After decades of constant disappointment at major tournaments, is it time now to stop piling all of the nation’s expectations onto the players and just come to reality that we will only ever be a quarter-final team?
After recent World Cup failure and the current group of players that were once branded the “golden generation” coming to the back end of their careers, the FA has now imposed that is time to shake things up and bring through some of the “highly rated” young talent replacing the likes of Joe Cole, David Beckham and perhaps even Frank Lampard, who are now coming into the back end of their career.
With their supposed to be some brilliant young players who are expected to become world class players (we have heard that before) should we again jump aboard the merry-go-round and believe that England can win a major tournament, or should we just assume that we will constantly falter in the knock-out stages of the competition?
It is constantly frustrating for all the England fans to watch such a gifted side perform like a team ranked 100th in the world! Individually they all seem to play fantastically for their club sides but as soon as they pull on that England jersey they just seem to choke and hide all of their characteristics that make them the players they are. Going forward we lack a high tempo, variety and innovation and defensively we are very naïve. Whenever we play Peter Crouch up front, the only thing we seem to do is lump a big long ball up field to try and create something off him, although that move is a threat, doing it time after time is predictable and teams can plan accordingly, we need to slide balls down the channels and let our pacey wingers swing balls in, cut inside and allow the full backs to bomb forward, to make the opposition just question what you are going to do next.
However, there is some glimmer of hope for England, as in 2010 the England U’17s managed to beat Spain in the final of European Championships. The likes of Connor Wickham and Joshua McEachran are already highly rated members of their domestic sides, with Wickham being constantly linked with a move away from Portman Road, to the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal for a price rumoured around £10million, but in recent times Wickham has signed a new contract extension until 2014, clouding over a summer move to one of the big London based clubs.
But these players aren’t going to be in the England senior team set-up for roughly six more years, so what do we do for the short-term? We as a patriotic footballing nation, may just had to grit our teeth for the forthcoming years and just hope that the current crop of players that find themselves in the England set-up can click at the vital time. But the blame cannot be entirely placed onto the England players, it would help if you had a manager that wasn’t stubborn, could actually speak fluent English and actually sounded like he could motivate players in desperate situations. Fabio Capello had a faultless qualifying campaign leading into the World Cup in South Africa, but we barely scrapped through the group stages and then came up against a fantastic young German side who absolutely stuffed us in the last 16 stage. We have already seen Capello shuffle the squad around calling up the likes of Ashley Young, Adam Johnson, Jack Wilshere and Scott Parker but it seems that England won’t be able to challenge the likes of Spain, Holland and Brazil for many years. But maybe to get over our World Cup hangover, we should freshen up the whole set-up starting with the managerial position and bring in an Englishman who knows what it really means to the fans. Someone like Harry Redknapp who has worked wonders at all of the clubs he has managed.
We also have to be realistic that with the way that Premier League is developing, that we are importing more and more foreign players that the youth prospects are being neglected and may not get their best chance of progressing into their domestic senior teams, as it seems the foreign players are always better. Josh McEachran is a classic example of a fantastic player who may have to see his future elsewhere, because Chelsea has rarely developed any youth players into first team action, preferring to spend their mega millions and buying already established world class players. Although Josh has featured it has only been on seven occasions and all being from the substitute bench where he has only been given a small amount of time to really make an impact, and has mainly been used where Chelsea are already in comfortable winning positions, denying the young Englishman any real chance to show what he can do. This is just one example and is happening across most of the twenty Premier League Clubs.
To stop the inevitable from happening, the FA has to crank up the regulations (as they are now beginning to do) and make sure that clubs have to have a fixed number of home-grown players and English players in their quota of players that they are allowed. The current rules state that each club must have a minimum of eight home grown players in their squad but I feel they should even increase that. In the Premier Leagues debut season there was just eleven foreign players named in the league but in 2009 we now see that there is less than 40% of the players in the starting elevens being English, with that figure decreasing every season! If we want to win major tournaments, we need to act now.