The countries that have achieved great success over the last 20 years or so have made up their mind what kind of football they want to play and have implemented plans over a generation to bring it about through teaching that style to young children and persevering with it, through the age levels, even if it does not bring instant success.
The similarity is that they manage to implement it at all levels at League clubs and the national team.
Related Article: Greg Dyke – His Speech – The Future of the England Team: HereIt is that co-operation between League and FA that England must achieve. That is why Greg Dyke genuinely does not want a war with the Premier League. I am not so convinced that they do not want a war with him though, or at least the Football Association and he represents the FA.
You can’t get away from the fact that the Premier Leagues owners and sponsors are mostly foreign. It is not racist to say so, it is a plain fact and a foreign person is not going to put the interests of the nation he is a guest in above his own interests or those of his own home country. If someone from the United Arab Emirates or Russia or the USA is going to put his weight behind a country’s World Cup bid, it is going to be that of Qatar or Russia or the USA respectively, before the interests of the country where he has one of his businesses. If they own a football club in England then they are going to fill it with the best players they can afford to make the team as successful as possible. That’s what businessmen do. If those players are not English, what incentive do they have to replace them with English players, if those English players are not as good and will not bring them the same level of success and profits? So we have ended up not only with foreign owners but foreign players. This is in a country that invented the game and with the biggest most fanatical fan base prepared to dig deeper into their pockets to watch their team than anywhere else in the world, even through a recession.
The league clubs have invested in youth development. They have academies which are attempting to ensure that top quality youngsters develop and come through to the first team. They are not exclusive to English players but the nature of them being kids makes it more likely that a significant proportion of them will be English. There is some indication that these academies are having some success. Players like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Andros Townsend and Jack Rodwell are all examples of it bearing fruit but the country, the national team, needs much more.
In a recent interview on Sky, I think it was the youth development coach at Aston Villa that honestly and frankly said that even at the age of 15 and 16 approximately half the kids in the academy have not got what it takes to make to the top because they were not brought on in the right way from when they were children. He pinpointed the turning point as years ago when the school teachers went on strike and refused to take sports classes out of hours without being paid overtime. He didn’t criticise them for it – why should they work for nothing, particularly if they weren’t satisfied with their conditions and pay? However, whatever the rights and wrongs of the stance, in his view this led to sports classes not being compulsory in schools and many kids missed out on the football mentoring they got from these enthusiastic amateurs – and on the extended practice time and the opportunity to get noticed.
So, we need a scheme to reintroduce sport in school, P.E. teachers in every school (formerly known as “bastard” and hilariously retro portrayed by Phillip Glennister in the brilliant new sitcom “Big School”) and somewhere to play for every school. Compulsory P.E. including football on every curriculum. This should not seem like a tall order. We had it in the 60s when I was a kid, why not now?
Attitude to exercise.
Look at how many fat kids and parents there are now. Parents these days don’t make their kids exercise and watch because their parents in turn did not make them. Yet they are wandering about rolling in fat and will probably be the first generation to live shorter lives than the previous one because of this. I don’t believe it has much to do with fatty diets. As a child, you could not have had a fattier diet than me but I cycled 3 miles each way to school and back and played football in the yard every day for 45 minutes before assembly – and at break and at lunchtime until I was 16. That’s why I was skinny and fit. These days you are not even allowed to tell it like it is for fear of hurting their feelings. Has no one heard of tough love?
If teenage English footballers are not as good as foreign ones, surely playing alongside top class foreign ones has got to help them learn and improve? How do you encourage or persuade the team’s owners to play the English players if it is not so likely to bring them instant returns and success?