansen and his 3 crates of beer for £20. Cars. Video games, Pizza. Internet. Phones. etc etc.

    Have to admit I never played football as a child. My interest was ecology so was always out with my net, identification books etc. So I look at it objectively. (Did end up playing rugby later in life and played with two members of later England team.)

    What I am getting at is the fundamental is playing football. But it is all this money and commercialism and endorsement etc. The football has been forgotten. Football in the UK has become an excuse for idleness. Get some beers and sit on the couch.

    As a child though I had no interest my school friends would play at morning break, dinner time, afternoon break, after school. Weekends. I would imagine a 60s school boy could play an average of 25 or more hours a week.

    Now football in the UK has been taken over by commercialism. No longer is it about playing in the street, in the park, in the garden at every opportunity.

    Football is now about getting 36 cans in, sitting on a couch, with a 42 inch plasma and watching it. Or getting drunk and watching it in the pub.

    The UK is finished as a football nation(s). Very few are interested in playing football. Without the bottom layers of the pyramid there is less at the top.

  • Comment number 21.

    I enjoyed reading your post but you got it wrong.
    Only one of the England team turned up.
    Capello was seen on the beach when he realised his rebels were not going to play and he recruited ten people who were playing beach football. I think they did better than if the so called professionals had decided to play.
    Not surprised at the outcome. Disappointed yes.
    Until the owners of English teams and managers realise that the practice of paying immense salaries irrespective of performance is wrong, we have no future.
    The incentive system has to return. A basic salary then a win or draw bonus.
    It's the only way.

  • Comment number 22.

    If they held a World Cup for self-entitlement and whinging I suspect England would be in the finals every time.

    You did it again.

    You thought you only had to turn up and you would win it.

    You do this every single tournament. It is hysterical. It is arrogant.

    You were so convinced you would win that just two weeks ago you were all saying how shrewd it was to re-sign Capello in golden handcuffs.

    Now you all wish to stick him in the stocks.

    At least the bankers are no longer top of the hate list.

    Can't you see a theme here?

  • Comment number 23.

    If England are the Lehman Brothers of football, are the Williams sisters the Vince Cable of tennis?

    This could become a good game all of its own: a bit like Mornington Crescent without the Tube.

  • Comment number 24.

    There is a reporter doing a live OB from South Africa now - standing outside the hotel that the English team left several hours ago - and he is reporting this story as if the President of the United States had just announced that a giant meteor is going to wipe out all life in the next 36 hours.

    I can't watch any more of this. I fear he is about to take a loaded revolver to his head.

    Nah, it is far too funny to miss.

  • Comment number 25.

    we get the police we deserve, we get the football crowds we deserve and a bad England side is a reflection of the society and times we live in. This is a grubby, devil take the hindemost, dog eat dog society that had it's roots in Thatcherism and continued throughout the reign of NuLabour, guys on a hundred and twenty grand a week don't want to be in SA, they want to be on the golf course, their yachts on the Meddy, their villas in the south of France, indeed it is an imposition to ask them to don an England shirt and die for their country. That was Bill Eckersley's era, a Finney, a Mathews would not recognise what was served up by an England side. I am not an Empire loyalist, flag waving jingo type but this is all a failure of capitalism in all it's glory. How dare an authoritarian manager from Italy with a proven track record tell these multimillionaires to be in bed by half nine, eat the right food, no booze...Capello was on a hiding to nothing....and so were we...the ones playing for their shirts were Serbia, Slovenia and a lot of the African sides, doing good for their country is their game not bigtime dosh..

  • Comment number 26.

    ...apparently, the England football team's flight home has been diverted to Scotland...just so that that they can receive a heroes welcome!

  • Comment number 27.

  • Comment number 28.

    marxists hate individuality.

  • Comment number 29.

    From the distant outside looking in I would like to point out that England has neither speed nor quickness to manage teams such as Germany, Brazil, Spain, or Holland. That being said.....England were not so far away from the top in 98 and in 02....since then no players have emerged from the mother country that would vaguely be able to hold Sol Campbells, Tony Adams jock is not the manager...You have NO leaders of men on the team. Look how Dunga has built Brazil....Gilberto couldn't seem to play the midfield for Arsenal, but is a starter on Brazil? Becuase he is a "Leader" and everyone respects his authority. Who plays that role for England? John Terry? Who is the one that sets the young lads straight on England? Think back to 98 and 02, you had Adams and Campbell and others. Until that is developed it will be a long time before the English hold that beautiful trophy again.....

  • Comment number 30.

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  • Comment number 31.

    Mr Mason, as a music teacher turned business journalist with a Trotskyist past, what insight do you bring to the worlds of professional football and investment banking, other than a big box of partisan, reactionary, anti-capitalist drivel?

  • Comment number 32.

    I wonder to what extent English sporting performance is vitiated by the class system. For example, all the members of the English football team seem to be working class and with the odd exception they don't seem particularly intelligent. At certain key moments in the game on Sunday, it was their inability to make rational decisions rather than their lack of football skills that were their undoing. Are footballers from other countries also drawn almost exclusively from this narrow social base? My impression is that they are not, and the same goes for the coaches, who just seem a lot more intelligent, articulate and sophisticated than their English counterparts.

