Fake Standards

By John Cartwright

The use of various adjectives to describe levels of performance in Association Football for both individual and teams’ has become alarmingly ‘over-hyped’— especially here in the UK.  For various reasons, but generally because of financial reasons (Media — Press and TV coverage) or low game understanding from general ‘watchers’ of football, descriptions of football have become ‘bloated’ with extravagant use of ‘FAKE STANDARDS’. Adjectives like the word ‘great’ are used too frequently when describing ‘basic’ playing qualities and have become words that merely ‘fly false flags’ on performance.

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The infiltration of ‘hype’ into football is camouflaging the true standards required for success. This deceitful use has become a serious cause for the extended failures we have suffered at senior levels of the game. ‘Simplicity’ is being hailed as ‘Greatness’ instead of it being recognised as a playing option. I am not suggesting that simple options in a game are not important—they are, but the use of high status adjectives like ‘Great’ should be used for high status actions not basic choices or ability.

By continuing to promote low playing standards by using over-hyped descriptive words, we make the teaching and learning of the game more difficult….how can ‘true greatness’ be achieved if ‘basic performance’ is recognised as the ‘pinnacle of performance’? This ‘fudged’ judgement of performance is easily recognisable in our game in which… English players lack individual skills… possession football lacks penetration…there is too much reliance on speed alone and not speed with skill and positive end products.

The recent World Cup in Russia, was an example of ‘hyped-false standards’. Yes, the general organisation and facilities of the Tournament deserve to be called ‘Great’, but can one truly say that the vast majority of the games played deserved the same high praise? I don’t think so! England’s performances have been applauded for what—coming fourth!  Having drawn a somewhat comfortable grouping followed by what should have been an equally comfortable ‘knock-out ‘ stages we failed to produce a single performance that deserved more than an OK..….they gave 100%…. but our 100% is full of just basic effort and lacks individual greatness. It certainly did not deserve a demand for ‘Black Waistcoats’ nor the ‘renaming of a Railway Station’!!

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Another sequel to ‘blusterings’ about performance has occurred with our younger teams having success recently in Euro and World Tournaments. Yes, there seems to be some talented young players in the squads but it is a long way from junior to senior football. These youngsters must go beyond the usual standards where for too long strength, speed and organisation have been the over-riding factors in our game. All very important, but to attain success and greatness, there must be the inclusion of skilful individualism, astute game understanding and a strong, determined mentality and character.

Whilst we allow Media ‘hype’ and not true quality performance to blind us into accepting false standards in our football, there is the inevitability that, ‘false words’ and not ‘positive actions’ will continue to direct the future of our game towards failure…. not success!


14 thoughts on “Fake Standards

  1. As always, John, I am fascinated to read your opinions. I completely understand what you say and wholeheartedly agree with what has happened and been described over recent years ( about 40-odd with the occasional ‘blip’ !) as being anything other than ‘great’.
    However, I do think under Southgate there has been some progress and a movement towards a different way of playing. I personally think 4th is an indication of some progress and whilst possibly could be considered on the ‘easier’ side of the draw, is still better than I imagined would be our progress pre-tournament.
    What I think are positives is Southgate’s demeanour – certainly a better role model for all grass roots coaches than some other professional managers – and a movement towards a more imaginative, adventurous style of football than you or I have witnessed for many a long year, with a handful of exceptions since 1966. The biggest improvement though, for me, is the connection with the public and the recognition that an adventurous style of football is a little risky; it’s not an absolute science, but it’s more fun to play and more exciting to watch. And if Southgate and the England men’s team have taught the watching public, grassroots coaches and parents that recognition, the potential for our future player and game development is unbridled. Was the football “great”? – obviously, no, but it is motion towards and was a massive improvement over any major competition since 1996. Southgate is trying to develop a team and promote a philosophy that embraces a fear free environment and, I hope, a game that will become, in England, truly Football For The Brave.

  2. Steve. We came fourth after probably the easiest pathway to a World Cup final we could have had. In none of the games with the exception of the Panama ‘Pub.’ performance did we show anything of quality.
    We lack true greatness and keep camouflaging mediocracy with undeserved praise. We have no truly World-class players and with regards to Southgate’s tactics, those players who might have been creative were played in a formation that denied them the opportunities to play to the best of their ability—— such as Kane – Alli – Sterling in particular. The game against Croatia, was an example of tactical unawareness in allowing the opponents to control the game through the use of the wide spaces we provided them with. Our so-called possible match-winners were more involved in chasing out wide to defend than establishing attacking opportunities and openings.
    We must put an end now to the constant deception about our playing standards —- we are ordinary and will remain so whilst simplicity is recognised as greatness.

