The deep rooted problems with the England national football team can’t be fixed overnight but there a number of small things that can be done straight away to make things somewhat better in the near future.
You’re not going to sort out England’s problems by the next World Cup, would have been a whole lot closer if they’d really started the process after the last embarrassment in South Africa four years ago. But there are a number of small details that could be implemented between now and Russia 2018 to make sure what we’ve just seen isn’t repeated.
First up it will take a change of manager, anyone who picks Frank Lampard in this final World Cup group game while wanting both him and Steven Gerrard to carry on isn’t going to take England forward.
The new man has to get the set up right and that means picking a team not star names. Over the last few days all you’ve heard is excuses for this debacle by people saying 1966 was a fluke, a blip. Well yes it was a blip but no fluke, it was planned, planned meticulously.
Sir Alf picked a set-up, a system, for the team and then picked the players to fit that system as summed up by a tale from Jack Charlton…
I asked him [Alf Ramsey] ‘Why me?’ and he said ‘Well, Jack, hay ‘ave a pattern of play in may mind, an’ hay pick the happropriate players to fit into that pattern. Hay don’t always necessarily pick the best players [a pause] Jack’. - ’66 World Cup winner Jack Charlton
Sir Alf changed from this and started picking his favourites after that and it eventually cost him. Managers after have fallen into the trap very quickly. The last four managers it has been their standard team selection to crowbar in the star names, as they were seen as far more important than the team as a whole. For Roy, see Gerrard and Rooney.
Once you’ve picked the system you have to test numerous players and that brings us to International Friendlies. The bane of football. The detractors say that these games mean nothing and tell you nothing – well tell Chile that it meant nothing as they ran rings round England last November – it means something and tells you something if you give people the incentive of knowing this could be their chance which means doing it correctly.
Roy took England to this World Cup with one right-back – a pretty useless right-back at that – with two bit part players who “could cover”. During the friendlies he tried nobody else bar a brief, stupid, experiment with Milner in that position, but since Roy took over all you’ve seen is Johnson and Walker in that position. One gets injured and Roy is left with Hodgson’s choice.
Johnson has over 50 caps now, so was there any point in seeing what he could do after 40 plus in those friendlies? No, the same as Gerrard and Lampard with their 100 plus. Test out the untested, don’t pick the usual suspects, and start them give them a chance don’t bring them on with half an hour or less to go, what good is that?
Also in that we have the latest talking point when ‘Arry stuck his head out of a car window and spouted his latest get my fizzog in the media spiel. England players not wanting to join up with the squad, well Spurs players not wanting to.
Yes I believe some of them have tried and probably succeeded in trying to get out of turning up. To some extent it is the problem of the England managers doing what I mentioned above. Picking the usual suspects. Players see very little chance of being picked, little or no chance of being given enough game to to prove themselves, so what’s the point?
As I’ve posted before it’s almost as if Roy and his predecessors don’t want their stars to be outshone. What would they do then? Well they’d just keep on playing their favourites.
But the players in the end have to respect the call ups and that means at all age levels. The call offs from the under 21s etc are even worse than the senior squad, especially when players have played a little in the Premier League or have had a senior appearance. Once they’ve got a first team senior cap many think that playing for the U21 side is a demotion. Just look at the last Olympics, especially the final, how many of those in the Brazil and Mexico side at this World Cup were full internationals, some over 23, but still played for their country at what is essentially a youth tournament?
Anyone who without a reasonable reason doesn’t front up when picked at any age level should be barred from England duty ever again.
This World Cup also highlighted another difference between England and other nations. Looking beyond the usual suspect teams. Netherlands versus Chile, both qualified from their group and there in the Chile side is a Cardiff player, a Forest player and here they bring on a Wigan player. The Dutch bring on Fer from Norwich and he scores. Can you see England doing that? At Norwich with Fer is Redmond, a couple of years younger, but much a similar player. They’ve both been at the club for the same amount of time, Redmond has played twice as many games, he’s an U21, I know Roy has an abundance of wide men but would he have got a look in if there wasn’t so many?
As with Chile again look at Wales. So many have called for England to play a possession game, you’ve got English players at the Cardiff who do just that, as mentioned in a previous post Leon Britton, Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge. Any of them been even thought of by the England management?
No because they don’t play for the right team. Southampton were a blip this year providing a number of players who deserved their call up but would the likes of Jones and Smalling be in Brazil on last season’s form if they didn’t play for Man Utd?
Then there’s the petty trivial matter of the national anthem. Look at various teams at the World Cup, especially the Latin American ones, they tend to play the way they sing their anthem, England mumble along uncommitted and uninterested.
All small things, nothing that would have turned England into a team who could win this World Cup but just things that could have seen them get out of their group, could see them have a good run at the Euros and be far better off in four years time. All things that can be done straight away.