    On the other hand, English tennis seems to draw its talent exclusively from the middle classes, which has led to even more unbelievably awful results.

    Two sports that seem to be a bit more socially inclusive are rugby and cricket. Is it a coincidence that the English teams in these sports have actually won something in the past few years?

  • Comment number 33.

    Sasha Ckarkson first sentence says it all. English "fans" don't care as long as their club is winning. For example fans of the now wealthy Manchester City don't care who is bought and sold as long as their team wins. Alex Ferguson response to not winning anything last season is to sign players from Mexico and elsewhere.
    The FA should intoduce a club levy on all foreign players in the EPL, including Scots , Welsh and Irish players, and concentrate on developing junior football in England.
    By the way Lehman Brothers defrauded all and sundry, the English Team have only defrauded themselves.

  • Comment number 34.

    just read Paul Mason's Lehman Brothers blog - spot on! It's good that someone is getting to the nub of the revolting, diamond-earringed farce that is English football. The frightening thing is though, like the most virulent forms of capitalism, to which Mason refers with his Lehman Brothers allusion, the rot in English football is, I believe, irreversible. As long as Premiership clubs keep paying mediocre journeyman centre-halves over 50 grand a week and more, rather than spreading the wealth through a decent youth system, then, like mr. Mason says, we will be taught a painful football lesson four years (or two if you include the Euro Championship).

  • Comment number 35.

    Rubbish. England's players clearly tried. They did after all, tie the game, having been down 2-0. Who else could do that against Germany? But clearly they aren't quite good enough .. it's not because they couldn't adopt their coach's master plan, or are the equivalent of spoiled bankers. This blog post is just another example of the wallowing of the English press in the failure of their team to progress. The cheap shots about the supposed lack of talent on the American team just prove how deluded Mason is. As for capitalism, how exactly has that differentially spoiled the English players versus the fat cat, but not under-performing Argentines, Spaniards, Brazilians, Germans, Dutch and Portuguese, playing for the top teams in Europe? In the end, one can only assume that this post was an example of English satire and not a piece of serious commentary.

  • Comment number 36.

    The biggest problem is that young english players are trained to play in the premiership and no where else player like gerrard and lampard play the same respective roles at club level. They were never going to be able to fit into the national team because they were trained to be powerfull shoot from 25 yards plus and come into the box late they were never taught pass and move.

    The England team that Capello picked was to old and to similar in that the team had no flair except when Joe Cole came on. Why didn't Capello bring in some more of the U21 team that came runners up in the European U21 competition just like the Germans. The problem is that Capello had was he inflexible in formation or team selection going on reputation rather than form he went for a team that was too old and with to many similar types of players that can't work together.

    There is hope in the form of Arsenal who have realised that the English players from other clubs are not being taught the skills that Arsenal needs so they are training all their youngsters to play a passing flair filled game from a young age like Barcelona.

  • Comment number 37.

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  • Comment number 39.

    Dear Mr. Mason,

    I must be quite surprised for you as a financial writer taking about football.

    Do you thinking that it would have been more useful if you could educate us ways and means to fight against the on-going recession, which is not happening only one in country but became global issue. Or is it because, there is money in the football?

    I would have thought that England has a Social Minister or Minister of Sports to comment on these issues instead of you!

    Sir, can tell us more about some methods to fight against this hooligan recession and also ways to build the trust between banks and borrower.

    Best regards
    Zahr. Saleh

  • Comment number 40.

    But if you look at what's wrong with English football it starts with the junior game, where there's a horrendously physical and low-skill philosophy preached; then, for some reason, all the clever people get weeded out by the club system so that the words "intelligent, inventive England player" are impossible to write

    Absolutely. This is an ingrained mentality that is over 100 years old. You should only have a look at the celebrations and gloating over "British football" by top pundits when Arsenal are bullied into a loss by Stoke or Bolton, or the sadness when a Chelsea side playing untra defensive anti-football are finally beaten in the last minute by a Barcelona side that kept relentless attacking pressure on for 180 minutes.

  • Comment number 41.

    I would rather they'd given unproven youngsters a chance than that shower

  • Comment number 42.

    As far as the evisceration of young English talent is concerned; Havent we heard all of this from Trevor Brooking? He has been labelled a "harbinger of doom" whenever he opens his mouth to point out that the grass roots of English football are rotting in a mire that doesnt allow skill and creativity to survive, let alone blossom.

    Maybe the (overly)simple answer is to appoint Trevor as the Tzar, Grandee, (insert own title here) of Football development from cradle to club and then show the confidence in him to allow him a free reign. The man has been through every level but his major qualifying aspect is that has was one of the most creative players of his generation.

    Maybe only then will we see a Golden Generation of English football rather than the oasisless mirage that we have been watching fior the last decade or two.

  • Comment number 43.

