There is a current malaise effecting almost everyone in England that follows the national side, from fans, retailers, journalists and TV executives. The finger of blame is being pointed fairly equally between Fabio Capello and the highly paid, highly hyped and self important members of the squad. Ashley Cole, despite being the only first team regular who can honestly hold his head high after the South Africa debacle, is now being accused of hating his country due to text messages apparently sent prior to the tournament.
Yet there are two points that are seemingly being papered over and as long as it continues, England will continue to regress. Firstly is the ineptitude of the Football Association and the second is the quality of coaching in England. The F.A. board, when it’s not embroiling itself in comedy crisis that are usually self inflicted is a strange beast. Made up of a set of people who’s only interest is themselves and self protection, it is a collection of administrators and people who have progressed through the amateur ranks of the game.
On the 12 man board are 4 members from the County associations, representing those hotbeds of English football, Kent, Hampshire, Gloucesteshire and Essex. One member represents the Scottish football association, for reasons lost on me and 7 other members who have never played football at a decent level. This apparently means these people, who other than working on the administration side of football, are in charge of the English game, its infrastructure, its future and it’s present. An organisation that spent £760 million on a football stadium without a roof and a pitch that has now been relaid 13 times in 3 years. That has had 6 Chief Executives in 12 years and seen 6 different national team managers in the same period. That signed up to a £450 million pound television deal that lasted 18 months until Setanta went bust and treats the Women’s game with utter disdain. Apparently, this is without criticism as they survey the wreckage of South Africa 2010 from the ivory tower of Soho Square.
Why do these people, who have no experience of the game, other than the money making side or administrating side of it, feel they can run the football side of it astounds me. It is beyond belief that people of the abilities of Bobby Robson, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Nat Lofthouse, Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney were not involved over the years is a disgrace. This is the organisation that shut the Lilleshall Football Academy in 1999 and is still stalling on its replacement, in Burton Upon Trent which is currently 7 years behind schedule and will apparently be open by 2012. No really it will.
These are apparently all things that we should ignore. Well I’m sorry, you can’t ignore them anymore. Every single one of them should resign immediately, they have created the situation that English football is beginning to feel to its very core. They have strangled the talent, the abilities and the opportunities for skillful, exciting footballers and left us with an academy system that simply produces strong athletes that can run a lot and now clearly cannot play football. It is a national disgrace and leads me to my second point, the quality of coaching.
English football coaching is run by a cabal of men who are obsessed with power, pace, stamina, heart, guts and determination above any technical ability. Skill and technical ability come well down the list of priorities in the coaching system in this country. I have seen this at 3 clubs with my own eyes, players are judged on how strong they are, how tall they are, how long they can run about for. I have been told by two separate football coaches at two clubs that British Asian kids don’t make good footballers because they’re not strong enough. There was no hint of irony or the racial connotations that the statement conjours up. The last great crop of really talented players that came through in English football came through before the academy system came in to destroy any semblance of talent. This country will never discover a Messi, a Ronaldo, a Totti, a Ribery because they would be classed as luxury players. They would never get through the academy system in this country because they are not giants who can run all day. England and its fans often claim that the national side has 5 or 6 World Class players. South Africa has proved that it has one and everyone seems to hate him, Ashley Cole.
Only Rio Ferdinand can possible be held up in Cole’s company now, the rest have been shown to be the overhyped, cossetted athletes honest people believed them to be. Yet, this is what the English coaching system has produced and I’ve seen so many posts, letters and status updates berating the English teams lack of fight, guts, effort, strength. Hardly anyone mentions technical ability or skill and that’s the problem. Fans seem to only judge a player on how much he runs about and gets stuck in. Not the sweet pass, not the dribble, not an ability to control the game.
The situation will not improve until the coaching system is completely changed from top to bottom, allows kids under 16 to play football and not worry about results in junior games. Talent needs to take the place of the winning at all costs method kids have to suffer from, the mad situation that sees 10 year old children playing 11 a side games on full sized pitches that resemble bogs most of the season. No wonder the English players natural defence is to simply learn how to kick high and hard as often as possible. That sees parents of children scream abuse at referees, coaches and opponents if little johnny is tackled or doesn’t score.
Of course, the F.A. will not install this blueprint and will try and fudge South Africa as an aberration. It is not, it is a stark warning to everyone involved in English football of the future. Blaming foreign players, Adidas balls, only playing 4 rounds of golf a week, too much camp discipline or dodgy referees will be put forward as the reason for the death of English football. English football needs major surgery now or South Africa will be the starting point of the end of English football. I fear that once again, the F.A. will blame everyone else but themselves and we will slip away into the shadows of world football.
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