It’s just over two years since a totally uninspired England team managed by a frustrated Fabio Capello, sputtered to a shambolic draw against tournament minnows Algeria in a Group match in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup. The result left England with a do or die match against a weak Slovenia side, which ironically, England won but then eventually capitulated to a much more energetic and youthful Germany team in a humiliating 4-1 defeat. Following the Algeria game, I had written a piece for WorldCupblog.org in my capacity as a writer charged with documenting England’s progress. After watching England’s pathetic display in Poland last night, I feel compelled to share it with you. The original article I have linked in the title.
What do we do now?
June 18th, 2010 | by: SoccerLimey | View Comments
Being in my middle-50’s, I consider myself to have seen quite a lot in my years of being a football fan. I have played the game and also coached occasionally, and recently started to write about what I see. As a passionate England fan, and being of my generation, I have bought my ticket to the roller coaster ride of success and failure that is England football. From the highs of that wonderful day in 1966, to the lows of 1970 in Leon. Back to 1973 and Poland, up to the relatively thin air of 1990 in Italy and 1996 in England. Over 40 years of ups and downs, but today, in Cape Town, South Africa, I experienced the single worst performance of any England team I can remember.
Now people will argue that there have been worse, and maybe there have been, but for total abject failure of all concerned, this takes the cake. Not only did this team not play well, they capitulated. They showed every paying England customer, yes customer, that they don’t care, and that they don’t even want to be at this tournament. That, for me, at least, is unforgivable.
Remember that this team was predicted to be one of the top 4 teams in the tournament. Certainly not by me, and I take no solace or gratitude from the fact that I never had faith in what everyone was predicting. I had seen it all before. Those rancid performances against Egypt, Mexico, and Japan came back to haunt us all and from the casual attitude, to the promises of “we’ll play better next time”, I frankly wasn’t buying any of it. I had seen it all before. The same smokescreen from the manager and the players with the same piss-poor questions from the media. It was deja-vu.
I’m not going to go into the tactics , or selection possibilities that were made today, because quite frankly, I don’t think it matters anymore with 75% of this squad. A player here, a player there, it doesn’t seem to change anything. I don’t even believe it’s the manager’s fault either, although he must shoulder some of the blame here. I think this is the most frustrated and animated Fabio Capello that I’ve ever seen. He seems to be losing his mind out there trying to figure out what is going on.
Something is badly wrong here and it probably will take a complete clear-out to fix it all. I don’t have the magic cure for this either, because there is so much at fault here, and I don’t have the energy to produce a laundry list of failures. Anyhow, you all watched the game. You know what you saw out there.
I think the final straw for me was the sight of Wazza Rooney, who has been awful at this tournament, yelling at the cameras after the final whistle. Let me ask you all. What gives this bum ( I am a United fan too, by the way, and a fan of his ) the right to criticize paying customers who have to sit through that garbage and then be expected to cheer the performance. Are you kiddin’ me? My solution to this circus would be to first of all, ring the changes for the Slovenia game.
Here’s what I would start with : Hart, Johnson, Dawson, Upson, A Cole, A Lennon, Carrick, Gerrard, J Cole, Crouch, Defoe. By only having 3 starters from today’s game out there, you send a message. If we lose, we lose. We don’t deserve to advance anyway with this squad and I can’t imagine what we’ll be in store for from any of those teams in Group D even if we do get through.
Secondly, following this World Cup, I would drop the majority of the regulars on this team. I would keep Gerrard, A Cole, J Cole, and maybe a few others who have shown effort. I would tell the veterans that you have two choices. You can either retire from international duty or you can choose to fight for your place again, but you will only be picked sparingly when needed. Thirdly, I would start preparing for 2014 and bring up all the young players but my target is WINNING the World Cup in 2014. I would state that we don’t expect to qualify for Euro 2012 but if we do, that will be a plus. That keeps the expectations at a realistic level. Keep that group together for 4 years and play every game with the same core group of 12-15 players. Build a spirit and let the fans get behind their effort and desire.
I had feared that I may have to write an article like this at some time or another criticizing England’s performance but I never imagined it would be so damning.
Something has to be done – NOW. !!
Now many of you might be asking why I chose today to re-print this article. I’m not a negative person by nature and frankly, I hate writing this stuff about the football team from the country I love, but at some point, someone in the world of English football has to see what I see. Last night’s performance against Poland in Warsaw was one the most inept I have ever seen, but it’s such a repetitive occurrence now, it has become almost laughable. Many fans and analysts have tried to attach reason and blame on players, managers, and the pitch. Forget all that, especially the pitch conditions. It’s a much bigger issue.
The easy thing is to blame players individually. OK. Take Michael Carrick who is someone who performs so well for his club, Manchester United. Why is it that when he pulls on an England shirt, it’s like Kryptonite to Superman. The sight of flailing England midfielders frantically glancing around trying to find someone to pass to is burned into my retinas. Why? Because we have no movement at all. It’s like our players don’t want to work for an opening or some space. Being a midfielder for England is like a death sentence. The reason why Barcelona and Spain, and Germany, all play a much stronger passing game, is that they are able to do that not “because they are better passers”, but BECAUSE THEY HAVE SOMEONE TO PASS TO. Their midfielders have at least 2-3 options every time someone gets the ball so their moves continue. What they do off the ball is almost as important as what they do on the ball. In England’s midfield, our moves break down quickly because we run out of options. Watch this next time we play and you’ll see it. Both Gerrard and Carrick, in the main, spend almost the whole match desperately looking around for an open man.
So why should this be the case? It’s because the England set-up, and I’m not necessarily pinning this on Hodgson , is a cancerous system and needs total overhaul. Nothing ever changes, or gets better. I will bet money that you could take Hodgson, Capello, McClaren, Eriksson, Keegan and Hoddle and put them around a table and they will tell you the same thing. That when they see their players play for their clubs, and when they see them in training, they look sharp, but when they put on that white shirt, it’s like someone sucked the starch right out of their bodies. I truly think that the majority of England’s footballers could care less whether they play anymore for their country because it is such a depressing place to be on game day.
Watching last night’s match, this team wouldn’t survive in the English Premiership. Not for a season. I’ve played football, and I’ve watched the game for more years than I care to imagine, from Under-8 level to international level, and if this present squad was mine, I would have to doubt whether any of my players actually wanted to be out there. There is no aggression, no drive and no want to work hard on the field. They do it to not look stupid, which is why I wanted all that junk from South Africa 2010 out after the Finals. That’s why I’m so anti-Milner, Lampard, Barry, Terry, Johnson and the rest. Now, you can pretty much add Gerrard and Rooney to that list and that’s our captain and vice captain. After the matches, we are fed the usual fodder of apologies and promises that “we’re happy with the result”, and “we’ll get better next time”. Can anyone remember how long we’ve been fed that line? Hell, today, we had the manager saying that “the pitch conditions were so bad that it would have been better to play long ball than our passing game” ! I can’t believe that he said that. One shining light last night was goalkeeper Joe Hart, whose error gave the Poles their equalizer. He manned up and admitted to the media that it was his fault, his mistake that cost us a goal. Now there is a man who gets it. He’ll learn because that’s his mentality unlike his teammates.
Get rid of this crap. It’s not working. Frankly, I’d rather put our younger players out there and teach them the right way, and get them better. Watch them stumble and fail but in the knowledge that we are getting somewhere. Prolonging this agony with tried and failed veterans is debilitating for fans who pay hard earned money to travel and watch their country play. They, if no-one else, deserve better.
This is torture, folks, and it’s been this way for a long, long, time.