    "But if you look at what's wrong with English football it starts with the junior game, where there's a horrendously physical and low-skill philosophy preached; then, for some reason, all the clever people get weeded out by the club system so that the words "intelligent, inventive England player" are impossible to write"

    This is 100% correct. As a lad in the 80's and early 90's I was on the small side, but I was gifted with skill, control and technique. I was constantly told I wasn't grafting enough as I wasn't running around like a lunatic jumping into tackles. The skill and craft was being coached out of me and skill was looked upon as a luxury. I was too small to make it as you needed to be more physical. I chuckle as I see people like Messi, iniesta, Xavi, etc, running rings around us. I also filled out so i could have been a very good player if someone had taken a proper chance on me. I have a son now and I am focussed on him developing skill and flair as that is what this country always lacks. Name me 10 good English flair players.

  • Comment number 44.

    England are rubbish, they were outplayed and outfought every one they wouldnt go ahead when they put the likes of heskey,shaun wright phillips in the team you knew england would never win a world cup.

  • Comment number 45.

    I must say Paul, this is about the best blog i have rad regarding our failure in this WC. This is the most objective and fellow reporters of other blogs should take note. You maybe an Economics reporter, but this is what we the fans expect from the football journalist

  • Comment number 46.

    So far as I can see England have not beaten a major foot-balling country in a major competition since 1966 when we had home advantage. Other teams like Brazil, Argentina, Holland, Italy and Germany however invariably seem to be there at the death irrespective of player rotation or venue. This must prove beyond any doubt that our failure is not about this squad of players, this or that manager or the EPL but that it is endemic to our system and the development of talent. If we are serious about improving this is where attention must be focussed.

  • Comment number 47.

    Why is this blog not on the sports section.

    Intelligent, reasoned, an innovative angle.

    Yes we kill young talent, but first you have to train the people who run junior teams how to nurture it.

    This probably also means reducing the competitive aspects. Make the "season" a one month tournament or what the Dutch/Spanish/Germans do, whatever that indoors...

  • Comment number 48.

    The German team, their style and the body language shown it all - "One for all, all for one".

  • Comment number 49.

    Paul Mason,you should be knighted. This is the best blog I have read as to why English football is doomed.

    The football journo's and pundits are all trying to blame the manager.

    We have in the last 10 years had a soft line European, a hard line European, and TWO, not ONE, BUT TWO English managers, one who was pally with his players and one of our best coaches, the other a national icon.

    That covers virtually every type of manager. Some of these players played for at least 3 of them and still could not perform for any of them. Who is to blame ? Yes,lets blame the manager, pathetic.

    Germany and England 10 years ago had appalling Euro 2000 tournaments.

    Germany has recovered to the extent of 2002 WC Final, 2006 semi and 2008 EC Finalists BECAUSE (a) they have a tried and tested system (b) their economics means their FA is above the Bundesliga. Yes, the German league system will have faults but look, their average attendances are massive, their ticket prices lower and many include transport to the game, its is more difficult for businessmen to come in and crucify a club for personal gain, all their players play in their league,there remains standing areas, do you want me to go on.

    Their players can pass a ball, shoot, run into space, their players play as a team. There is no "I" in the German word for team "mannschaft", can you say the same about the english word ?

    Here the tail wags the dog, players are employees in most organisations, here they are the masters. The Premiership should be under the control of the FA who should be told in no uncertain terms that "the good of the nation" is their motto. It is our National Game. The Blazers and players should remember it is not their game, it is the Nations game, it is the Peoples game.

    Well done again Mr Mason, maybe you could enlighten your footballing journalists.

  • Comment number 50.

    To MaxSmart (#35),

    this is what Mason kindly said in this article.

    Drop your ego.

  • Comment number 51.

    If player revolt against the boss then the FA should ban them from playing, after all how many jobs would someone keep if they kept arguing with the way the boss did things?

  • Comment number 52.

    The question you have to ask, if the players could just play for their clubs, and be surrounded by the sicophants telling them how good they are, how many would be happy to do that ? The blunt truth may not be what you want to hear if you think the English national team is the pinnacle.

    I know the clubs would be happy, they could organise pre, mid and post season lucrative overseas trips with their best players available and so could name their price for any such trips.

  • Comment number 53.

    Yes, there does need to be a quota on foreign players in the Premiership, but hopefully any debate about foreign players doesn't degenerate into Johnny Foreigner bashing, which doesn't help anyone. Obviously, the Premiership itself needs to be looked at with respect to lack of regulation in terms of the quantity of foreign players per team and the ease at which foreign owners can buy clubs. However, too often in this country we aim our opprobrium in the wrong direction. An example is with outsourced call centre jobs. Yes, this is very bad for UK workers with respect to unemployment, and the service that UK callers get may be of a lower standard due to language barriers. However, too often you get the caller abuse the call centre worker, accusing him of "stealing" UK jobs and making bigoted remarks. This does not solve anything. The ire should be aimed at the companies that outsource jobs, because they are guilty of increasingly unemployment in this country, despite having their base of operations in this country. So, yes, the free market is a failed philosophy, and we need an overhaul to protect the economic and social conditions of UK workers (and, in the case of the blog, UK footballers), but let's not take unnecessary shots at foreign players or foreign workers, who are just trying to do the best they can. This is why I hate it when people claim that foreign footballers or foreign workers taking outsourced jobs are "stealing" these jobs, as if the blame lies with them, and not the greedy profit maximising companies and corporations.

