The Pointless Celebrities Who Make Up The England Under-21 Team


England’s Under-21 team return from the European Under-21 Championships in Israel having failed to qualify for the semi-finals. This is the second successive tournament that England have failed to get out of their group, this time pointless.

Danny Rose went to Israel with England under-21 team. [Photo: Jav The DoC_66]Pointless Celebrities.

One of the dubious benefits of being pretty much restricted to barracks most of the time is the opportunity to experience daytime television. In the afternoon there is a programme on BBC1 called Pointless. Occasionally it features B or C list celebrities and reasonably enough, these episodes are called “Pointless Celebrities”. I was surprised to find yesterday afternoon that the programme had moved to Sky; Sky Sports in fact.  The Pointless Celebrities in question were the England Under-21 football team, losing their 3rd match on the trot, this time to Israel.

I know this is a Tottenham website but I can’t let England’s total failure at the Under-21 championship go without comment. I don’t know if Stuart Pearce is a good manager. He didn’t win anything in his brief spells in club management and it’s been a while since he tried. What I do know is that there couldn’t be a greater, more obvious patriot. He has always worn his heart on his sleeve and continues to do so. I don’t know whether anyone else could have done better in the circumstances in which he was obliged to work. He was hamstrung by a combination of players staying behind with their clubs, or being taken to Brazil by the FA for a friendly. He allows his emotions to show through in press conferences and he has recently passed the blame for poor performances onto his players.In an interview with BBC Sport, Pearce said,

"“The players haven’t delivered. I’m really disappointed with my team….They should be here answering questions on why their performances were so poor, to be honest with you.”"

The former Tottenham manager, David Pleat, who was a pundit at the tournament for the BBC was also critical of the players, saying,

"“Some of the players gave the impression that they were on the beach, and I stress some of them. I’m not sure if they were ready for this tournament.”"

The truth is the players Pearce had available did not perform to a high enough standard. When asked about their performance, the response from most of them was that they were disappointed but “we are better than that”. I am not sure that they are. They look better than that when they play for their clubs but I suspect that is because at their clubs they are surrounded by better, usually foreign players who make them look better than they really are. I think Danny Welbeck’s line was revealing, “we were surprised by the quality”, I think was the throwaway line that tumbled out as he was being quizzed.

I can’t see Pearce’s contract being renewed now, whether he deserves it or not. At least in the long run, it will probably be better for his health. I hope he gets a nice, cushy well paid pundits job. He deserves it more than some of those that have been appointed recently. Beyond his personal tragedy though, whoever is mug enough to take his job on is on a hiding to nothing, even more so than the manager of the senior team.

Sol (whisper the name) Campbell spoke with admirable perspicacity and fluency on the subject in a Sky interview before the Israel game. His view was that our young players think they have done enough and have it made when they get their lucrative contracts and secure a position in Premier League squads. As Sol said, that is only the start. Players become real world class by pushing themselves forward from that point, practice, practice, living the right way. Our young players, in general, don’t make that extra effort consistently enough when they break through. It shows through then, in our national team’s lack of success.

England executives have defended taking our best Under-21 footballers to Brazil for the friendly on the grounds it will be best for our World Cup Finals preparations. We’ll soon see. That will only be the case if the senior team progresses beyond the quarter finals and it is by no means certain that we will even do that.

Remember the dismal performances of the senior team at the 2010 World Cup? One was so boring that a pigeon took to sitting on the cross bar in South Africa that England were attacking, clearly having concluded it was the one place in the stadium where it was least likely to be disturbed. In the same game Mark Lawrenson commented that there was a game of cricket going on next door and it would be more exciting to watch that. In that context, this week’s Under-21 performances were a case of déjà vu and should have come as no surprise. It is the latest “wake up call” for our national game, yet we never do wake up. There have been no significant changes.

The one constant is that the interests of the Premier League and the clubs continue to ride rough shod over those of our country. The FA seems powerless to do anything about it. I seriously believe that the government should take some action to ensure priority is given to the England teams and English players. It is one case where politics should not stay out of sport. The Premier League’s approach s damaging the image and perception of our country on the international stage and the government should do something about it. So start donning the emotional armour now. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the deluding roller coaster of optimism that rolls around every 4 years. It hurts too much. Smell the coffee and start preparing yourselves now for more failure at the World Cup again next year. That’s if we ever get there in the first place.