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English Football Is Not Dead, But It's On The Critical List

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Staff prepare equipment in the Critcal Care Unit of the new Queen Elizabeth super hospital on June 16, 2010 in Birmingham, England. Patients have begun to move into the new GBP 545 million facility today from Selly Oak and the old Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The building accommodates 1,213 beds and 30 operating theatres. The new hospital will have a 100-bed intensivel care unit - the largest in Europe - and the largest single floor critical care unit in the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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.

Dejecte England players at full-time following the Round of 16 match at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa on June 27, 2010. UPI/Chris Brunskill Photo via Newscom

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.

England manager Fabio Capello looks dejected during the Round of 16 match at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa on June 27, 2010. UPI/Chris Brunskill Photo via Newscom

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.

Mesut Oezil of Germany gets past Gareth Barry of England..FIFA World Cup 2010 Round of 16..Germany v England..27th June, 2010.

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.

England's fans look on dejected..FIFA World Cup 2010 Round of 16..Germany v England..27th June, 2010.

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.

Please leave me your comments below and you can find me at

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  1. AtlantaPompey

    July 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Very interesting analysis. Never having been involved directly with club teams or academies, I don’t feel qualified to evaluate your stated reasons, but I do agree that the team just is not that good. They lack the skill you see in every team in the quarterfinals. They lack the ability to control the ball and the game. You posit some very interesting reasons for this, all of which may be true. Your pessimism about the change needed to happen in the infrastructure of the FA in order to improve things is disheartening. As an American, I could frankly care less about the quality of the England side. Having watched them play the three matches after we played them, I was more and more disappointed that we didn’t win that match. If that match had been the final match in group play, I believe the US would have won, easily.

    American development suffers from similar problems, however we have an excuse: we’ve never been particularly good at this game. We’re developing and improving. England is clearly not.

  2. Jonathan Price

    July 1, 2010 at 6:03 am

    “How do you get your wife’s sister preggo???”

    Easy. Have sex without using a condom. 🙂

  3. sserwanga

    July 1, 2010 at 3:44 am

    England should stop whining and go back to the drawing board. Instead of the 1966 obsession of winning the world cup as if nobody has ever one it since then, use your academies to get young skilled players like Germany did. Foreigners make the premier league lovely to watch, but they go back to their countries to play. The Lampards and the Rooney’s can’t play without the help of foreign based players.

  4. Omar Fahnbulleh

    June 30, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Patrick, the only player mention was from Arsenal Academy and that was Cashley Cole. Where were those West Ham and Eventon players for England?

  5. patrick

    June 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Well… without going to much into the tabloid soap opera that is England football… Lets just say that in two weeks it will all be clear and one very proud captain of a Northern team will be playing in Spain, shamed. and John Terry will feel like he a saint.

    How do you get your wife’s sister preggo???

    Screws of the News will be all over this…. sadly it is true.

    and oddly this is what English football is good at… soap opera.

  6. Omar Fahnbulleh

    June 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    The English coaching did not produce Cshley Cole, Arsenal and it’s brand of Total Football produced Ashley. This is the philosopy at Arsenal and that is to have total footballing skills. Instead English Managers want a player that will run through a wall than a player that will figure how to get around the wall with minimum effort. The game plan when playing Arsenal is kick them off the park, because you can’t run with them. In the international game you can’t do that and England was lost when they could not enforce their physical play on the opposition. Power with out skill is dangerous and we have seen that with three Arsenal players viciously injured in four years.

    • patrick

      June 30, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      what? clearly you have no clue about the Everton or West Ham Academies.. or the England players they have produced… its all total football.

      and lets be clear here Le Arse buys young players almost ready, the rest grow them organically…

    • John ( Surrey)

      July 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      Spot on. Also include West Ham and Everton academies.

  7. Scott Alexander

    June 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I’m not sold on the idea that you need to have played at a high level to be competent in the FA. However, I do 100% agree with you concerning the FA’s incompetence. Further not only is there an almost unbelievable lacking in quality of coaching in England, there is an almost unbelievable absence of highly qualified coaches.


    June 30, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    “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.”

    Sounds like another country I know. Except the power that American cabal is obsessed with is in the bank, not on the field.

  9. sucka99

    June 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    the FA need to take the blame also for giving the Premier League too much power. The Premier League is only concerned about the Premier League, not about the national team.

  10. Gaz Lovett

    June 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I’ll keep it brief Mr B.

    ‘spot on’

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