The Gathering Storm

By John Cartwright

Are we blind, or have we become so consumed by ‘hype’, or are we the ultimate naïve football nation on this Planet? Do we really believe that our latest ‘disaster’ in International football at UEFA 2012 was in fact a success by reaching the knock-out stage? I’ve heard the words;  Pride – Team-spirit – New generation – 100% effort …. Etc. etc. I’ve heard it all before …… many times after failure at various playing levels ever since Hungary thrashed us 6-3 and then 7-1 back in the early 1950’s. What I haven’t heard is that our players aren’t skilful enough and are tactically inept.  In recent years there has been a demand for players’ to ‘keep the ball ‘ more at international levels; how this is supposed to happen so easily when the ball is ‘given away’ with almost complete disregard in our game season after season simply defies logic.

The performance of our present crop of players in at EUFA 2012 displayed all the old problems but ‘hype’ continues to camouflage the true extent of the difference in playing quality between us and our foreign opponents. The  recently failed so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of players that provided little more than a ‘yellow stain’ on football, is now followed by a newly ‘hyped’ group who might be referred to in the future as ‘ The Platinum Players’ by some non-playing but  ‘vastly knowledgeable’ Media person.  Will these this new group of ‘mediocrity termed great’ fare any better than those gone before, I very much doubt it, ‘Platinum’ will be merely ‘Tin-foil’ when displayed under the bright lights of international competition.

Don’t blame Roy Hodgson, for the playing mess that can best describe all of England’s games’ in Poland and Ukraine. The only criticism that can be laid at Roy’s feet should be his acceptance of a job that does not give him total control over the whole of football in this country… from junior development to senior international football. Being pragmatic is fine, but when pragmatism is essential to cover inadequacies in our playing and understanding of the game, it reflects an unhealthy future.

The Coaching department at our National Association must be held responsible for a continuous lack of both coaching and playing talent. The various ‘Heads’ of coaching here have all failed to realize the importance of individual skill teaching and learning. Football is NOT simply a team-game, it is a game about individualism and the ability to combine skill with team-play when necessary. The conjoining of individualism with team-play is a gradual process and should be carefully introduced and developed throughout the whole development process.

Our senior players continuously display both a lack of individual skill as well as an inability to vary playing styles and tactics. Attractive and effective playing methods are unavailable to those without the playing ability to produce them. In their place a simplistic playing style is necessary for simple players to execute. This is where our game stands in World football now and has been for many, many decades. Our game is ‘buckling’ under the intense involvement of TV and its media and game associates. The continual ‘hyping’ of inferior quality is gradually undermining the true and necessary standards for top performance of individuals and teams.

Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, Winston Churchill, attempted to alert the people of this country to prepare for war. Football has exchanged ‘bullets for the ball’, but the ‘football war’ between nations is still a passionate ‘conflict’. We are unprepared for these ‘battles’!  Unless we begin to re-educate our coaches, players and FANS of all ages and levels to accept the need for improved playing standards in our game, we will see the present ‘gathering storm’ of international demise increase to produce a ‘hurricane’ of failure in the not-too-distant future.

19 thoughts on “The Gathering Storm

  1. Just getting rid of leagues / published results for the younger ages does not go far enough to promote the focus on developing good football players above winning. Merely insisting every grassroots coach does their level 1 does not provide a good enough framework for club coaching. Clubs and coaches are left to their own devices far too much and poor coaching methods are left unchecked. Parents are not the best judges of what a good training session looks like, yet they are the only ones who watch them regularly. Yes, the children may be happy and enjoying the session, but are they actually being developed effectively? No-one is checking this. Could this be an enhanced role for County FAs? Should there be a national curriculum that all coaches must follow and demonstrate progress? There would need to be an injection of funding for this to happen – too much money at the top of the pyramid and not enough at the bottom!

  2. Never a truer word said.
    It’s about time we got real and realise how bad we are. We need more skillful players coming through grassroots football, but how when our coaches are also inapt?
    We have overpaid players in the premier league who are stopping money getting to grassroots so make them train our youth as part of the wage structure. then in time to come we may get somewhere.

