Lets Have Honesty Not Hype!

By John Cartwright – November 2010

Time after time, English teams at all levels have taken the field in international competitions with high expectation and low expertise. Hype not honesty has preceded teams onto the field but, once put to the test in open competition, our true lack of quality is plain for all to see. The latest and most ‘hyped’ group of so-called superstars — ‘the Golden Generation’ have been nothing more than a — ‘yellow disappointment’!  Hype has elevated mediocrity to the level assigned to greatness. The true ‘legends’ of the game should be outraged at players of such limited and inferior quality being given the same status as themselves.

I have been a lone voice in criticising the obvious lowering of standards in all areas of the game over many years. Despite being referred to as a ‘Rebel’, I have persisted with my honest belief that, – we are not good enough!  Recent articles and a TV documentary by Gary Lineker has revisited arguments concerning poor playing quality that some of us have been saying for years – (decades).  Lineker, is now saying, “we don’t have a chance of winning the World Cup until 2018”. I personally think we’ll be lucky to even qualify for the finals of that competition!  He obviously does not have any understanding of the poor coaching standards at all levels throughout this country. Good players are the product of good teaching, – poor players are the product of poor teaching. He is saying we don’t have enough good young players coming through the system. Does he not realize the reason for this lack of playing talent, – it’s because we don’t have enough good coaches to teach them coming through the system either –BECAUSE THE COACHING AND DEVELPOMENT SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK — IT NEVER HAS!

The production of our coaching methodology belongs to those from the teaching professions. Many have reigned at our national football association for too many years. In fact, junior levels of the game in this country are dictated by schoolteachers and parents, whilst senior levels are dominated by various areas of the media. With standards set by well-intentioned amateurs and the power of press and TV, it should be no surprise that we are a football nation lacking positive direction.

But it’s not just coaching and playing that should bear the brunt for our football malaise, what about the administrative control over our game? The word ‘mess’, just about sums up the complicated rivalry amongst various administrative sections within the game who have surrendered it to financial ‘wolves’. Fuelled by hype and greed and driven by incompetence, the game is verging on being completely out of control. Whilst mediocre players receive huge salaries, many clubs are unable to find the funds to continue trading; television pundits prevaricate for fear of offending advertisers or program directors; the media meddle and inspire intrigue not news; and there are those who are only able to ‘sit comfortably  on the fence’ or are adept at dispensing ‘bulls droppings’ to baffle any so-called brains around. The game meanwhile, goes on slowly sinking.  But, ‘we’ve got the best league in the world’ so we’re told …. continuously. – No it isn’t the best; and yes it’s full of foreigners!!

Where’s the person who can grab hold of this disaster and pull it back from the brink? Someone who will stand up and fight against the present power blocks in the game here; someone who is not afraid of journalistic and TV sniping; someone who has a clear vision and is bold enough to see it through; someone who will ‘lift the carpet’ and sweep away the rubbish under it; someone who can inspire others to a cause that would create a new type of playing style in this the birthplace of the game.

Perhaps we might once again get at least one nomination for an award from FIFA; we had none for the 2010 season. Says it all about our game and the so-called ‘greatest league in the world’ doesn’t it!!

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12 thoughts on “Lets Have Honesty Not Hype!

  1. Thank you John, once again! Your polemic is very enjoyable but sadly all too true. The ‘Lineker’ programme last year was clear, insightful and not really that surprising. What baffled me was why it hadn’t been made way back in 1992 after the Euro Championships debacle or the following year after we failed to qualify for FIFA 1994…? Even foreign managers know there are problems which is why they hire foreign trainers & youth team coaches. May be the problem is BSkyB & Sky itself. The pernicious way it has intertwined the English Premiership and encouraged this ridiculous, huge infusion of cash. This has prevented what would have been a natural evolution of a home grown methodical, grassroots coaching. Clubs except the smallest have little incentive to properly train boys from school age upwards. There is limited loyalty unless you happen to be a Premiership or Championship side. Players will come and go at will. The insane contagion of the market as pre Credit Crunch means that most clubs/people are living beyond their means… The rush for ‘success’ has pushed ever poorer Chairmen to buy, buy, buy when in reality they should be doing the opposite. It’s a sad tale of unregulated delinquency. Only time will tell how long it can last. Despite all this nonsense ‘English’ teams have actually managed to qualify for MOST Tournament finals. One can’t deny the genuine talents of a few – Waddle, Hoddle, Barnes, Gascoigne, McManaman, Scholes, Giggs.[N.B. No one exceptional in between until Wilshire] The problem has been that these greats & some others except for the Welshman were grossly under utilised or played out of position due to deficiencies elsewhere in the National team.

