Wednesday, 29 June 2016

England, #Euro2016 Elimination & a 25+ year problem

Now that the dust has settled...just a touch, let's look at England v Iceland and why we were dumped out of Euro 2016, by a side from a country with a population comparable to the amount of people you see at Champions league winners parades for individual domestic sides in England.
I could go with what I like to call traditional #parisiticmedia rhetoric, blaming players for not performing, blaming the manager for selection and poor tactics etc but I'm not going to go for the easy fix...why? More on that later.
Fact is, as we've discussed on Pitch Talk shows and videos, the latest major tournament elimination for England goes so much deeper than just an overrated but underperforming squad, or a manager not utilising the players correctly, it's the good ol' boy networks that aren't letting talent be developed and coming with half baked ideas to try and win tournaments.

Case in point, Mr Greg Dyke, the head honcho at the FA (or to give him his official title, Chairman of the FA) coming out in 2013 and saying his targets for England were to get to the semi finals of Russia 2018 and win the Qatar 2022 world cup, which is all good in terms of having targets, but like we discussed & asked on Pitch Talk live, how was he going to get to that ludicrously overly ambitious target, (that in all honesty, probably sounded like delusions of grandeur even to a tabloid headline writer) and the ideas were abysmal.

First, was the Premier League B-Teams in the football league idea, utterly terrible and does nothing but keep even more of a monopoly at the top of the game, which of course would be music to Richard Scudamore's ears as he hears cash registers ringing, but is like nails on a chalkboard for the rest of us fans.
The second half baked idea was more recent and was Premier League academy sides being allowed to compete for a season (as an experiment/1 year trial) in the recently rebranded Football League Trophy (now called the EFL Trophy).

To me, these 2 ideas are bad enough in terms of showing the utter ineptitude and narrow mindedness that needs to be totally eradicated from the powers that be in football, but these are just recent examples and I believe the mediocrity of the England team at major tourneys has gone on for 25+ years, and by mediocrity I mean the fact that the last time we reached a semi final of a major tournament was 20 years ago this summer and we've missed out on 2 major tournaments in that time (yes i'm including Graham 'Do I not like that' Taylor's tenure leading up to missing out on USA 94).
Another couple of examples of reason why we can't develop and thrive as a footballing nation are politics/good ol' boy networks, and football development (or lack thereof).

Politics, in my view, never mix well with football, just look at the Pitch Talk Rant of the Week where we discuss David Cameron talking about Sepp Blatter & murky politics years ago, hell, look at Sepp Blatter just in general, but i digress, the politics i'm referring to are all internal at the FA/Premier League level.
I've always maintained that Theo Walcott was on the plane to the 2006 world cup in place of Darren Bent purely because David Dein had stroke (to borrow some pro wrestling vernacular & drop an #OWR) at the FA at the time, as he hadn't kicked a ball in the Premier League, but Bent at Charlton was one of the highest, if not the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League and that was 10 years ago, remember, Dein was Vice-Chairman of Arsenal & the FA at the time... no coincidence.

Fast forward to Euro 2016 and similar situations in relation to selection (I feel) raised their head again as Jack Wilshire was picked in the initial 26, then the final 23 man squad to go to France, but Danny Drinkwater who was a major cog in the Leicester City title winning side missed out.

This was made even worse not only by the fact that Wilshire had 1 single start for Arsenal (in the final game of the season) after being injured ALL SEASON, I repeat... INJURED ALL SEASON, but it was apparently stated that Theo Walcott (who is consistently inconsistent) wasn't included as he didn't play enough...

I'm not throwing people under the bus to scapegoat, i'm just saying that these decisions sound like they're being made and directives are coming from a lot higher up than the manager, but he's the face of it, so he takes the bullet for it, Hodgson quitting straight after the embarrassing Iceland defeat was somewhat of a surprise, but not much as he basically jumped before he was pushed as Greg Dyke, just DAYS BEFORE THE MATCH, basically buried Roy by saying he wasn't sure if he'd renew his contract. If I was in that position i'd have had my resignation letter drafted whilst thinking 'I can't wait to tell Dyke to s*ck it' as I walk out whilst dropping the microphone during the post match press conference.

