Who is to blame for England’s exit?

Well that was an anti-climax. England’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of an inexperienced German side, has had pundits and supporters demanding heads roll across the England team and Football Association staff. Everyone has an opinion, but which of the popular arguments actually stand up?


England's failure to progress in South Africa has left fans feeling dejected, but what does the future hold? Photo: Mark Bridge

“The ball was over the damn line and you know it! It would have changed everything.”

Yes it was. And there is no doubting that had that goal been given, it would have changed the course of the game. Germany would have been shell shocked by England’s quick-fire comeback, and Fabio Capello’s side would have been on top mentally with less need to push forward to find an equaliser—a task which ultimately allowed the Germans to counter-attack and score more goals.

But there is no guarantee that that would happen. England were horrific defensively and could quite easily have conceded more goals even if their second half tactics had not been so gung-ho. Regardless, an England win would have masked the deeper shortcomings in the English game which are beginning to be properly debated. For that reason, and the fact that Sepp Blatter and his infamous FIFA friends now seem forced into introducing goal-line technology, Frank Lampard’s ghost goal may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“Well the players were tired after a long season.”

This is one of my favourite excuses. Yes, we should have a winter break. The majority of football lovers agree with that point. It would improve fatigue levels for the second half of the season and lessen the number of lower-league matches which are postponed due to bad weather.

But there is no way that these supremely fit professional footballers can be more tired than their better-performing counterparts. Martin Samuel, sports columnist for the Daily Mail, argued against this point perfectly in his column today so I don’t have to:

“As for tiredness, why isn’t Dirk Kuyt dead on his feet for Holland, then? He featured in 53 matches for Liverpool, four more than Steven Gerrard. Javier Mascherano played 45 for the club, compared to 34 by Glen Johnson. Why aren’t the foreign players performing in the Premier League exhausted, too?”

“But that’s what it is! It’s all those foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs. The Premier League is too crammed with them.”

Amazingly, there is some logic in this “white van man” argument. The amount of foreign players in the Premier League is amazing and far surpasses that of other major continental leagues. To take one example, when the Premier League started back in 1989, according to the BBC, Liverpool had 18 players born in the UK with just five born abroad. At the start of last season that had completely reversed, with the squad accommodating just four domestic players compared to 20 overseas “stars”. This, of course, means there is less room for home-grown players to break into Premier League first teams.

But in the seventies, there were almost no foreign players in the top division. England qualified for just one of the three tournaments in that decade.

“And while we’re on the subject, the England team need an Englishman in charge. Where was Joe Cole and the 4-5-1?”

It’s quite easy to blame the manager but he can only work with what he has, which is not a lot. England’s strikers were Rooney, Defoe, Crouch and Heskey. Hardly inspiring. Compare that to the Argentinean quartet of Higuain, Tevez, Milito, and Aguero and you will see the vast differences between the countries in squad depth.

Fabio Capello is one of the best managers in the world. If he can’t succeed with the England team it is unlikely that anyone can. An English manager would attempt to restore pride in the national side and would provide clear tactical instructions but whether any of them are good enough for the job is debatable.

“Erm, okay, so…we’re just not good enough?”

Probably not. Not at the minute anyway, and we’re unlikely to be for several years because the players just aren’t coming through. There are some promising talents in the likes of Jack Wilshere and Jack Rodwell, but there are no Owens or Gerrards ready to come straight into the side for the Euro 2012 campaign, which will be a struggle.

There needs to be mass investment at grassroots level and new styles of coaching need to be explored. Youngsters need to be taught to play the Brazilian way, the Spanish way, even the German way, rather than the rigid, direct, tactical dirge which is all they know at the moment. Only then will we see an England side which can adjust and impress on the world stage.

One Response to Who is to blame for England’s exit?

  1. Michael Phillipson says:

    I agree Bradley, especially with the latter stages of your blog. We need a huge change in the ethos and ethic of the English right through from the Premier league to the under 6’s league. Far too long to we have had the ‘if in doubt kick it out’ which is massively prevalent in the lower professional leagues and has to have come from somewhere.

    I feel players with actually technical ability are smothered until all they believe is right is to boot it into the box so the bigger guy can head it in, this has been seen quite a few times with England especially when Crouch plays.

    I feel until we have the proper academies which allows ability and skill to flourish we won’t have the players of the likes of Argentina, Brazil and Germany.

    This lash back of the English press and fans has been a long time coming and maybe this can be good for England in a round-a-bout way. We need to get rid of the Prima donna’s which participate in the England team at the moment.

    Capello isn’t all blameless though, bringing Heskey on when we was 3-1 was just comical beyond belief, anyone but Heskey. We had 2 games, even 3 within the group stages where we didn’t play to our full potential and a manager taking £6m p/a should have the knowledge to know when to change things, we have Rooney he plays for Man UTD in the lone striker role, also Gerrard who plays behind the lone striker that is played frequently at Liverpool, so why can’t we play to the players’ strengths as opposed to what we’ve had for the past 8 years?