  2. the situation in ireland is worse where the schoolboy leagues are ultra competetive the DDSL in particular.the big dublin clubs are totally about winning from under 8s onwards.the emphasis is win/win and getting players to english clubs.they rob players from the smaller clubs with the promise of medals and a professional career.untill the fai get the blinkers off things wont change.the last truly great player to come out of ireland was liam brady nearly 40 years ago and that at a time when there was little to no coaching

  3. I agree John we need to be honest & have the courage to see reality beyond the hype. I watched three matches again recently; Barcelona V Real Madrid, the 5-0 in thrashing; England 1966 final & Brazil V Scotland 1982. The first one was a glimpse of a football future whilst the other two made it clear to me that in the UK, at least, we have being going nowhere for 30 or 40 years. If truth be told we are going backwards in the development of our players for loads of reasons.
    One thought, more two-footed midfield players like Bobby Charlton would be a help. Being two-footed gives a player so many more options, in midfield especially. Another, exemplified by the Brazilians, was that highly technical players have more time. A whole side filled with them creates so much more time & space. Finally, team work – speed of thought – plus precision of execution can take football to levels never seen as was shown by Barcelona who in my mind could get even better. Should they do so, heaven help all of us who care about the game in this country.

  4. I know a Dutch coach who states that if we ever manage to marry the inbuilt determination of the English (British even) with the technical expertise of player development and game understanding which the Dutch seem to be able to consistently produce, then no-one could touch us.

    We regularly refer back to individual talents in isolation and even in the post above states that we have been going nowhere for 30 or 40 years. I don’t remember much before the 1966 World Cup, but, through reading and listening and looking at the records, I am not sure that the English game especially is truly in decline.

    My own perception is that, aside from the blip of the 1966 World Cup and two much later semi-finals in ’90 and ’96 we have never achieved anything in major European or World football. Prior to 1950 we seem to have believed that we were too good for the rest of the world and didn’t even enter the World Cup until that time.

    Street football, whilst providing hours of entertainment, skill development and exercise doesn’t really seem to have generated enough players to have made a real mark on World Football.

    Books I have read all seem to refer to what was supposedly our ‘Golden Years’ with some disdain, citing greater emphasis on skill and game understanding of the continetal players and coaches than our own. There seems to be a consistent reference to the English obsession with fitness and direct play (long before Charles Hughes ever came to his role) with perhaps exceptions of the Scottish game which at one time seemed to be more continental in style than perhaps would have been imagined.

    The inclusion of English football into the wider football world seems only to have put a spotlight on our inadequacies and our consistent failures. Even in his autobiography, Sir Stanley Matthews expresses exasperation that despite requests by some of the players, the officials insisted that, once knocked out of the World Cup, the Englan players were not allowed to stay and observe the practices / training and games of the teams still left in the competition.

    We have consistently performed poorly in international competition – the English game is not in decline, simply because we have never reached a sufficiently high point below which you could possibly perceive that we have dropped.

    We do have a ground swell of opinion and the change that is necessary is beginning. Lots of us, even in grassroots football, know that if we don’t make the change, we will NEVER achieve anything consistently on the international stage. There are lots of really good grassroots coaches out there trying to make a difference – sometimes you are trying to educate the parents and some club hierarchies as well as trying to coach the kids.

    But we must find ways to keep up the pressure – we must continue to bang the drum for development over winning and if we can keep it up, we will reach the tipping point where we are in the majority and the nay sayers will have to see the benefits of another way.

    I look forward to my PP2 at the weekend !

