Thanks, Stuart, for highlighting the problem with English football...sort of
- Credit: PA
If there is one thing we can thank Stuart Pearce for, it is highlighting the plight of English football.
The first whistle of the World Cup is a year away, but English football is light years away from winning the thing.
Yes, the senior team might well have gone to Brazil and gained a draw. But it only papered over the cracks, because the future doesn't look very bright.
When Frank Lampard, who will celebrate his 35th birthday next week, is currently our most outstanding player and one who seemingly cannot be left out of the national side, then we have something to worry about. Lampard is excellent – but England should not be looking at him for goals and leadership.
Lampard is not the future, he is the past. If he is playing in the World Cup in 12 months time then we have failed miserably.
But Roy Hodgson has no alternative, because the plans that have been put in place by various managers and head honchos from the FA over the years do not work. They have left us almost empty-handed when it comes to promise.
Have a look at the last England team and try and name players who are world class – and by world class I mean those players who you would trust to face any other player on an international stage and do a decent job.
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This was the team that started in Rio: Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Leighton Baines, Michael Carrick, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, Frank Lampard, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney, James Milner. The subs were: Ashley Cole, Ben Foster, Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jermain Defoe, Alex McCarthy.
If I had the FA pencil and had to pick a starting XI, then I could only agree with Hart, Baines, Carrick and Rooney. Just. The rest are not good enough to face top class opponents. Jones, Walcott and Cahill are supposedly emerging talents – although when Walcott will emerge and stay there heaven knows. Three England players worth their place – and even then John Ruddy should be pushing Hart who can be brilliant one game and rubbish the next.
What Roy Hodgson has not done is clean out the old guard and give the younger players a chance. Johnson? Do me a favour. Put Jones in. For Milner read Oxlade-Chamberlain. And still you're short of a full team.
The shortcomings in the set-up have been accepted by us all for years, but suddenly, the failure of the Under-21s to succeed at the European Championships in Israel, has brought it to the fore. Three games, three defeats, one goal. The Under-21s were so poor that it created more of a storm back here than you might have expected – and put the FA firmly in the sights of those who believe our sport's domestic governing body is still way off the pace when it comes to looking after our game.
The problem is that getting it right will take years – a decade says David Sheepshanks – which means that Hodgson should be introducing the young talent to the set-up now.
But first he must let it develop – and that is not what he has done with the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who he chose for the friendly in Brazil; rather than the testing climate of competitive football within his own age group.
Surely there is plenty of time for a younger player to develop, reach the age of 21 and then be moved into the senior squad. Instead, Hodgson couldn't resist the temptation and he simply ended up undermining his Under-21s manager and presumably left the younger players thinking 'well thanks, boss, that's just reduced our chances of winning – don't you care about us?'
I can't help but think that Pearce made the wrong decision when he decided to blame his players for the debacle against Israel in midweek; every manager must take responsibility for his team. But with his contract due to run out at the end of this month and the chances of an extension slim, he was perhaps letting frustration get the better of him and allowing himself a last chance to let off a little bit of steam.
In future, the Under-21s managerial role needs to be a lot closer to the senior managerial role. Pearce, you felt, was always a poor relation in the whole set-up. Now, it needs a man whose importance will never be under-valued.