  3. it’s all a bit of a shambles really isn’t it.

    Like footiemum mentions above, we’ve recently seen the FA’s proposed changes to grass roots football. I think it’s a step in the right direction but can’t help feeling that the F.A. is now a toothless animal when it comes to running our national game. I’m also not sure how the changes will eventually benefit the national team as the F.A. haven’t provided a football philosophy for the grass roots game to follow. Also if they did provide a philosophy it would probably get ignored by whoever the England manager was because of the pressure to succeed in a ridiculously short period of time.

    We all know there’s enough money in the professional game to provide everything that’s needed to give our national structure a complete overhaul, from quality pitches to quality training. Unfortunately the Premier League hold the purse strings and have no interest to overhaul the national grass roots game (after all it’s not their job to do this). The F.A. should’ve taken a leaf out of the PL’s book a long time ago and ran itself like a business, making people responsible for delivering and accountable for failure.

    For years now Holland, Germany and Spain have been showing us how to successfully organise our grass roots structures which has in turn produced players with high levels of skill and technicality. These countries are literally 2 hours away (at the most) – how hard can it be to travel there to see how they made it work?

  4. Scrapping of leagues and results etc for younger age groups is actually not aimed at the kids but the parents/coaches. Kids need to be competitive and are and can be, without getting ridiculous. Unfortunately it’s the grown ups who can’t. Coaches who pick the big kids to win or get the big kid to take goal kicks because the keeper can’t kick it far enough etc. Parents and coaches of youth football are the big issue, they need educating! Here in Australia we have a national curriculum and encourage playing out from the back, possession football but still I see and hear parents, even during a half time SSG at the Aus vs NZ women’s game on Sunday, constantly telling their son/daughter to stand in front of the goal, to kick it now, to kick it hard or applauding a long aimless clearance. Remove adults and let the kids PLAY again would not be a bad starting point…

  5. Hi to you all. I just wanted to say how strange it is that all those on TV, Radio and Press are all finally saying what we have been SAYING AND DOING at Premier skills for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the new season opens in about 6 weeks time and the proverbial mat will be lifted once again and all the rubbish along with any good intentions will be swept under it until the next ‘disaster’ occurs.
    It gets quite frustrating hearing so-called ‘experts’ start clammering about aspects of the game that i have been saying and working on for over 40 years. Always remember, honesty is the best policy and somewhere and sometime, someone will ask us at Premier Skills to show how the game should be correctly taught. What about it Sir Trevor? The FA have been unable to produce the required quality in both coaching and playing after 65 years of trying. Isn’t it about time that they allowed someone else the chance to re-direct the teaching and learning of the game here?

  6. To answer one of your first questions about whether England is the most naive football nation on the planet? Eh, No!!! Think of countries where the English have been; and still influence.

  7. Should Roy be asked why 4-4-2 instead of thickening the midfield and getting close to Pirlo? In English hands the 4-4-2 is regressive rather than progressive; with a lack of angles – both passing and supporting the ball carrier (although for the English its not a jewel but a clump of rock which they struggle to move around, let alone polish!).

    I can see this discussion going on and on until we are all dead, quite frankly.

    The inventors ‘lost the patent’ many years ago and cannot get it back!

  8. Surely the number priority, is the creation of highly skilled individuals on the ball firstly; the team play/ the collective should come after.

    Because irrespective of the country he comes from – and whether it be Spain, Germany, Italy etc – the basic ‘skill set’ remains the same. It could be Xavi H, Iniesta, Ozil or Pirlo or Ronaldo; however, they then fit into their countries ‘framework’ of play. They all can screen, move the ball, feint, pass soft, manipulate the ball etc.

    The national mentality of ‘giving the ball to the same coloured shirt’ is useful of course; remnants of Liverpool’s heyday, as it allows them to ‘play.’ BUT SKILLED INDIVIDUALS FIRST RULE, and then they learn to combine – to keep the ball off the English, who ‘huff and puff’ and try to blow houses down.

    OH and this for Bob Charlton!!!!! Dear oh Dear – People listen to this guy!