  5. I recently saw a re-run of the 1986 FA Cup Final – Liverpool 3 Everton 1.This was the exceptional Liverpool team that John Cartwright has often held up as the best club side that he has seen produced by this country.This was several years before the introduction of the Premier League and the influx of foreign players attracted by the multi-million pound contracts.But the Liverpool team did not have one English player in its starting eleven.Only the unused substitute, (only one in those days), Steve McMahon, was English.The Liverpool team were all Scots,Welsh and Irish and one Dane,Soren Lerby.
    In the years that followed there were a few good English players that appeared for Liverpool,notably John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, but the Liverpool example shows that the lack of quality English talent has been evident long before the ‘foreign legion’ was tempted by the Premier League.If you look at any outstanding English club side from 1960 up to 1990 then you will see that they were heavily populated with players from countries in the United Kingdom outside of England.In my opinion this is due to the lower living standards experienced in Scotland,Wales and Ireland compared to England which meant that street football survived longer in those countries than it did in England and so ‘natural’ players (off the street) still found their way into professional football. In England we did no compensate for this lack of street-developed talent because,as John Cartwright says,our coaching has been of such a low standard.
    I would cite two exceptions to this sorry state of affairs but unfortunately neither of these teams really developed to its full potential for varying reasons.The first exception was West Ham United who won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 with a quality of football that I personally do not think has ever been bettered by an English team in my life time.That team had been 4 years in the making following Ron Greenwood’s arrival at the club in 1961.The team was not only all-English but most of them were from the East End or surrounding areas and only the goalkeeper,Jim Standen,cost a transfer fee.It was a triumph of Ron Grenwood’s coaching and they really should have gone on to win the League Championship and in fact dominate the League for several years to come.But they never did,for reasons too numerous to go into here,but of course their contribution to England’s 1966 World Cup success is legendary.
    The second exception that I would make is the Manchester City team which won the League Championship in 1968.Again, this was an all-English team and in fact this is the last team to have won the English League Championship with an all-English squad! Not only that, but most of the team were from the north west area of the country.So the similarities betweern Manchester City of 1968 and West Ham of 1965 continue with the clear facr that it was a coaching triumph, in Manchester City’s case with Malcolm Allison although Joe Mercer’s astute management was also a key factor.
    But again it was bitterly disappointing that Manchester City’s success was not really followed up with the kind of domination of the League that would really have set a standard for everyone else to follow.They went out of the European Cup the following season at the first hurdle and although they won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in the following two seasons I always felt that it was a team that never truly fulfilled its real potential.
    Malcolm Allison was too outspoken for the FA to really use as they should have done.Although Ron Greenwood was a different kind of character and of course eventually got the England job, there did not seem to be any real attempt by the FA to utilise his immense knowledge and insight when he retired after the 1982 World Cup.The feeling persists that politics and people looking after their own jobs at the FA put paid to that.
    And so we are left in the state in which we find ourselves today.

  6. After last night’s match in which Barcelona ‘tore Man. utd. apart’ (Quote from Sir Alex) So much for the best league in the world! I wonder if the ‘hype’ (lies) that camouflages the real poor standards we tolerate here will finally be recognized?
    To all those coaches who are in denial of the fact that we are producing sub-standard players to play sub-standard football, last night was the eye-opener for you. Coaching in this country has FAILED –that’s for sure and we better start believing it!!!
    PREMIER SKILLS COACHING methodology is the way ahead because it’s about producing TRUE GREATNESS NOT MEDIOCRITY CALLED GREATNESS.

  7. Barcelona fully exposed the huge lie of English football! I’ve felt for years that Ferguson is tactically inflexible and frequently comes up short against the best sides. The 1999 European Cup win was a complete fluke, virtually admitted by Roy Keane in his coruscating autobiography…
    However as Real Madrid showed it is not just an ‘English’ problem in learning how to deal with this exemplary standard that Barcelona have set. We all need to think again about how best to play the beautiful game.

  8. Since leaving Barcelona in 2009, Eidur Gudjohnsen has led a nomadic football life playing for Monaco, Tottenham (on loan), Stoke City and now Fulham on loan again – separated for the first time in his career from his three sons, who live in Barcelona.

    Being apart from Sveinn, 13, Andri, nine, and five-year-old Daniel, as well as his wife Ragnhildur, has been the toughest part of it for Eidur but the consolation is that his two eldest sons are getting arguably the best football education in the world. Both are part of the Barcelona academy where these two little Icelanders are being honed to follow in their father’s footsteps.

    Eidur, 32, grew up outside his native Iceland, spending seven years in Belgium where his father Arnor played for Anderlecht before Eidur went on to join the PSV Eindhoven academy in Holland. When he left Barcelona for Monaco in 2009 the plan was for his family to join him eventually in the south of France but his spell at the French club got off to a poor start and looked like it might be short-lived so they decided to stay put.

    As a result he has had to follow his son’s progress with telephone calls and dashes back to Spain whenever days off allow it. Sveinn, a left-winger, is in the Barcelona academy proper, the talent hothouse which produced so many of the current Barcelona team as well as manager Pep Guardiola.

    “The set-up is semi-professional,” Eidur says. “He turns up for training with his washbag and they get their kit provided. They have to be there 45 minutes before training three times a week and they play every weekend. They have a squad of 22 players and they rotate through. Everyone has their position and they play in a league against boys one year older because, as a team, they are very good. The club want them always to be up against top opposition.

