Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Another England exit

Posted in: Me, Miscellany

So that is that. England are out of the World Cup. Another disappointing early exit for the as ever under-performing England team. This was England’s biggest defeat at the finals and will no doubt cause an intense bout of navel gazing and introspection as the media, fans and the players look for answers. And indeed it should. English football is broken.

What will the FA do? I suspect they will try to force Capello out as it is easier to blame the manager than to look at the fundamental structural problems in the English game. We think we have the best league on the world, the best players, the most exciting and fast-paced game but the fact is this does not translate at international level. Rooney, Gerrard et al are surrounded by foreign quality at their clubs: is this why they are great for United and Liverpool and limp for England? Are they tired at the end of a long season? (La Liga play the same amount of games.)

When the Premier League was first established in the early 90s, one of the main arguments for it was it would be good for the national side: fewer games, more money and therefore somehow, a better standard. This was always a smoke screen. The teams play as many games now as they always have done and where is the evidence that the Premier League has done anything for the standard of English football? The top flight was established for one reason: money. Money from TV rights and the nascent Sky TV which was looking for an exclusive agreement to give it a USP in the paid-TV market, which up until that time, didn’t exist in Britain’s psyche.

There has been much made of whether the multi-millionaires of the England team care and have passion for the side. I’m sure they want to do well but they sometimes don’t show it, they don’t seem to have the urgency or the commitment we want to see. English fans are desperate for some success: following England is always a rollercoaster ride that usually ends with feeling a bit sick and wishing you’d never got on board in the first place.

Being beaten by the Germans is always hard to stomach, they are our greatest rivals and are quite frankly usually better than us. They certainly were yesterday. Despite the crazy decision by the referee not to give Frank Lampard’s clear goal England didn’t look as composed as Germany. I think a lot of the criticism of England has been unduly harsh: the 4–1 scoreline didn’t reflect the difference in quality. Instead it told of England chasing the game after going 2 down early on. If Lampard’s goal had been allowed to make it 2–2 then it might have been a different story, the German’s graciously thought so in the post-match interviews. England were naive pushing so far ahead and and committing so many men forward looking to get an equaliser. They didn’t need to do so, so early in the second half but they did, Germany countered and scored their third with England‘s defence nowhere to be seen. England were then chasing a lost cause and it was no surprise that a forth went in when England’s defence pressed forward once more. Germany were better, more thoughtful and more in control. And to think the Match of the day team spent most of the build-up talking about the game going to penalties!

England have been bad all tournament. Questions need to be asked and heads may roll but I don’t think Capello should go. He, like Sven before him, has an excellent club record and he clearly knows the game. Of course some of his substitutions were highly questionable, for example why bring on Heskey and take off Defoe (a striker) when England needed goals? People often say that club and international football are very different. I’m sure it isn’t that different when you play and mange at the highest club level. Capello now has tournament experience and as Graham Taylor said, this is crucial in learning how players change from the domestic game to being away at the world’s biggest sporting event. The weight of expectation seems to handicap England every time and Capello seemed perplexed at why the England team performed as they did. The manager’s job is to rouse the players, make them believe they can do it. I got the impression he thought he had done that in the preparation but he had clearly under-estimated England’s bizarre propensity to make things hard for themselves and to implode.

Capello should remain in charge but there needs to be a big rethink of the English game. The Permier League hasn’t worked for the English game other than to make Sky and the FA a lot of money. It has widened the gap between the richest clubs and the lower leagues and has resulted in the dominance by the ‘big four’ clubs. The influx of foreign players, foreign investment, foreign owners and foreign managers has done little for English talent and grass-roots football.

The shambolic governance of English football, currently split into three organisations: The FA, The Premier League and The Football league just reflects the fragmented nature of the game. Is it any wonder with this and the hyper-critical, hyper-attentive, hyper-expectant media that the England team just fall apart time and time again?