By John Cartwright
We have watched our national team disappoint once again at another major football competition. The regularity of inferior performances has become an almost expected occurrence amongst all followers of the game here. ‘Pre-hyped’ frenzy is dissipated by poor performances from both individuals and teams decade after decade, yet we continue to fall into the trap of believing that ‘all will be well this time’.
Let’s be brutally honest, our game is woefully short of quality in individual and team standards. We have become addicted to the acceptance of mediocrity to such an extent that true quality is not recognized and our game falls further behind more enterprising football nations. Don’t try to convince me that the performances of England recently were good enough. Reaching the knock-out stage and being beaten on penalties is seen as success by those who need to ‘camouflage’ poor quality for the sake of greed and a selfish disregard for the future of our game. Similarly, don’t be too critical of Roy Hodgson; his late appointment to the job plus the fact that he has very mediocre players to work with made it extremely difficult to do much better than he did, although his pragmatism, although useful in the qualifying stage, became a hindrance in the game against Italy. My concern for Roy, is that he has been ‘hoisted high into football’s Crows’ Nest’ but has been given little or no control over the ‘crew running the ship’ below him. He is a man of vast experience and his position as England Manager should also involve him in overseeing the whole of the development chain from junior to senior levels.
For once and for all, let us pin-point the true reason for our football demise; it’s down to extremely bad development methods! The teaching and playing infrastructure that is supposed to develop the game’s raw material and prepare it for senior football is woefully inadequate – not suitable for purpose would be a more defined comment. I have criticised development methods here for many years and have been consistently ignored by our football hierarchy – but I am not wrong in what I have said! Development methods here have produced nothing more than basic performance standards; to accommodate poor individualism, simplistic playing styles and tactics have been embraced. Our so-called ‘stars’ find playing with tactical variations an almost impossible task and rely on outdated systems that are exposed when set against better prepared nations.
We are NOT Spanish; Dutch; German; Brazilian; Italian etc; we are English and need to find a game-style that retains the best ingredients of our game whilst introducing the skills and tactics from abroad that we deem lacking here. Would ‘Ticki-Tacka’ football be appreciated here even though the Spanish have displayed its qualities? I don’t think so. Therefore, what we must do is ‘find an appropriate playing style that is both ATRACTIVE to watch and highly EFFECTIVE in terms of results that suits the culture of people in this country………Fans must enjoy watching it; coaches must be taught to deliver it; players must be skilful to play it. OUR GAME MUST CONSIST OF BOTH PASSION AND PANACHE TO SATISFY CULTURAL DEMANDS AS WELL AS THE PLAYING STANDARDS FOR SUCCESS.
The point I have been trying to emphasize in numerous ‘blogs’ on this website regarding the importance of establishing a playing ‘vision’ with progressive programmes of work to achieve it, is now becoming obvious to all. The ‘bits and pieces’ approach to teaching and playing that has marred the quality of our game for generations must be discarded and a properly designed development and playing experience must replace it.
Our game at senior levels is full of ‘cracks’ in skills and tactics, these faults are ‘papered over’ to hide them but the ‘paper’ covering these game deficiencies becomes detached under pressure from better prepared opponents. We must accept that what we are watching in our domestic game is far from the quality it is reported to be. We must begin to question all areas of the media who voice their opinions onto vast numbers of the ordinary football public. Unless we establish a solid playing standard for our game and stop relying on ‘hyped’ levels to glorify poor quality we will continue to live in hope when it comes to success at major football events.
Spain, have just won the UEFA 2012 Cup competition; they have shown style in both play and attitude and fully deserve the title of ‘World’s greatest football team’ in my opinion. What we must do is work hard to improve on the standards they have set; it won’t be easy, but nothing really worth doing is easy. However, this is England and I must remind everyone that the disappointment of UEFA 2012 will soon be forgotten as our domestic season begins in about 5weeks from now. All the vile and criticism of our performances along with any good intentions for resolving the mess our game has become will find their way under the same ‘ up-lifted carpet’ used so often in the past after previous disappointing results. This time the ‘sweepings’ will contain the hopes of those who desire to watch and play a style of football that is passionately English but with a touch of ‘continental panache’. But, as the new season draws near, the ‘hyped call’ to action will once again ‘stir the blood’ and our domestic version of the ‘beautiful game’ …. ‘fightball’ will continue to deliver the same old ‘rubbish’!………………..WILL WE EVER LEARN?