    “Andri [a centre-midfielder] is at the Barcelona school, which is open to younger kids to train. They have to have a level of talent to train there and if they don’t, the coaches will politely say, ‘This might not be for your son’.

    “Andri comes home every month with the equivalent of a school report. It has a list of categories: ‘Control – left foot; control – right foot; his vision; his attitude; his punctuality; his respect towards team-mates; his respect towards coaches’. There is a list of 50 things that he is marked on – ‘below average, average, good, very good’ etc. He is nine!

    “There are two coaches and I don’t know how many kids and they all get a report card. They play every Saturday whether it is against other teams or among themselves. They play in a Barcelona kit, seven-a-side. It is at this school that you see what Barcelona football club is about. They teach them in training at a very young age to control the ball and look around, everyone in their position, the ball played into feet.”

    As for five-year-old Daniel, his father says: “He loves football but he only wants to start playing when he can train with Barcelona!” The club have hinted strongly that Andri will also be taken into the academy which means both have a chance of following their father and wearing the famous shirt at the Nou Camp. The boys have both said that if they make it as professionals then, like their father and grandfather, they want to represent Iceland.

    Eidur famously made his debut for Iceland in 1996 as a 17-year-old substitute coming on for his father Arnor, then 34, although a subsequent injury for Eidur meant they never played at the same time. Eidur says that his grandfather, a fisherman in the northern part of Iceland, might also have made it as a professional footballer had he been given the opportunity.

    “They might not become footballers but the oldest one at least seems to be very determined,” Eidur says of his sons. “I don’t really mind as long as they know right from wrong and respect people around them. Then I’ll be the proudest dad in the world.”

  9. What has been painfully obvious to some of us for a very long time is the simple facts that we are not good enough because we don’t produce players to play the game to the highest standards. Barcelona play the vision of the game that they created, believe in and have practised to achieve. Us, well we are so lacking in skills and tactical understanding that Saturday’s ‘destruction’ of Man. Utd. was a clear signal to those who propose to lead coaching in this country that we are miles away from having the answers to the problems confronting us.
    As i have said so many times over the years, we need to have the courage to have open discussions about development methods here. ‘Fightball’ is the version of the game we persue; it’s proved unsuccessful, boring and wasteful of young talent so let’s get rid of it and persue a playing style that reflects the highest standards of the game, instesd of the level of the gutter.

  10. Barcelona’s football last Saturday was fantastic.Everybody who loves football will cherish the memories of their quality and re-watch numerous times their DVD/video of the match for inspiration and instruction.It took me back to the European Cup Final of 1960 – Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3 – and in those days the FA Cup Final and European Cup Final were about the only matches you saw on TV, certainly the only games shown ‘live’. After that Final at Hampden Park people said things like “well if that’s football, what have we been watching for the last 20 years?” There is a certain element of that awe-inspired feeling around now but,of course, because of the saturation TV coverage available today there is less sense of shock because we have been treated to Barcelona’s majestic football before.
    From a British point of view perhaps everything is not quite so doom and gloom after yesterday’s Championship Play-Off Final,Swansea v. Reading, as it appeared to be 48 hours earlier. I am not suggesting that this match was anything like in the same category as Barcelona’s master-class but Swansea’s achievement in attaining Premier League status is the reward for having the courage to have the vision of a playing style of governing the ball and developing a style of possession football that builds towards penetration when the penetrative ball is on.In other words a style and a vision which is closely aligned to the Practice/Play concept.
    I heard Manager Brendan Rodgers admit on TV after the match that Swansea had been far from their best,especially in the second half when they almost threw away their three goal half time lead.But there had been enough evidence in the first half of the type of work that Swansea must do on the training ground.Initially,I think that this was put into effect by Roberto Martinez but clearly Rodgers has carried it on since he has been in the job.
    It is not long ago that Swansea were in the bottom division of English league football.Some of the players who played at that basement level are still in the team.If a team can rise up through the divisions with players who have plyed their trade most of their careers at that level,but with a brand of football aimed at a vision of such quality, then this should be well within the capabilities of other clubs with greater playing and financial resources.
    Perhaps the examples set by both Barcelona and Swansea this weekend can lead British football into better times.

  11. Great posts everybody. However in reply to Steve Haslam: Liverpool’s ‘best’ team was not the Double winning 85-86 side but as he pointed out the latter team ’87-’90. See squad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_5%E2%80%930_Nottingham_Forest_(1988). That performance was truly astonishing as Forest were not the typical English Fight-ball team…
    Before Arsene Wenger arrived this was the only modern example of a hybrid English-Continental playing style that I can recall.

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