    Euro 2012: Sir Bobby Charlton backs England to win tournament

    Comments (228)
    England and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton is confident England will win Euro 2012 if they can overcome Italy in Sunday’s quarter-final.
    Charlton, who played in the 1966 World Cup-winning team, said: “If England beat Italy then England will win it.
    Use accessible player and disable flyout menus

    What does fate hold for England?
    “This is the big game. I think we can win it. Why not? We have good players.”
    Charlton was speaking after carrying the Olympic flame past Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium on the latest leg of the torch relay.
    The 74-year-old added: “If they beat Italy then we will start getting excited. I get a little feeling that if we can get past Italy, who are the toughest and the most physical then I think we have an opportunity.”
    Charlton, England’s record scorer with 49 goals in 106 appearances, was one of 151 torchbearers on Sunday’s relay from Salford to Leeds.

  9. Roy Hodgson actually did tremendously well tactically against Italy and almost achieved a result. If he had it would have covered over the gaps, but you must appreciate that he played a style that allowed Pirlo all the space he wanted, but ensured that his options were limited. England conceded most of the pitch but laid their hopes at scoring a goal on the break or via a set piece.
    As a nation you have to ask yourselves is this what you want?
    Possession is paramount in international football but when you see coaches using 5v2 as if it was the coaching breakthrough then you have problems. Players need to learn to keep the ball, protect the ball, shield the ball…. not pass it away as soon as an opponent comes near! And as for firing in a cross to wee Wayne Rooney whilst he’s surrounded by 4 giants – do players really have the brains they were born with?

  10. Just to step away from the recent Euro’s debacle for a second.

    John’s right, the radio is awash with commentators finally realising it’s the coaching of our youth that is the problem. The F.A. are accountable for this, but like I mentioned on my previous post they either have no authority to get this corrected or more scarily no idea on how to do it.

    The thing that irritates me the most is the F.A. spent nearly £900 million on re-building Wembley. Imagine the amount of good work that could’ve been done with that kind of money. They could’ve built 10-15 regional centres of excellence, re-generated community football facilities, re-laid local pitches, built indoor facilities, subsidized coaching and referee courses………..the list goes on

    This would’ve left a real football legacy to be proud of.

    Instead we’ve got somewhere Take That can hold their next concert.

  11. Dear MDM I know for one that Venners after the Spanish Semi -Final said on Al Jazeera that England should have played 4 -3 -3. you can’t play 2 v 3 ( unless you get ‘proper’ help from someone else) and particularly a two who were technically outgunned by the three – YES Gerrard is overrated! Although he’d done well at the O.K. Corral.

    I suspect many Brits were watching the BBC or ITV and I didn’t get the impression that Venners, Hoddle and Wilkins were that impressed with the Hodgson tactics.

    I don’t think that Hodgson got it at all correct. He allowed Pirlo the room of the park and he murdered England. One did not have to be a genius to sort of notice, that Pirlo pulls the strings. I BET HE LOVED IT, as Gerson did in 1970 playing against the Italians in the Azteca. I mean how much room do you give to the ‘main man.’ Pirlo coud have boiled the water, made the tea, drunk it in the time he was given!!

    And if Rooney was meant to get around him ( and this is a valid option , I’ll conceded that) – it happen either.

    I watch with interest as to whether Hodgson can progress England in some way; However…

    Options limited- what game were you watching. He came out 20 yeads unopposed and dropped a great ball over the top to Balotelli who should have done better. he also kept moving England around to such an extent they should have got done at least 3!

    On your points re players and coaching I agree with you on that.

    An interesting point for me is that the Pirlo types can manipulate the ball, wriggle, shimmy, twist and turn and also pass it ‘one touch’ with such delicacy that the English can only dream about.

    How many years will this continue to go on for????

    By the way Brian Glanville has a pop at dear old Charles Hughes in his column on the World Soccer site today.