  • Comment number 54.

    Could you please take over from the BBC's chief football writer as his blog is a tirade of tried and tested cliches with precious little insight whereas yours is as refreshing as it is uncomfortable to read?

  • Comment number 55.

    I could not agree more with everything you state. You have clearly expressed all I had intuited. An answer that is becoming clear to me is for the FA to get steel into its spine and nerves and bring the Premier League clubs to heel with a philosophy that the game comes before commercial success; however, this is a wishful ideal.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think this article is largely confused and wrong.

    Argentina, Spain and Brazil do OK, despite the fact that their players are paid masses of cash.

    'Player rebellion' was not an issue for England. It wasn't player rebellion that selected Upson, played Gerrard on the left, left Johnson at home or stuck Heskey on when we were chasing the game. Capello, not the players, was at fault of England's horrid, horrid tactics.

    And it's nothing to do with the premier league. Do most Frenchmen play in France? No, but they won the WC in '98. Brazilians and Argentinians largely play in Europe, where the money is. No problems for them.


    England have poor skills.

    Address the skills problem at an early age and there will be more English players in the Premiership, and a better English side.

    Money is of very little relevance. Robinho and Kaka are playing with pride and performing.

  • Comment number 57.

    NEWS FLASH: England team arrive back at Heathrow. FTSE 100 crashes by 2% in morning trading. Rooney blamed for UK entering double dip recession.

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree with article 100%. Even the general football fan in this country are to blame, if any side starts taking their time passing the ball around waiting for an opening the fans start shouting, yelling "get the ball in the box, whack it up there" kind of expressions. So what chance could anyone ever have of changing the Nations Culture? What they want at a football match is just excitement not bothered about the quality. A friend who for many years was coaching youngsters even said to me, "I can’t stand watching world cup games because they just pass it around getting nowhere", (he is still my friend by the way".
    I am afraid it will never change.

  • Comment number 59.

    There is a wider issue here. The Murdoch empire bought into football, using the fans' own money and changed its nature. This empire is not British, and for all the faux patriotism of the Murdoch's press, he himself does not care about Britain or its culture.

    In effect, this virtual monopoly has extracted huge money from the public and fans, much of which has gone into the game. Yet the game has not improved one iota as a result. You can complain about the media commentary, but it all makes sense if you consider that football has become a kind of soap opera as much as a sport, and the constant nonsense makes money for its owners.

    News Corp has a strategy for total media and political domination, or as much as it can get away with. It is poisoning our society and should be excised like the virtual cancer it has become.

  • Comment number 60.

    18. At 12:26pm on 28 Jun 2010, stayingcool wrote:

    The comparison is with a national economy that is concerned only with individual firm 'efficiency', even when this is contradictory to the wellbeing of the national economy.

    Cheap foreign labour is just the thing for individual firms 'efficiency', and the transnational firms that really benefit from shifting people around the world to capitalise on the wage differential also have the power to get national, EU and international rules that facilitate this.

    But at the national level; there is the cost of UK workers displaced and the costs of other unemployment pain; services that foreign workers dont pay for (no NI) have to stretch even further as they use them; the government income from NI is down, also from tax, as firms use ways to minimise foreign worker tax, making cheap foreign labour an even more attractive proposition.

    Overall its individual firms using every trick in the book to drain the national economy - what's left of it.

    So - a need to reassess national priorities - beyond football

    I really think we need to re evaluate this belief in the free movement of capital to go wherever there is cheap labour, and therefore is able to increase its profits. Moreover, we must reassess our unwavering support for free trade (and the systematic dismantling of trade barriers) because not only is this environmentally degrading, but it has a negative effect on UK workers, because trade and economic liberalisation has also contributed to the influx of cheap foreign labour into the country. All this has come about because of a movement towards neoliberalism, and the domination of international finance over our lives.

    Something that I believe is also very important, but seldom gets mentioned, is the neoliberal/free market fundamentalist philosophy since the 1980s also has negative effects with respect to inter-community relations and race relations. A lot of working people, seeing that their jobs are being taken by foreign workers, are likely to lash out against the economic injustices of the situation, and may think that, "well, if foreign workers are coming to take our jobs, why do we also unfettered immigration to put further pressure on wages and on the public services I depend on?". All this foments disillusionment with the neoliberal elite, and unfortunately, may result in a deterioration of relations between different ethnic groups, something that is promoted by the BNP.

    What is to be done then? I don't have a perfect solution, but I believe we must return to a somewhat autarky trade policy. The free movement of capital (which Keynes was extremely wary about) must be STRONGLY regulated, so must the free movement of labour. Internationally, we must negotiate a new trade order (usurping the neoliberal dictatorship of the WTO).

    I sincerely believe that ordinary people in all countries of the world (including workers of countries who supposedly benefit from open markets) also think the same, and are equally distressed by the domination of big business over our lives. Look at the protests in Greece, or the fact that most South American countries now have socialist governments, or the protests by the indigenous communities in Jharkhand who live in areas that neoliberal mining corporations want to appropriate to carry out mining operations.

