Where Does England Go From Here?
There is a saying that once you hit rock bottom the only way out is up. Unfortunately there is another option, stagnating at the rock bottom. The England national team hit rock bottom in South Africa and those out there flattering themselves that England will emerge from the utter mess a stronger team cannot be further away from reality. There is nothing about the present crop of England failures, the under 21’s or the English system as a whole to instill any positivity that the future will be even slightly brighter than the present all time low.
The game against USA was not as bad as most people have made it out to be and the Americans are a much better collective unit than most people give them credit for. Had “Butterfingers” Green not let in the dubious goal England would have gone on to top the group and meet Ghana rather than Germany in the round of 16. Albeit going by the new-low that England accomplished against Germany you can be rest assured that Ghana would have gone on to beat England by a similar margin if not more. Frankly, it is slightly less embarrassing to be humiliated by a German team than to be humiliated by Ghana. To say that England was bad against Germany would be wrong. Bad were Australia against Germany. England was as good as a bunch of 12 year old kids from the Indian sub-continent kicking a ball around on the street.
It would be difficult to accurately pinpoint one particular reason for England’s humiliating display at the World Cup. A host of factors collectively contributed to England’s lethargic performance but none more significant than the English football system that has consistently failed to produce good footballers for some time now. The primary reasons for this talent dearth are clubs like Arsenal who ply their trade in England but have really made no significant contribution to the national team in a decade or more. Ironically the one good football player that England has produced in recent times, someone who can walk out of almost every dismal England performance with his head held high, is Ashley Cole – a product of the Arsenal academy.
England is paying the price of not implementing the 7 + 4 rule a long time ago. One look at the current Arsenal squad and they are nothing more than a group of average French and African football players who play some really attractive football under an astute manager because the last thing that they are expected to do at Arsenal is win trophies. It is surprising what even average football players can accomplish if the pressure of winning is eliminated from the equation. To say that a country with a population of over 50 million does not have even players of the caliber of Almunia, Abou Diaby, Sagna, Nasri, Rosicky, Eduardo, Vela, Denilson, Song, Djourou, Fabianski, Mannone, Eboue, Traore, Bendtner would be plain wrong. It is just easier and more economical for clubs like Arsenal to recruit potential talents from lower level clubs in France and Africa at dirt cheap transfer sums and wages than to take the financial burden of identifying potential English talents and groom them over years in their academies to have more than half of them fall by the wayside.
The highest contributor to the English squad in the present World Cup in terms of players was Tottenham Hotspur of all clubs and they were not even good enough to qualify for a Champions League spot til Liverpool decided to self-destruct. In Terry-Upson-Barry England had the slowest defensive trio in the World Cup and it would be wrong to blame Capello since he had so few players to choose from. The golden generation was nothing more than a farce and the next generation, the likes of Milner, Walcott, Downing, Agbonlahor look to be no better. Had the FA decided to crack its whip a few years ago and make it mandatory for all England based clubs to have a specified number of local players in the playing 11 the situation would not have been as grim and hopeless as it is now.
Truth is, for all the talk of national pride, the English fans as well as the players have always placed club over country. The national team of the local Old Trafford faithful is Manchester United and not England. It was distressing to see a German team comprising mainly of non-Germans play more for national pride than a no-good England team comprising mainly of thoroughbred Englishmen.
Fact is a month or so down the line over 60,000 Englishmen will be shouting their throats hoarse at the Emirates over 11 non-English players with little recollection of the horror of South Africa.
Honestly speaking the English have not won the World Cup in the last 44 years because deep down they really don’t want to…they would rather see their club win the English Premier League.