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but I think the problems with our nation as a footballing entity (as well as a nation in general, but that's another story) run deeper than a 23 man squad and a manager making poor tactical decisions.

The lack of quality we're producing is a major concern and this is about football development. The grass roots game, by which I mean football you aren't paid to play, for example; park football, Amateur football (For those who don't know I play for Ibis Eagles AFC in the 14Fourteen Southern Amateur League) etc has been disgracefully betrayed during this period, with the closing of open areas, free/municipal pitches where young players (especially those from impoverished backgrounds who can't afford coaching classes) honed their craft. If kids have nowhere to experiment and hone their skills, how can you produce the next generation of talent? Nathaniel Essex aka Sinister genetically producing the perfect footballer from the dna of the legends of the game? (I loved the X-Men animated series from the 90s & Wolverine & the X-Men from 2009).

Anyway back to the story, to me, this is completely backwards considering guys like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Scholes, David Seaman, Gary Lineker etc, who are considered some of England's greatest ever players, started by honing their skills in schools, kicking a ball against a wall, or at a local park/rec ground with jumpers for goalposts or an open/free pitch, but the FA gives minuscule amounts of money and support to help that game not just survive, but thrive and progress, and development is all about developing talent, nurturing and making the talent better isn't it?

I could go into facts and stats behind the decline in the grass roots game and the paltry, patronisingly small amounts of money divided around a huge cross section of the game by an obscenely rich elite in football but we've done it on many Pitch Talk Live shows and the fact is until the above 2 reasons are sorted and huge cultural shift happens, the same failings will continue to happen.

Sadly, until the powers that be cure their own seemingly terminal case of rectal cranial inversion, get rid of the good old boy mentality which predicates short termism over having a long term plan and sticking to it, we won't succeed as a nation, which is why I am such a fan of what we mentioned on Pitch Talk Live about China's 34 year plan to become a football superpower by 2050.
We need a long term plan because the powers that be running English football don't have one, any manager going into the England job is basically hamstrung because there is no plan and because there is no plan we're doomed to fail.

As 2 examples of potential solutions, as much as I am ultra critical of Sepp Blatter, his 6+5 rule if implemented right, in theory may have helped, but there are so many other rules that would need closing as well, it's a legal and administrative nightmare. The home grown rule in the Premier League would need closing as that contains a gaping hole, making it about as useless as a chocolate teapot, just like FIFA's residency rules to me are as useless as making a condom out of tissue paper.

In terms of a proper solution, a long term plan including PROPER FUNDING for grass roots football and proper support (as we've discussed on Pitch Talk Meets interviews) for that area of the game need to be implemented and monitored in terms of where the money is going. The term 'grass roots projects' (that is thrown around more freely than the words 'world class' and 'legend') is so vague that it means bugger all to anyone but to those running & ruining the game, whilst lining their own pockets and keeping their friends in positions of power.

Scudamore and the Premier League could give less than a damn about the future of the England team because the Premier League is all about cash and greed, in my humble opinion, but the FA need to work with them to help the England team succeed, but to do that, they need to change their own culture to focus on the we we we, rather than just me me me. 

England as a football team at senior level really remind me of a lyric Barry White song that my old friend Spoonface and Black Legend did a cover of 'You see the trouble with me' and like the last part of the chorus, England... 'this girl's gonna drive me crazy'.

The FA on the other hand (especially Greg Dyke, who I've never been overly impressed with), remind me of an HBK Shawn Michaels line whenever they come up with a 'plan/s' to revolutionise English football, and that line is 'If I wanted crap out of you, I'd pick it out of your teeth'.

As much as I could go into more detail, I don't want to send anyone to sleep, so let me clear my throat and encapsulate.

In terms of long term planning & execution, Spain have reaped the rewards, Germany are currently reaping the rewards (after we gave them the kick up the backside they needed in 2001 to start it off) and England aren't beyond repair, but it'll take a complete culture shift, committal to the formulation & execution of a long term plan (20+ years ahead) to repair the damage done over the last 25+ years.

Football is my microcosm of society as i've said for many years and just like in wider society, we're a lot stronger as a unified force, than we are as a divided one.

I'm Straight Shootin' LJA & that's my opinion!!!

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