    We need ALL the countries in the world to get together, being led not by neoliberal political parties, but parties that represent the people. These democratic socialist parties need to devise a new trade policy, so that trade in only essential items will take place, and that national borders are heavily regulated, not because of xenophobia or ugly racism, but to protect the ordinary working class people IN ALL countries. This has to be an internationally coordinated attempt, not a case of one rich country (the UK) looking to only protect their interests.

    Once this happens, corporations will lash out, but with diminishing surplus value, Marx's analysis will eventually come true, but the system to replace it will not be authoritarian communism, but a democratic, worker led system, with production not for profit but to satisfy needs.

    This will be a rational, controlled system not prone to the inherent instabilities of neoliberal capitalism, because free movement of capital and labour are a thing of the past. Only then will man be free to pursue the things in life that truly matter, and not be chained to working to maintain a capitalist system that only enslaves man and diminishes his creativity and goodness, as he is forced to compete against his fellow man in unscrupulous ways just to survive. No longer forced to service capital, man can explore the inner aspects of his personality, and realise he is not a self interested information processor as he has been told by the capitalist indoctrinators, but rather he is an inherently good, moral, altruistic individual, with sophisticated interests and a duty to love, care and respect his environment and his fellow man.

  • Comment number 61.

    Money is the root because that is the mantra on which we judge as a nation.

    The South Americans know the riches lie abroad but they also know only the best and most skilled of them will reach those levels, for every Kaka or Messi there must be hundreds who fail and its shows when they play for their country, hey when they spend 10 hours on a plane to represent their country every time a WC qualifer is played, they also remember their roots.

    Here, money is gained too easily by our young men at too early an age, at which point their ambition is diluted, they want to wear coloured boots to stand out because they dont have the appetite to stand out on their skills alone.

    As a nation, we are style and no substance, we are High Street you see in Western films. Facades look great, go through the door to find the facade is just that, being propped up by wood.

    We are in a vacuum now in this country, being take to the cleaners by people who so long as their vested interest is catered for, nothing else matters.

    Yes, it may only have been a gesture but I tell you what would have embarrassed those French players, not the failure on the pitch but going Economy class on the way home. In the long run they would still have their flash cars, houses etc but that one action would have connected with the French people.

    English football has lost that connection.

  • Comment number 62.

    The Murdoch empire is a problem, but I believe it's a symptom rather than the issue itself. What we are seeing with the Murdoch situation is similar to Marx's analysis of the capitalist system. It's desire to accumulate, to grow, to eat up smaller firms and companies, and with it's ultimate goal of media and political domination will be its undoing. With the diminishing value of profit, Murdoch's greed will eventually be the demise of the capitalist system he so adores. In fact, Murdoch himself epitomises the modern capitalist. He is an evangelist, a free market fundamentalist, who worships at the high altar of the market, and will shout heresy whenever anyone dares suggest that society should be run based on social needs, not private profits.

  • Comment number 63.

    61. At 11:53am on 29 Jun 2010, John wrote:

    Money is the root because that is the mantra on which we judge as a nation.

    The South Americans know the riches lie abroad but they also know only the best and most skilled of them will reach those levels, for every Kaka or Messi there must be hundreds who fail and its shows when they play for their country, hey when they spend 10 hours on a plane to represent their country every time a WC qualifer is played, they also remember their roots.

    Here, money is gained too easily by our young men at too early an age, at which point their ambition is diluted, they want to wear coloured boots to stand out because they dont have the appetite to stand out on their skills alone.

    As a nation, we are style and no substance, we are High Street you see in Western films. Facades look great, go through the door to find the facade is just that, being propped up by wood.

    We are in a vacuum now in this country, being take to the cleaners by people who so long as their vested interest is catered for, nothing else matters.

    Yes, it may only have been a gesture but I tell you what would have embarrassed those French players, not the failure on the pitch but going Economy class on the way home. In the long run they would still have their flash cars, houses etc but that one action would have connected with the French people.

    English football has lost that connection.

    Completely agree, and this is why I ask people not to blame foreigners or rally against foreign players "stealing" the places of young, English players. Of course this is a problem, but rather than blaming the actors on the stage, look at the invisible script writers and directors in this particular play. It is this obsession with profits and money that firstly made the creation of the Premiership possible, and the obsession with greed and profit maximisation has caused clubs to buy up cheap foreign imports rather than endeavor to develop a strong academy to develop their own players.

    Moreover, some clubs think, why bother to develop our own players, when at the age of 20-21 the best may eventually be bought up by other more successful clubs? All this displays the inherent injustices of the free market and free trade system. Because the easy way in which young players, developed by a club, can leave for bigger clubs is a result of our subservience to free trade the the free movement of labour. Why don't the Premiership bring in a quota on foreign players. Because strong vested interests from all the EPL clubs would make this politically impossible for the Premiership to follow through on.