  3. A few days after the end of the 2018 World Cup Tournament in Russia, England were eliminated from the UEFA Under 19 Championship after a 5-0 hammering by France. It could have been ten, such was the difference in class of the two teams and the chances created by the French.
    England struggled to put more than two passes together during the whole match. It has to be said that England were missing some important players, like Man City’s very promising Phil Foden, who had travelled abroad with their clubs for pre-season tournaments. However, it was the old English failing which was apparent and has been the weak point in our game for generations – namely the inability and know how to play in tight areas and into the feet of marked colleagues. France had this ability and dominated every minute of the match.
    England also lost against Norway in a play off for qualification into the Under 20 World Cup next year and of which England are the present holders, after the much praised performance in South Korea last year. So, following the success of the various under age teams last summer and England’s progress into the semi finals of the World Cup this year, we have received a very sharp and timely wake-up call.
    France are clearly showing, at the moment, how player development, at both senior and junior level, should be done. They are worthy of the tag, World Champions, and many other countries, besides ourselves, will be looking at what they are doing to achieve their present dominance. I believe that, as John has said on many occasions, we are too happy to settle for mediocrity and this attitude must change.
    I think that we do have some talented young players at this present time, but the development methodology which is employed does not go far enough down the road in enabling our players to be comfortable and effective when playing in tight areas where space is at a premium.

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  5. Hi Steve. The point you are making about our inability to produce players who are capable of playing in tight situations is all about INDIVIDUALISM. The development process through which players here are subjected to fails miserably generation after generation to teach SKILLS.
    Football’s a skilful game that demands individualism throughout a team. We should be concentrating on this as a priority. Once this has been completed the next phase in the development schedule should be the teaching of combining with other players when necessary.
    We are producing players who’s first thought on receipt of the ball is—- who can I pass it to and not can I see a possible individualistic opportunity? The whole development project from the teaching of the game by inexperienced ‘coaches’ to the playing structures produces fear and not fortitude. Simplicity is deemed great to often as weak-willed players under the guidance of result-conscious teachers prefer easy options as the skilled variety have not been acquired.
    France won the World Cup because they had several great players within a squad of very talented players. On the other hand, we have no great players and a squad of ‘hard workers’ only.
    Our thinking about the game is wrong and until we change our development methods where speed-strength-organisation are all we display, we can say bye, bye to success and buy more foreign skill in to camouflage our low performing ability.

  6. Hi all. I’m not surprised that this ‘blog’ has not received more replies— both for or against. The lack of comments may be a sign that there is an acceptance of the standards in our game and the general organisation of it both on and off the field.
    After our success in 1966 in which the players were ALL developed through the ACADEMY OF STREET FOOTBALL, we have followed numerous development models, none of which has been able to construct a suitable method that produces high levels of individualism along with astute game understanding——— individualism that can combine when necessary.
    Until we produce players along a properly devised development ‘pathway’ we will continue to rely on ‘work-horses’ and not skilled footballers.

  7. Ok John, from what you witnessed of the World Cup, how far do the hyped-false standards apply to other countries?
    Were England that good in 1966? Maybe not even the best team at that World Cup!

  8. Hi Brazil. I don’t know what other nations reacted towards there national teams . What I do know is that there was little from most to
    cheer about. Even the usual top nations were poor and don’t forget that there was a number of normal World Cup National teams that failed to reach Russia.
    The England team that won in 1966 had a number of World-class players in the squad —- something that the present side does not have.
    France won the Cup because they were a team that included several world-class players combined within a talented squad — Croatia, also reached the heights because they also had several world-class players, although these were not recognised as ‘finishers’.
    The ‘hype’ we continually heap onto mediocre performances will only deliver failure, for success requires excellence not mediocrity and that’s where our game has been for decades and remains to this day.