  12. For the last three weeks I have been travelling round Ukraine watching as many Euro 2012 matches as possible. I agree with most of the sentiments expressed on this site, but whilst over here I have been particularly struck by the reaction and opinions of football supporters of all the different countries, when speaking to them about the tournament in general, and the problems of the England team in particular.
    When you talk to foreign fans, they are all enormously enthusiastic about the English Premier League.They follow it as closely on TV as we do, but mention the England team to them and they shake their heads in disbelief.
    They cannot understand how leading English players can be so tactically inept and unable to meet the problems set before them at internatonal championships. These are the sentiments, remember, of ordinary fans, not opinionated experts. But they make it clear that they would not accept such mediocrity from their leading players.
    Perhaps, as has been discussed in these columns before, a great responsibility rests with the ordinary fan – the paying customer. We are too ready to accept second best, in fact third or fourth best. Loud vociferous support is one thing, but again at this Euro we have had the ” passion” of support manifest itself through Englands` followers by inflated World War 2 fighter planes launched, admittedly light heartedly, around the stands, but again supporting a physical, “up and at em” mentality which is all too familiar to the English game.
    The foreign fan, whilst these days bringing an English flavour of singing and chanting into the stadium, nevertheless still retains a demand for quality and understsanding that they know must be contained within their game. They are not fooled as easily. With the English fan, you get the impression that anything will be forgiven if the result is the right one. Of course, we get indignant when we lose the1/4 final to Italy on penalties, but for 120 minutes we had been largely outplayed. If we had won the shoot-out and reached the semis, I wonder what would have been said then?
    In every walk of life you need to have standards, but it is difficult to see what ours are in football. The foreign fan, by contrast, wants his team to win, but if this is at the expense of style and real quality, then he/she feels cheated and the resultant celebration bcomes much more muted.
    It would be a start if every fan remembered that it is not if you win, but how you win, that matters.

  13. Came across this .It date sback to another England failure but interesting to listen to particularly when Craig talks about English attitude and the failure at the top i.e FA incompetence and self regulation.

  14. nice one Craig….we are being conned but the English football fan will not get his head out of the sand. The press and the comments pages are dying for Spain to lose this Euro because Spain are “boring”……LOL Spain are boring because teams put 9 men behind the ball….chief culprit for park the bus being??? you guessed it…England. I can not believe the jealousy levelled at the Spanish….I am not “supporting” Spain but they have proved a massive point…ie you can be 5ft 7 and still be the best.

  15. I feel that Spain got their tactics right for dealing with Pirlo in last night’s Euro Final.
    When an Itailian back player had the ball and was looking for Pirlo to play a pass into his feet, then Fabrigas got himself in between that Italian defender and Pirlo, cutting out the passing lane. Meanwhile, Xavi hovered around Pirlo in case the ball did succeeed in finding him so that he could immediately press the Italian maestroe before he could do any damage.
    I don’t know what technical points were picked up on this issue by British TV, but I would be interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts.
    Quite a simple approach i would have thought, but a pity that England could not have engineered something similar.

  16. Steve-I think the Spanish method of dealing with Pirlo is a product of the system they play.The spanish/Dutch -variants on 4-2-3-1 mean that there is usually somewhere near enough the ball carrier to apply early pressure and then delay the attack.

    For me the English 4-4-2 is far too easy for opponents to play between the lines.Pirlo found it easy finding space behind well beck+Rooney.In a 4-2-31 system the number 9 and 10 could do the job you suggest to nulify Pirlo.

    Reading this week about Van Gaal ‘s formation where he creates 6 lines -defensively this makes it a lot harder for opponents to find space.When in possession the formation gives extensive pitch coverage providing plenty of short passing options making it a lot easier to retain possession.So for England it would with the right players help to alleviate the problem swe had at the Euros of retaining the ball and also help us to not be as vulnerable to the problems that Pirlo caused.

  17. its interesting you sould bring up the 50’s hungary team if people watch the video of englands game against them you will see the same problems england have now

    lack of movement- inability to keep the ball – rigid formation and tactics- few skillful players 59 years later still no progress the FA are useless pencil pusher who only care about filling their own pockets with are money

    we should have gone with ron greenwood and matt busbys philosophy of football to win but to do it with style not win at all costs

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