    Moreover, the Premiership don't even want to make this happen, because they don't want to buck the market, because, as we are all told by the neoliberal capitalist elite, the market knows best. Of course, if you question that, if the market knows best, why is it that German football (who have shunned the free market fundamentalism to a large degree) looks to be developing so nicely, with many outstandingly talented footballer showcasing their ability in the world cup, a highly competitive league, low ticket prices, high attendances, a sustainable business model employed by clubs who are enjoying sustainable revenues, and a very competitive national team? Is there a link between the quota on foreign players introduced by the Bundlesliga for a few years now and the quality of German players coming through? Of course, the neoliberal elite will claim you are misinformed, and naive.

    I say that the neoliberals are worried that the "simple" proles are actually seeing the wood for the trees, and are NOT HAPPY with the status quo of unregulated free market turbo charged neoliberal capitalism. We want change, they resist it. What will be the inevitable outcome. Well, if we are to follow Marxian economic analysis, the conclusion is as inexorable and inevitable as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. And the conclusion is not something the neoliberals want to here.

  • Comment number 64.

    So how do you force a business to change? Not buy its product. So long as the PL get tonnes of SkyTV money they have no reason to change. Empty stadia and cancelled SkyTV subscriptions might have an affect though.

  • Comment number 65.

    @60, @63.

    There is something wrong when we get blog comments considerably longer than the original blog. Especially when it's not analysis but a partial regurgitation of economic theology.

    ".....if we are to follow Marxian economic analysis....." Why should we? Marx never was an infallible prophet. It may be that some Marxist analyses are useful in understanding some of those aspects of capitalism which haven't changed since the 19th century. But the world, and economics, have moved on since then: certainly so called "Marxist" solutions have been markedly unsuccessful in improving human happiness.

    Since WWII. the most successful societies have had a mixed economy where the profit motive was harnessed, but also regulated as part of a strategy to provide for human needs. Therefore Keynes, the ultimate pragnmatiist, has been a much greater force for good than Marx - but neither he nor his followers have ever had the arrogance to claim that they had all the answers.

  • Comment number 66.

    I remember Steve McLaren talking about the management challenge of handling 'big reputations' - he was talking about the players. Doesnt that sum it up.

    But one other matter. Brian Barwick CEO FA undertook a "root and branch" review of the senior England set up to avoid this sort of humiliation following the failure to qualify for Euro 08. What happened?

  • Comment number 67.

    Nice theory Paul. One massive problem: we've been average for decades - apart from a semi final in 1990.

    Watching England try and play international football ever since i can remember has been painful. Knowing the English style wouldn't work we tried to play possession football but didn't really know how. Result: excruciating and embarrassing games eeking out a victory here, a few defeats there, and all a host of bore-fests: Swedish Turnip anyone? Norwegian wood: "Maggie Thatcher, Winston churchill..."? Keegan?!!!!?? Suited to kick and chase we attempt every 2 years to play like the continentals. And fail.

    Inger-land have been mediocre/rubbish for decades. Blaming modern plutocratic, bling-festooned premiershipdom is just missing the obvious: our players do not have the tactical thinking skills we think they possess. They are not as good as we like to believe they are. A half-decent pro looks world class against the under 7s; similarly so too does a talented but unsophisticated English "star" ina league of average cloggers. Crucially they play in a league and have a FAN BASE which values effort, braun and excitement over skill and tactical sophistication. The harum-scarum environment of English leagues is the place where any modicum of skill is enough to bamboozle a hefty english clogger, where foreign imports set up the openings for Lamps, Roon and co to score, where top foreign players gorge themselves on an orgy of misplaced passes from their english counterparts, a place where base metal appears to be gold. on the world stage we are exposed as merely leaden.

    before the foreign invasion the old english division 1 was dreadful apart from Liverpool (at their best they played a one-touch pass-and-move game equal to anything on the continent unlocking defences with a beauty and ease which was at times breathtaking - btw where has that gone???) and maybe Man Utd. Teams like West Ham Spurs were lampooned for attempting champagne football and signing skillful players but getting no trophies (they still are). George Graham's Arsenal were the epitome of the British style: kick, chase, get corner/free kick and BIG centre half nods one in from 3 yards (thank heaven for Arsene Wenger). devoid of the foreign legions in the england team the english players are back to their original state of nature: dreadful.
    Ditmar Haaman spoke more coherently and intelligently - IN PERFECT ENGLISH - about English football last night than any native footballer i have ever heard. Learning. Education. A delight in intelligence not laddishness. Brains not braun. When will we ever learn? Today, David Peat pleaded for English footballers to adopt the movement off the ball and passing game of the international game rather than the rigid 4-4-2 of ye olde englander. The EXACT same was said in 1953 after the Hungary debacle at Wembley: the national team of "world class" players exposed instead as inept, naive and utterly outplayed and humiliated. We've learned NOTHING in 57 years.

    The Russian linesman in '66 did us no favours. (check out the colour footage of Hurst's "goal" for proof it wasn't). Mr Bakhramov merely perpetuated a gross self delusion of superiority. Hopefully we might be humble enough to grow up and realize we're not world-beaters or indeed wave-rulers any more. We're just average.

  • Comment number 68.

    What matters the most is that apart from the being big & strong, the only area that our players can compete with any player in the world is "ball-striking" from 25-30 yards out, everything else [vision, intelligence, ball manipulation in tight areas, combination passing between the lines & dribbling] we are so far behind its untrue.