  9. Hi Brazil 94….From conversations with football followers from other nations in Russia, I can tell you that most foreign fans like the Premier League. But they are not fooled, they know that it is not representative of English football, but a League of foreign players, playing under foreign managers/coaches, at clubs with foreign owners.
    However, as England made progress during the competition, there was an atmosphere of respect towards the team from many countries’ fans, who recognise England as the country that gave football to the world. They believe that we should therefore be at the forefront of the game but have put physical qualities and direct play before skill and intelligence for too long. They believe that we are turning a corner in that respect because they see a greater emphasis on playing the ball out from defence and through the team, rather than the constant long ball approach of the past. However, perceptive followers saw that Croatia’s coach turned the semi final round at half time with his switches and instructions and that the England bench failed to react correctly to take back charge of the game, as John has explained, in the wide areas. I find that the fan in other countries often questions the coach’s tactics, or lack of them, much more than we do.
    All tournaments these days are primarily television events. They are skilfully stage-managed so that we get exciting, dramatic matches, often producing unexpected results. This maintains interest and constantly builds up excitement through the month long tournament. Millions of euros flow into the FIFA account and that is the priority of the game’s rulers. Few fans of any nationality, recognise that the actual standard compares unfavourably with a genuinely great World Cup, such as the one in 1970.

  10. Hi Steve. Thanks for your interesting reply.
    From what you have said it seems that the foreign football public have sympathy for us about the way we play the game.
    I tend to agree with them!

  11. In view of the way in which Croatia’s coach, Zlatko Dalic, out-thought his English counterpart in the World Cup semi final, I think the FA’s Coaching Department should be prioritising the search for young coaches who read the game well and can quickly make adjustments when events on the field start to go against their team.
    In recent months, on the occasions I have seen his team play, I have been impressed with the work being done from the touchline during matches, by Charlton Athletic’s Lee Bowyer, who is in his first Manager/Coach position. He is always pro-active and does not wait for his team to go behind before making substitutions or positional switches. He does not make the regular ‘like for like’ substitutions which many managers do, but attempts to influence the play by creating advantageous situations on the pitch from his observations. Last Saturday, with the half time score 0-0 against Shrewsbury Town, Bowyer changed the formation, switched the positions of a number of players and made an effective substitution, all of which led to a 2-1 victory.
    The three points, which got Charlton up and running for the season, were entirely due to Lee Bowyer’s work in the dressing room at half time, just as Croatia’s place in the World Cup Final was thanks to Zlatko Dalic.
    We need more coaches with this kind of perception and ability to read the game.

  12. Hi John and Steve,
    I ran out of time but I want to say a little more, if you please… First and foremost I just DON’T GET THE FA because many in that coaching body must know that their system has fundamental problems…in quiet conversations I am sure John that eye-opening comments have been made to you, and in your circles also Steve!

    It is now of historical record that the Academy of Street football has played arguably the most important role in producing great players… the street – without coaching controls – has always seen the BEST INDIVIDUALS DOMINATE IN INDIVIDUALISTIC WAYS… and develop THEIR INDIVIDUALISM.

    The problem is that the FA has PUBLICALLY failed to state this – though many within their organisation must agree privately…and of course they won’t admit they are wrong…Too much influence and vested interests at stake.

    The FA Coaching Scheme and its number of World wide copiers – mainly English speakers – have failed young footballers. More-so-often where the street is not prevalent. This failure is because their development models are miles away from the street!

    And on a further thought John, while YOU ARE HIGHLY RESPECTED WORLD WIDE, the FA won’t countenance your views because they are coming from you …. and they see you as a pariah!

  13. Hi Brazil. Street Football, contained important aspects of learning— huge amount of practice time — usually. In confined space. Realistic competition against a range of age groups. The chance to try a skill and fail and to modify it and try again and again to perfect it without fear of a negative comment from a so-called ‘coach’ — Recognition of regular occuring situations and being prepared to deal with them (watch Messi) — Constant movement from forward positions to being a ‘Rush Goalkeeper’ .— The games played in small numbers meant more touches of the ball and more decision-making. Usually games were played on hard surfaces where balance was vital. Don’t forget the ‘bald’ tennis ball that was the common ball in use. Etc etc . But the most important thing was the enjoyment.
    All of these points and more were taken onto match day games for school or youth club — all competitive but we’re times to display realistic street game learning in formal games. Now disciplined performance aligned with inadequate practice time has created ‘Robotic’ football from inadequately prepared players.
    Better An honest Pariah than a weak ‘follower of simplistic destruction of the game.

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