England’s reality still so far away from what the future is supposed to deliver
11:31 27 June 2014
I’m sure you, like me, will have enjoyed watching my previous column play out into reality over the last week and a bit – as Italy and England built on their opening World Cup draw to prove just how useful it can be to grow into a major tournament…
That was how things were meant to go, at least. The reality has been a demoralising mess – well, for England at least.
Luis Suarez’s implosion following his Sao Paulo explosion seemed to underline the point that the Uruguayan’s World Cup was all about trashing England. After that, he was done – or bit the dust.
England were lacklustre and leggy against Le Celeste, but I’m afraid that was far from as depressing as Tuesday’s game with Costa Rica.
ITV did a noble job of selling the positives – as did Roy Hodgson after the full-time whistle. But let’s be honest: there was nothing on show from those meaningless 90 minutes in Belo Horizonte to offer hope that the forthcoming championships in Europe or beyond will offer anything different to the previous.
As always, there are caveats. As I said, Tuesday’s goalless draw was meaningless. The game had nothing riding on it – and no amount of personal pride can equate to the adrenaline of competition. Maybe a few were short of fitness too. Ross Barkley is a player I like – a lot. But apart from his opening burst against Italy, he struggled in his World Cup appearances.
Maybe his late season injuries were the problem – but that hadn’t appeared to be the case in England’s warm-up games. It was the same with qualifying, when Adam Lallana was flying.
Such a general lack of quality on the ball and indifference across the team left you exasperated over where England are now heading.
Three Lions usually equals hype – or arrogance, some outside this country would say.
And while there will continue to be lines peddled about promising youngsters, better technical players and a refreshed attacking philosophy, I’m not sure I saw any of that during the World Cup once Daniel Sturridge had equalised against the Azzurri.
You assume Football Association chairman Greg Dyke was smiling a little at England’s exit – if only because he saw it as the best advert possible for some of his measures attempting to rejuvenate the international scene.
Yet arguably, English football’s biggest flaw is its structure and the FA’s position and influence in it.
The Premier League has absolutely no interest in England. No interest in developing English players at the expense of its international appeal and global showcase.
And therefore, the FA has no ability to impose anything that could genuinely help England’s international future – such as ensuring a minimum number of homegrown players in a squad or starting XI.
That percentage of homegrown player involvement is lower in England than their rivals – while you also need to take into account that foreign players are far more likely to play in a different country to their home. English players plying their trade somewhere else tend to be the exceptions.
There is luck involved in all this too. Belgium’s ‘golden’ generation is an almost fortuitous arrival of numerous top-class players from club academies across Europe. I’m not sure that structure is one Dyke would look to introduce.
The discussions from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend on how close England were to competing with the world’s best bordered on disingenuous.
And while the world revels in the Premier League, England fans have to accept the cost is having a national side that continues to fail.