    Pure myth that Germany are average has been destroyed once again. From young age they are well taught, tactically technically and mentally effective. People called the Germany the machine at the last Euros but i seem to remember Schweinsteiger scoring the best goal of the tourney after beautiful combination passing from back to front.

    Tactically they can switch system with ease and play with different styles [direct long balls, lots of crossing, creative passing, set play teams. England are so over-hyped, these shows deficiencies in the way we coach kids in England and the Fa are mostly responsible followed.

    If England had a central hub for coaches to learn and coach young players then we will succeed at Internationally. Best coaching practice should take maximum a year to get around the country but in reality they don't in England. I am talking about coaching in wholystic sense, is coaching for young players from top prem teams to amateurs the same? NO

    Italy, Spain and France all currently have central system and since 1998, France have won 1 WC, 1 Euros and 2 Confederations Cup, Italy won WC and Spain won 1 Euros.

    Germany don't have one but the DFB have even more overall power over the way academies are working since they failed in Euro 2000 and how youngsters are being taught likewise Holland unlike in the UK where PL and TheFA and Football league all have different agendas [shown even by basic stuff as not allowing England team to use tourney balls during season].

  • Comment number 69.

    I signed up just to say this.

    What a fantastic blog. Nail on the head, spot on... I could go on. You have shown a greater understanding of the problem than Phil McNulty and the other BBC sport pundits who ignore where the problem stems from.

    They are content to blame the manager and brush the player performances past with a 'yea but...' attitude.

    English football needs to start from scratch.

  • Comment number 70.

    good piece, Paul...tell me why do we English need a foreign coach? The Italians, French, Brazilians, Mexicans, Dutch etc., all have their own national not some Johnny Foreigner never mind a Fritz give it to 'Arry....

  • Comment number 71.

    Maybe England did so bad because people like me & hundreds of S Africans were praying for Eng to lose. We absolutely detest the manner in which your'll ran our country down & all the daily wild & absurd reports yr'll ran about how bad SA is/how bad WC was gonna be....mabye this is just payment for that. We couldnt wait 4 yr'll to get knocked out... btw - the common snake in Rustenburg are small puffadders - no mambas, let alone Man-Eating ones!!!!...& the WC in SA is the most successful financially & 2nd best in terms of attendance... & all the tourists here from all parts of the world are safe & enjoying our cheap rates & great hospitality!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    No matter whatever else happens , IMO opinion John Terry should never be allowed to play for England again and I am not just saying that as a result of the Germany game - nor should anyone else who was in cahoots with him trying to undermine the manager in the middle of a World Cup. He was sacked as captain for failing to be a role model. He should be sacked as a player for failing to knuckle down and perform (was it deliberate ? - we may never know). His positioning on the left wing for the second German goal was appalling and is what dragged Johnson out of position - his overall performance for the 4 games was poor in my view.On the basis of his own performances and his attitude,never again. The same goes for any other prima donna lamborghini owning types. I can live with England being knoocked out but not with abject couldn't care less performances as we saw in the Group games and against Germany.

    As for Wayne Rooney, he needs to stop believing the hype and someone needs to remind him that there is no "I" in Team - great players perform week in week out and keep their feet on the ground (Pele) - Wayne seems to have forgotten how to pass a ball - it seems to me that the majority of times he had possession he conceded it. No player is too big to be dropped.

  • Comment number 73.

    Number 43: I could name you 10 flair players for England in 10 seconds. Only problem is they all retired a long long time ago.

    Basically the people who are currently berating England will be the same ones who will be lining the pockets of the players come August all over again by buying tickets, shirts etc. The premier league does not care one jot about the national team, simple as.

  • Comment number 74.

    Number 72: WC in SA is the most successful financially & 2nd best in terms of attendance... & all the tourists here from all parts of the world are safe & enjoying our cheap rates & great hospitality!!!

    Yeah shame the nation of South Africa will not see any of that money, FIFA are gonna take it all.

  • Comment number 75.

    "Finally the money pouring into the English premiership in the form of leveraged club buyouts..."

    I think you mean "pouring out" Paul.

    A quick search on Liverpool's massive debt to RBS and its associated high interest rate or the Glazer's ridiculous hedge fund terms would tell you that.

    United sold Ronaldo for £80m and how much of that was "invested" back into the English game?

  • Comment number 76.

    Just a number of points in no particular order:
    1. Club or country? Germany get to quarters/semis/finals of national tournaments but are notably less successful at club level - 6 Eur Cup/Champions Lge wins vs England's 10, plus English teams more wins in EUFA cup/old Cupwinners Cup than Germany. (& Germany has almost twice the population of England remember). Admitted Bayern got to this year's final, but were lucky to get there - should have been put out by Fiorentina even before Man U. Leave aside Bayern; & the rest, Stuttgart, Bremen, Wolfsburg, etc have no chance of winning the Champs Lge. I have known of Man U, Liverpool etc fans who would rather win the Chams Lge than see England win the WC. So it's safe to assume there is a club before country issue in England which doesn't exist in Germany.

