So, as the FA look forward to the start of another record-breaking, money-swamping, ego-bloated Premier League season, following the abysmal performances and eventual collapse of the England national team in Euro 2016 against Iceland – a country with the population of Croydon and more volcanoes than professional footballers – the English Football Association have yet another chance following a tournament failure, to ‘get it right next time’.
With that in mind, who wouldn’t be excited to know they are in talks with Big Sam Allardyce to become the next England Manager.
It’s funny how all the football pundits, journalists and so-called football ‘experts’ (especially ex-professionals who apparently have an insider’s understanding of how to play football because once upon a time, they under-performed and failed miserably in an England shirt too) were all singing England’s praises before the start of the Euro 2016 finals in France. Roy Hodgson was being talked up for selecting a young, exciting squad and England was being tipped to make the quarter-finals, semis and by some, even win the tournament. This euphoria followed an unbeaten qualifying campaign. Neither of which is something new. Nor were the poor performances, no plan b or lack of quality when faced with an opposition who played as a team, were not afraid to receive the ball, and above all, didn’t resort to kicking the ball around as fast as possible in headless chicken fancy dress costumes when they went behind.
For decades now England has underperformed on the big stage. This isn’t new, but deep-rooted. It started in the 1970s when England failed to even make the World Cup finals for over a decade At the same time, there was an emergence of a new style of European football. While West Germany (as it was known then) continued to play solid, cautious football with a strong team ethic, Holland (also known as Netherlands) began playing a slower, more skillful game that promoted individual flair and ability but still with a strong team spirit. This evolved from the exciting flair of the Brazil 1970 team – possibly the best football team of all time – and infiltrated Spanish football in the 1980s when Dutch legend Johan Cruyff became manager of Barcelona. England’s style of fast, furious, aggressive football was no longer good enough to compete at the highest level. While I can understand the achievements of 1966 and 1970 were still fresh in the memory when England failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cup Finals, by the 1980s the English FA had the chance to address the endemic problems in English football coaching that start with young kids and proliferates through grassroots and professional levels.
Apart from a brave attempt in World Cup 1990 and again helped by home advantage in Euro 96, England’s place in the hierarchy of national football is no longer at the
top table. The only difference with the over-enthusiastic and under-performing Euro 16 debacle was this time the capitulation was against a debutant country the size of Iceland. England achieved a new rock bottom in embarrassment and under-performance. But however frustrating it is to see overpaid primadonas fail miserably once again to play for their country at the level they play for their clubs, be careful not to agree with the wrong excuses. Forget ‘tiredness from a physically draining season’, too many foreign players, money or lack of commitment. England’s failure at every World Cup and European Championship finals comes down to one thing – the English way of playing football. Until that changes at schoolboy and grass roots level and permeates to the top level of English football, England will continue to fail at every major tournament.
Jurgen Klinsmann was at the heart of rebuilding Germany when they hit a low 10 years ago. They looked not just at the national team’s performances but at the whole structure of German football. Look where they are now.
The future of England isn’t bright. According to the English FA, the future is… Big Sam Allardyce!