England’s bleak future

Jack Wilshere's call up is a cheap marketing ploy by the FAIt was supposed to be a glorious homecoming for our all conquering heroes. Instead, England’s players will be made to feel more like pantomime villains when they run out to a (deserved) chorus of boos before tomorrow night’s friendly with Hungary.

The FA has lowered ticket prices to as little as £20 for Wednesday night’s game at Wembley, as players and FA suits alike get ready to feel the wrath of the England faithful after the abject failure in South Africa.

And who can blame them? Only the most blindly patriotic supporters thought that the Three Lions stood a serious chance of World Cup glory this summer, but most of us expected a team that had impressed in a near faultless qualifying campaign to at least restore some pride on the world stage after the Euro 2008 no-show.

How wrong could we be? After watching England’s ‘Golden Generation’ (surely a term in violation of the Trade Descriptions Act) produce three abysmal performances in their four games in South Africa, the failure to qualify for Euro 2008 was perhaps a blessing in disguise, allowing us to sit back and enjoy the festival of football without the ritual humiliation of eleven Englishmen being outclassed by technically superior opposition.

As in Germany in 2006, England were arguably the least aesthetically pleasing side on show, technically inferior to all their opponents, lacking creativity and imagination and seemingly incapable of passing the ball to one another without resorting to desperate long balls forward in search of flick ons and knock downs from the proverbial target man. The injury to Rio Ferdinand before the tournament was a huge blow, as England lost their captain and the only defender in the squad capable of bringing the ball out of defence without hitting aimless long passes towards Emile Heskey.

Looking back, the desperate performances against the United States, Algeria and Germany made you long for the days of Sven Goran Ericsson, when at least England looked compact and well-drilled defensively, even if they did lack ideas and attacking ambition.

Fabio Capello has certainly lost his aura, as well as the respect of some of his players, since England’s World Cup debacle. In his press conference yesterday, the once infallible Italian seemed bewildered by his players failures in South Africa and offered no solutions for their current malaise. It was as if the futility of the world’s most unforgivable job had finally dawned on him.

That said, the FA made the right decision to stand by the experienced Italian coach, who must be allowed to learn from his mistakes in South Africa as he prepares his beleaguered squad for the upcoming qualifying campaign for the European Championships in 2012.

The calls for for an English coach and the World Cup squad to be resigned to the nearest scrapheap were as predictable as they were depressing, but the likes of Green, James, Wright-Phillips and Upson will surely never pull on a national jersey again after their travails in South Africa. However, despite the obvious shortcomings of the ‘Golden Generation’, the future does not look bright and England fans may be dining out on ’66 for a few more years yet.

The promotion of Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs to the senior squad, with the latter missing virtually all of last season through injury, smacks of desperation and playing to the gallery, as neither, despite their obvious talent, are likely to be playing regular first-team football this season at the Emirates Stadium. Blooding youth into the senior set up will take time, and England just don’t have the quality coming through that Germany, Spain and Ghana possess.

Adam Johnson and Joe Hart are the only young players on the fringes of the squad likely to break into the first eleven for the start of the qualification campaign, with Michael Dawson set to be overlooked by Capello once Ferdinand proves his fitness. Of the players coming through, only Jack Rodwell looks like a genuine world-class prospect, while the members of the European Championship winning England U17 team are far too young to be fast-tracked into the senior squad. This week, various pundits have been talking up the credentials of Lee Cattermole, Ryan Shawcross and Micah Richards, which is a sobering reminder of the lack of quality in the English game.

So the call ups for Wilshere and Gibbs are effectively a ploy by the FA and Capello to sell more tickets and convince gullible England fans that the country has some bright young talent coming through. The reality is that the same nucleus of players who were so out of their depth in South Africa will be leading the charge towards Ukraine and Poland come September.

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9 Comments on “England’s bleak future

  1. I think I would agree with most of your points there. The non inclusion of Rodwell is a farce. How can you call up Wilshere and Gibbs, and then leave him out? Its puzzling.

    We got it horribly wrong in South Africa, but I dont think Capello will get it wrong like that again. He’s too good a coach to do that.

  2. I agree. Rodwell is a huge omission. A very odd squad, especially as so many people who didn’t play at the World Cup haven’t been given a chance. The omission of Huddlestone is also odd.

    I wonder if Capello has lost the plot, English players unlike the Italian ones he managed to such success in the 90s do not see football as a profession that they need discipline for.

    The least exciting England team I have seen in many a year. Conversely the most exciting Italian team for many a year.

  3. I just hope Capello is humble enough to accept he was wrong with 4-4-2. Sure it worked against the poor sides in qualification but was showed up as woefully ineffective in South Africa.

    We were painfully rigid and lacking in any guile or imagination. Teams could simply pass through our midfield and play between the lines of midfield and defence. Its painful to watch as a diehard England fan when you see the Lampards and Rooneys do this week in week out for their respective club sides.

    Capello must play 4-5-1 if we are to make any headway in international football at the top level.

  4. I think you are right Mace – people glossed over the fact Croatia were the only decent outfit in a desperately poor group. If you can’t qualify from that group in style, you’re in trouble. If we had qualified from the South American group for instance, that would have been an achievement. Playing Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia twice, plus a tough game with Bolivia at altitude. The European teams can have an easy run to the finals if the draw is kind, the South Americans really have to earn it. Wouldn’t fancy our chances!

    As for Lampard, Rooney et al – I think because they are playing alongside world-class, technically gifted players week in week out for their clubs they can play to their strengths and their team-mates will cover up their technical shortcomings, but when they are alongside equally fallible English players they have no get out of jail card, so to speak.

    Never mind Capello, will Roberto be humble enough to acknowledge Italy’s bleak future on this very blog? …

  5. It really bugs me when people use the phrase “technically gifted”. It wasn’t a gentic fluke. They weren’t born knowing how to trap a ball. Someone taught them. Until we start doing the same football in this country is buggered.

    • They are “technically gifted” because coaches outside England focus on improving ball skills and technique from an early age, rather than just relying on raw pace and trying to teach them how to play football later – see Theo Walcott and Gabriel Abonglahor for recent examples. I never said it was genetic, it’s purely down to coaching and culture.

  6. We seem to be on the same page. It’s more the implication that the term “gifted” has. The idea that it’s something bestowed on a player rather, as you rightly say, something which they’ve learned to do through decent coaching.

  7. To continue, just when I hear a pundit trot out the “technically gifted” line it always seems to be with the implicit suggestion that foreign players have some kind of innate, inbuilt skill which English players don’t have. That’s obviously rubbish it all boils down to coaching. There seems to be an acceptance in this country that we can never compete “technically” which is why we have this endless, depressing, emphaisis on “pace” and “passion”.

    I’m guessing that we’re both probably agreed on the fact that there are only 3 things wrong with English football and that’s “coaching, coaching, and coaching.”

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