Thursday, November 22, 2007

McClaren loses pole position

Last night was a blessed relief, and not least because I had identified the 7/1 odds on a Croatia win as bordering on the absurd. It looks like the bookies, just like the media pundits before them, fell into that arrogant English trap of entitlement.

When Steven Gerrard was quoted a couple of weeks ago, he described it as unthinkable that England might not qualify. Unthinkable for whom? Certainly not the Swiss or Austrian police forces, who must have celebrated last night with the same verve as the Croatian supporters at Wembley.

More importantly, it was certainly not unthinkable for people like me who can now relax and enjoy watching the best players in Europe next year, without needing to feign enthusiasm for the pumped-up egos wearing England shirts.

As expected Steve McClaren was forced out this morning, but frankly he has little to feel ashamed of. He should never have been promoted to a role for which he is so patently ill-suited, the FA having fallen into the same trap that Bolton and Wigan fell into during the summer, with predictable results.

To be honest, we are probably all to blame. Anyone who has shouted during an Under-10s game, "...just get rid of it" is to blame. Anyone who cheers when a homegrown central defender hoofs a clearance into Row Z is to blame. Inevitably, a proud team from Croatia (population: 4.7 million) can thus show up at the supposed home of football, and pass us off a treacherous pitch.

If we accepted our failings, we might have half a chance. If rather than bemoaning the selection of the likes of Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey, we accepted that we were actually playing to our (limited) strengths, then we might have an England team to watch next summer after all. Instead, we convince ourselves that the likes of Joe Cole and Frank Lampard are world-class technicians, and wonder how we've lost. In the Sunday Times last weekend, Millwall fan Rod Liddell described Frank Lampard as an English 'Tim Cahill', which is frankly spot on for once.

We could realistically become the next Greece, technically-deficient but super-organised and proud, traits good enough clearly to win the last European Championships. It would require us to give up upon any semblance of being a good footballing side, but appearances suggests we did that a while ago (except that no-one has yet told the players). As a reminder, just ten years earlier Greece had returned home from the 1994 World Cup following three defeats and no goals. Then again, I suppose at least they managed to qualify.

During the build-up to the Croatia game, it seemed we had finally found our scapegoat....the foreign players. If only the big clubs would stop populating their teams with so many Carlos Kickaballs, then the national side would surely benefit. But the real problem with the Premiership is not too many foreign players, but too few.

For example, how many of last night's Croatia team would grace one of the big three European leagues, yet how few actually play there? Which Premiership chairmen (probably foreign) didn't watch last night's debacle and ask themselves why for the most part their own club players were wearing white rather than blue?

Visionaries like David Dein at Arsenal appreciated all of this a decade ago and put in place a system (led inevitably by a foreign coach) which effectively cut the flawed English player out of the equation. They're now a free-flowing footballing machine with no English players; those two observations are not uncorrelated. Up the road, Spurs meanwhile have seemingly attempted to put together the a team containing the finest young English talent, and look where it's got them so far. If Charlton didn't exist, which club would you rather have a season ticket for?

The fact that the most valuable League in the world has evolved in England, is frankly only for historical and accidental reasons. The creators of the Premiership (and its key clubs) realised they could align the traditions of passionate support, regular local rivalries, and global support (albeit ostensibly only for Liverpool and Man Utd), with an influx of genuine talent from overseas. The existence of both was a pre-requisite for the Premiership's success, a factor lost on those who cannot understand why it will not have its representative national side showcased next summer.

During my more philosophical moments, I wonder whether that same sense of footballing entitlement actually pervades all of British society (and probably that of France and America's increasingly too). Its ugliest head in our case is usually reared, upon observation of our fellow countrymen holidaying in foreign climes, drunkenly seeking out a traditional English breakfast. All the while, the locals just take the money and plot new ways to eat our lunch.


At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh for heaven's sake , don't go over the top.
We aren't that bad and certainly aren't worse than Croatia . I've been to all the internationals at new Wembley and weve played pretty well or very well in all of them, except maybe last night when Scott Carson rediscovered Blackburn away at the wrong time . If he hadn't , we would have won . None of the other teams in Europe are any better than us . Look at Scotland's results against Italy and France and NI's results against Spain.
We had a poor manager and he cocked it up , simple as that . Fundamentally , we are a pretty decent team , about as good in relative terms as we always were and are

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Confidential Rick said... clever sod. But surely, isn't everything ours by sovreign right ? We're sunk.. lets face it..the question is, how do we climb, swim or claw ourselves out of it?

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Confidential Rick said...

For gawds sake Anon we LOST geddit?
so how are we "no worse than Croatia" ?

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We lost to QPR and Wolves
Are they better than us ? Its not quite as simple as that is it really .
We lost to Wycombe in the Cup last year . Are they better than us ?

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never really thought of this before but agree with virtually everything - nice post.


Post a Comment

<< Home