Everyone has had their own personal go at FIFA over the past few months, with most of the English nation angry that they didn’t get the World Cup (and were humiliated in the process), but the spotlight rarely falls on the English establishment of football and many of their agendas seem to slip under radar. I’ve had distaste for my country’s FA for some time now, but the reasons I am writing such a scathing attack on them is because of what I read last night. This article in the Mirror claims that England are set to punish players that withdraw from the England squad without being checked by the FA’s medical staff, which I guess is somewhat fair (although I don’t see the great urgency to call up players for pointless international friendlies). The article cites Newcastle United’s Nile Ranger, who withdrew from England U20’s make or break, blockbuster FRIENDLY against France U20’s without being examined by the English medical staff. But it’s another part of this situation that annoys me, with a quote below taken from the article:
“Ranger was to be banned from playing against Blackburn tomorrow, but they were forced to postpone the action when they realised Manchester United defender Chris Smalling had been allowed to cry off Under-21 duty without reporting to England.”
When I first read that sentence, I was dumbfounded for words. You’ll take Man Utd’s word on it, but Newcastle should be punished? I’ve realised, this season in particular, there has been a particular lack of consistency from the FA in many of the decisions they have made. Most of us are already aware of the terrible treatment the likes of Wolves and Blackpool have received for fielding “under strength teams”, as both have been fined unjustly. The fact is, the FA ask you at the start of the season to make a squad of 25 players (which in itself is one of the weakest set of squad rules in world football, that does little to aid home-grown player development) so why are clubs being fined for fielding these players? I actually find it quite disrespectful to the starting line ups of the Wolves and Blackpool sides on those days, and that Blackpool XI actually put in a great performance only suffering a narrow 3-2 loss. I also ponder why these fines aren’t handed out for teams fielding “under strength” sides in the FA Cup, but then I remember that the FA Cup doesn’t make as much of a profit as the EPL does.
You may have read Karl Sears’ wonderful write up of his reasoning’s for not supporting his national side (which I echo) and I was talking to fellow EPL talk writer Jesse Chula the other day about many of the problems with the English national side. The main one, I believe, is the selection policy and I honestly don’t believe that Fabio has full power over some of the players chosen. Capello claims that he is picking players “on form” yet somehow Joey Barton, who has probably been the best English midfielder this season, misses out on the national side. As well as this, Glenn Jonhson, who isn’t even first choice right back at Liverpool anymore, get’s in the squad. And the selection of Carlton Cole…well need I say more? I think England fans should envy France and Italy, two nations that really took action on their poor World Cup performances and completely overhauled their squads in preparation for future competitions; England on the other hand seem to be stuck in a state of limbo where they are too scared to drop a number of high profile players due to their marketability and in the end they are only going to suffer from the same old results. Italy imposed stricter rules on Serie A teams in order to makes them develop Italian players, yet the EPL still doesn’t have the same rules as it is more than likely that the FA are worried that profits will drop if fewer foreign stars can fill teams up. I’m not saying I don’t want these foreign players in this league, I love them, but there can hardly be complaints about England’s poor performances when there is nothing to encourage reliance on developing English players.
The home nations tournament has just got under way and I’ve heard many ask why England aren’t involved, as with interest in the national side taking a blow after last summer, this would surely be an ideal chance to reignite interest in the team. A friendly against Denmark isn’t exciting and when you are calling up a lot of the same old faces and not experimenting with a lot of fresh new faces, it becomes mundane and pretty pointless. But if England on the other hand were in a home nations tournament, I would be genuinely interested, as although it is still technically a friendly tournament, you know it is going to be competitive and something that would be exciting to watch. I’ve seen arguments that being in the home nations cup “wouldn’t really test this English side”, but I don’t believe that England are at as high a level as they think they are and much of their reputation is built through optimism and media hype. When I turn on FIFA 11 and chose Chelsea, I see John Terry is rated something ridiculous like 84, but when I watch him play in real life, he has all the tactical awareness of a paper bag blowing in the wind. I do believe they are better than the likes of the other home nations (with no disrespect, although I do believe that on their day any of them could give England real problems), but the recent friendly against France showed that they are not quite on the elite level.
I was going to mention something about the FA handing out bans this season, although I couldn’t find videos of incidents to help showcase my point. The fact is that I wouldn’t mind some of the FA’s decisions this season if there was some actual consistency to what they were doing. Joey Barton got a three match ban for punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in the chest which was justified and correct, yet on the same day, Cesc Fabregas made a horrible lunge in a game against Wolves which went completely unpunished. If you want to make the argument that a punch is worse than a dangerous tackle like that, then you are wrong; that is saying it is ok to try and break players legs. Tom Huddlestone also got away with a blatant stomp on Johan Elmander this season, something which was caught clearly by cameras and I cannot see how the FA can genuinely not hand out a ban for something like this.
I am bewildered at times at how this FA conducts itself.
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