    2. World Cup is a 'circus' for people who don't normally watch football? Typical - my (age 70s, female) neighbour who is glued to the box when the WC comes round, & doesn't know the game exists in the previous 3 years. Even my mother has been known to watch a WC game for 15 minutes when normally football would get 2nd billing to Emmerdale. As for England, as soon as a WC comes round, there really are millions out there who truly believe the media hype that we are capable of winning this thing, when any reasonably knowledgeable football follower knows the English club game & set up works against it in many ways. I remember 1966 & I don't expect to see another England WC win in my lifetime.

    3. World Cup in particular/international football generally, is the 'pinnacle of the game'? Ho ho ho. The only football I bother to watch regularly is the knockout stages of the Champions League. Some WC matches I watch, mainly the S. American teams to see what type of game they are playing. The WC is exciting because by & large you have 'Premiership' standard forwards going at 'Championship' type defences, even in the better teams. See how many dodgy defenders there are even playing for Germany, Holland, Argentina, Spain etc. It's easy to pick the winner of this WC - Brazil, surprises aside - because they have the best defence.

  • Comment number 77.

    quite simply the best critique of the England performance and the reasons for failure.

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • Comment number 79.

    Most technically gifted players, and teams that win world cups, tend to come from warm climates (where you are assured of a good firm playing surface) or have very good facilities & coaching on a national level for underage players. I saw a Dutch Under 10 team win a tournament two years ago and they could retain possession better that the current England International team, no kidding. If you spend most of your formative football years (before 13 years of age) playing on soft muddy pitches in winter it is very difficult to develop technique, and alas in this situation brawn will overcome brain.
    Quality of facilities, coaching and surfaces are paramount. England, like many northern European countries are sadly lacking in all three.

  • Comment number 80.


    In Brazil they play on the beaches on the bumpy sand, next to the braking waves, in the breaking waves and use goals about 2 metres wide, most people dont see a pitch at all.

    Because of that the level of skill they develop is better than anyone becauae the environment they play in as kids is so extremely bad for controlling the ball...unless you can play with the ball stuck to your feet and command an extraordinary level of skill of course.

    It is nothing to do with muddy pitches in wintertime.

  • Comment number 81.

    In reply to Straus (No.32), intelligence, or a lack of it, has nothing to do with what class someone comes from. History has shown there has been plenty of unintelligent members of the middle and upper classes.

    Professional football in Britain has always been largely working class. If your theory was correct, then England would never had the intelligence to win the World Cup in 1966. British clubs would never have triumphed in Europe in the pre-Premier League years, when clubs were still largely made up of British players. Many South American sides have been largely made up of working class players and they too would not have triumphed.

    This all goes to show that you have not given your theory must thought. Some may even say your theory lacks intelligence.

  • Comment number 82.


    I haven't had time to read all the comments, but that blog was the best critique I have read on the malaise of UK football.
    I hope you get it published in the sunday sports pages.

    Mind you, if I had written that, your moderators would have blocked me.......... Bring back freedom of speech BBC.


  • Comment number 83.

    Some people seem to have been allowed to make critical comments.... so here goes.

    Lampard & Gerard can't place in the same half of the park.
    Terry seemed to be nursing a grudge.
    And why do you need a back four?

    But you could still build a team around that squad.

    Against the big teams:
    Back 3 (2 centre-backs, one big and ugly, the other more calm) plus
    Gerard playing as libero -google Franz Beckenbauer to see how he would play that role. Gerard takes the ball out of defence
    2 defensive (i.e. tacklers) midfield. They aren't allowed to make any passes longer than 10 yds.
    2 attacking wide men (Cole & Johnson if they could run and cross) or Joe Cole & Lennon depending on opposition.
    3 attacking midfield (Lampard, Defoe & Rooney)
    0 out and out striker -everyone attacks.
    The bail-out is to the wide men, to give the other 3 time to get into the box.

    A single striker on his own has to be a powerful, running, first-touch marauder. We ain't got any of them. Otherwise, forget the striker.

    Well OK. If you are playing a short defence, Crouch up front in place of Defoe, but except as a cross, you aren't allowed to play it up to him unless he is already running free into the box.

    Sorted, it is all so clear to me.

    Regards, (an objective non-English fan)

  • Comment number 84.

    Duplicate, I thought I should spell-check, but had already posted.

  • Comment number 85.

    There is a comment on the thread of this wonderous weblog suggesting it should be on a sports area.

    I can not agree, if we lose the erswhile music teacher to sport I for one will be disappointed. At least beakey or what ever her name is has joined glum chiles on itv. Stay here Paul as we know sport does not have the clarity of thought that you can express.

  • Comment number 86.

    More good sense in those few paragraphs and four minutes of film than in much of the torrent of sports coverage.
    The way this so called 'team' conducted themselves in the WC meant it should have been no surprise that they would be roadkill once they came up against one of the real WC superpowers, like Germany.
    England has been, really, only impersonating a world class top ranking squad for many, many years, the only time they won the world cup was on home soil.
    The real world class squads have won more than once, not just at home.

    I also agree with the failed financial business comparisons, was Portsmouth FC the Northern Rock of the PL?
    A warning, of much bigger and worse, to come?


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