Here we go. That age old topic. One which on occasion seems larger than the question of life itself. Many have been called to lead the perennial enigma that is the England side. Far fewer have ever been chosen to receive the gift of fortune in winning a major tournament. Only one in fact.
Having watched England’s farcical showing against Norway the other night it’s clear the current national set up, with the abundance of talent in Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose, Daniel Sturridge et al, there still seems to be a total inability to fashion anything like a decent performance. England are currently 20th in the FIFA world football rankings. When one considers the list of teams ahead of our once World Cup winning side includes the likes of Greece, The USA, Switzerland and… Wait for it… Bosnia-Herzegovina no less, then one realises how bad things have become.
Following this the usual cries ring out for a change of manager. Many have identified Gareth Southgate as the “natural successor” (whatever that means) to Roy Hodgson, along with Stuart Pearce and even current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers – God forbid – to bring about a way in which the current approach can be brought up to date and vie alongside the likes of France, Germany and even Spain. The last of whom, for all their failings at this year’s World Cup could still play England off the park. As has been said for years, what’s needed is a change of direction, a change of philosophy. And with that word we have the answer “Philosophy”.
The problem lies with those at the top of the game. For all his faults, one can’t even blame Hodgson beyond a point. If we look at Germany or Spain the difference these sides have over England is not about technical ability but it’s far more profound. They, along with France and others have a Philosophy. A way of playing football that is a standard for their nation. A way of attacking, a way of defending, the kind of players they need for each position, the focus and duty of each player in their respective position, their technical ability, physical ability etc.
This is what England don’t have. They don’t have a method. A way of applying a certain philosophy through the entire game. From the Under 16 side to the first team. The Managers need to buy into this and follow the same way. There may be some tactical changes here and there but the core philosophy remains the same. England did have this, but with the coming of the Premiership, money and the inevitable we don’t need you attitude toward the national team and it’s governing body, any coaching approach falls away in preference of teams developing their own brand of football. Their own Philosophy. The result, a national side that is left behind and out of touch with the progress being made by those it is supposed to represent.
I watch the Liverpool Under 18s and Under 20s play regularly and their application of the game is exactly the same as that of the first team squad. Pressing, high tempo, emphasis on possession and having the right tactical appreciation. This, unfortunately is lost on the England side. Simply because there is no standard in place to instil this type of uniform approach throughout the coaching of the game. This is clearly something that has caught the eye of the powers that be in English football and to be fair to them, what Liverpool is doing would make an ideal blueprint for the FA.
That said, it would be a dark day for Liverpool if ever Rodgers were to succumb to the FA’s call. A very dark day indeed. Rodgers is perfect for Liverpool and Liverpool is perfect for him. Could you say the same about the English Football Association. Probably not. In fact, definitely not. The support he’d need to put in place the required structure is further away that planet Pluto and doesn’t look as if this situation will change anytime soon. Liverpool are on the verge of greatness and I’m sure privately, the Gaffer must know this. In my opinion, there are numerous managers around who could do the job anyway, but then as Hodgson can testify, it needs more than capable players and a willing manager.
This seems to have always been the case. From Brian Clough to Terry Venables, to Stuart Pearce and latterly Harry Redknapp. For one reason or another they’ve not been allowed, or decided against it. As far as I understand, there is no shortage of technology at St. Georges Park, the team’s training centre, so it clearly isn’t about embracing modern technology. It’s about embracing modern thinking and a modern approach. Until the FA get around to doing this English football will only continue it’s trickle down the world rankings.
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