The writing has been on the wall for Stuart Pearce for some time now. But having already lost the opening two matches of the European U21 tournament, a third defeat led the England manager to blame his players for the team’s shambolic performances. Having already bemoaned the FA for preventing him from utilizing his best players, you sense it was one final swipe at those he has perceived to have let him down from a dead-man walking.
Pearce will vacate his position at the end of this month when his contract expires, but his post-game interview following England’s third defeat in three group games spoke volumes about the country’s national set-up. That being that nobody within the hierarchy (be it players, managers or the higher-ups) seems to be a strong enough character to take responsibility and move things forward in a positive, progressive manner.
Looking forward, it is tough to find anything worth getting excited from an England point of view. The minor fillip of positivity that emerged following the senior side’s respectable 2-2 in the Maracana has been washed away in the light of the U21 shambles, such was the deplorable nature of their showings.
Three defeats from three, in the easiest of the two groups, is remarkably damning. The team failed to score a goal from open play in any of their games, and in the process showcased a dearth of ingenuity, creativity, temperament and organization. Naturally – a somewhat recurrent theme when it comes to England – questions have been asked and concerns have been raised. How has the development of the countries young players been strangled to such an alarming extent?
There seems to be a contrast between the direction the FA want to move things in and the road the Premier League seems to be taking.
The Premier League, perhaps unlike the FA, has moved with the times. Teams have demonstrated a willingness to adopt continental facets of the game and apply the positive features in their own clubs. The FA by comparison, remain pretty set in their ways. Unfortunately, this deviation is having a detrimental effect on the English national team.
It is well documented that the number of overseas players involved in the English game is constantly on the rise and this has often been cited as the main reason for the national teams apparent decline. This is merely a representation of the global brand that the Premier League has become and the league is undeniably better for it. The 25-man squad quota was introduced with a nod towards teams developing from within and was undeniably a step in the right direction.