The Problem With English Football…

Written by Chris Lincoln

England fans are just about recovering from another shameful display at a major tournament following their embarrassing defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016. It is becoming a perennial problem for the country that invented the beautiful game, though the problems lie much deeper than with the national team.

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credit Mick Baker

Sam Allardyce is the right man for the job

The FA have talked a lot about identity in recent years. They have created a document called the ‘England DNA’ that suggests the style of play the national team adopts. Why? Every manager, every player has a different style of play. If at World Cup 2018 our best player is a flying winger, should he be expected to pass, pass and pass again as the DNA suggests? Headed by a man who claims to ‘not be a football expert’. I worry for the future decisions our governing body makes.

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However, I do believe they made the right choice in appointing Sam Allardyce as England manager. He is undoubtedly one of the best man managers around and after watching England’s passionless display in France, most of those players certainly need a kick up the backside. In fact, rarely since Euro 1996 has any kind of passion been witnessed in an England shirt. Other than David Beckham running like he was a one man team at Old Trafford in a qualifier against Greece over a decade ago, examples of the three lions roaring are hard to come by. Expect an Allardyce England to be a lot different, getting stuck in like his club teams are famed for doing.

Allardyce has also been berated for his long ball tactics at club level. Yet England are crying out for a Plan B. Their tactic of continuous short passes in the expectation that so called ‘weaker’ opposition would eventually break did not work in France. What harm could a more direct approach do, particularly as our strikers at the next major tournament are likely to be fast in the form of Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.

Is the Premier League that good?

Many claim the Premier League to be the ‘best’ football division in the World. It is the most unpredictable, but certainly not the best. Best means quality and that is not the case as you can see from our lack of individual ability on the World stage and inferior displays in Europe in comparison to Spanish and German clubs.

If you want further evidence of the lack of quality English players, ask yourself the question of how many are signed by clubs abroad? In terms of English teams, currently the best team in the country is one that won the title with the most basic tactic the Premier League has seen. Let the opposition have the ball, Kante steals it, passes it to Drinkwater, who releases Mahrez or Vardy to steal a narrow victory.

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credit Ronnie Macdonald

The Premier League also attracts foreign talent, partly through its competitive nature but also because of the ridiculous wages on offer. I firmly believe that such salaries are part of the reason passion is being lost in the game. Players are no longer fighting to earn their wages and put food on the table for their families.

The influx of foreign talent is also causing huge problems for the development of English players. Rarely do you see a flood of youngsters come through the Academy ranks like the Manchester United Class of ’92, mainly due to the lack of opportunities due to foreign players possessing the squad numbers.

The grassroots system needs a total upheaval 

The mention of youngsters takes us into grassroots, where I believe the greatest problem lies for English football. To become a coach at a professional Academy or Development Centre, you must climb your way up the FA Coaching Badge ladder. Unfortunately the FA’s system is extremely tunnel-visioned, with no flexible approach integrated within the coach education.

This is causing us to develop one-dimensional coaches and thus one-dimensional players. Should Joe Bloggs who manages his local Sunday team miss out on a role at a professional club despite being a better coach, just because the man taking his job has been through the FA coaching badges?

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credit woodleywonderworks

Not only are our youngsters technically inept compared to our European counterparts, but they are involved in the most ridiculous league system. Recently the FA decided that all football matches for Under 11’s and below will be non-competitive. The theory behind it is that youngsters are more likely to play in a team if the results are not published after a heavy defeat. Even though the youngsters will still be aware that they got thrashed on the day? Apparently they don’t need to learn the concept of winning and losing.

Unfortunately the future for England continues to look dull. As the nation hits rock bottom after one of their worst major tournament performances in recent decades, surely the time is right to completely tear up the system and start again?

What changes need to be made to improve the national set up? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by Mick Baker