Where was the British Bulldog Spirit in the England team? Winston Churchill must have turned in his grave at our capitulation to the Germans!!

June 29, 2010

As the England Team coach left their World Cup camp at Rustenberg for the final time, taking the England players to the airport for their ignominous return to Old Blighty, the “Pride and Glory” slogan on the side of the vehicle brought into sharp focus what was missing from the team’s performances throughout the tournament. What was really disappointing and disturbing to all England fans, was that the team’s play was devoid of any pride or passion. And that is totally unforgiveable!!

There will be great national debate and gnashing of teeth in the media in the coming weeks and months. Many questions and issues will be raised, not least the Domestic League v International team one – is the structure of the Premier League detrimental to the interests of the national team etc. It is commonly believed that the man in the street has a preference and partisanship for his domestic club, over the national team. This is patently not true. We want to see both our football club and our national team excel. The two are not mutually exclusive, otherwise Brazil, Italy and Germany would not have won twelve World Cups since the Second World War!!

As the nation debates our humbling and humiliating exit from the world Cup at the hands of the mighty Teutonic machine, there will be a myriad of items for discussion, in terms of contributory factors for the England team’s demise. Yes of course, a smaller Premiership, less games, and a winter break for a month mid season would undoubtedly help. More importantly a cap or ceiling on the number of foreign players fielded by the Premiership teams would help the development of young English talent. It is ridiculous that there is only one English player in the Arsenal¬† squad and barely three in the Liverpool squad. And thirdly we need to encourage and champion flair and technical aptitude in our schools and youth development schemes, in order that the England team can compete with the best. The lack of enterprise and flair in the 23 man ensemble in South Africa was there for all to see, but in truth has been missing since the days of Gazza, Peter Beardsley and chris Waddle. David Beckham for all his talent was never a dribbler.

Ultimately what was most disturbing was the total absence of the qualities most synonymous with English players: spirit, pride and passion!! None of these attributes were on show in any of England’s four games. The players looked dispirited, demoralised and demotivated. And the blame has to lie at the door of Fabio Capello. He stubbornly refused to adapt his tactics from a predictable 4-4-2 system, to bring out the best from Gerrard and Rooney – going in the face of public, media and most importantly player opinion. That alone was bad enough, but clearly he had lost the support of the players through his management style. His dictatorial, disciplinarian and controlling personality appeared to repress the freedom and expression of the players, and as a result they seemed stifled and unrelaxed, whether it was in a press conference or on the pitch.

Undoubtedly an English manager, like the jovial, jocular Harry Rednapp, or the relaxed and calm Roy Hodgson would better understand and embrace the mentality, culture and humour of the English player. They are also tactically very astute. There is no doubt that England have performed best when they had this type and style of manager in the 1980s with Bobby Robson, and in Euro 96 with Terry Venables.

What remains to be seen is whether the FA will ditch Fabio Capello mid term, having under duress just extended his contract for another two years through to the Euro Championships in 2012. If they do, it will cost them in the region of ¬£12million. If they don’t, they risk incurring the wrath of the media and public alike. Essentially they are damned if they do, and damned if they do not!!

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