Submission of evidence to The FA Chairman’s England Commission
Two weeks ago i read a tweet from The FA saying they were inviting everyone to provide evidence to their ongoing commission as to why there are less English players in top flight football and how this can be addressed. See the link below for details (link to The FA website).
I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about England, not because i think there great but more a sense of wanting memorable moments. I always say on a regular basis football is about moments. Even if you win the league every season there are specific moments that make you smile and the same can be said about the team at the foot of the table. So i think it’s this that bugs me. As an England fan of some 20+ years I’ve witnessed disappointment on a regular basis. In my opinion there have been 3 possible 4 ‘moments’ in this time frame where being a fan gave you the feeling you need.
- Euro 96 vs Holland
- Owen’s goal vs Argentina
- Beckham’s freekick vs Greece
- 5-1 vs Germany
Four moments in 20 years. Some might say that’s sufficient. But i think the thing that exacerbates the situation for me personally is that i missed the 5-1 entertaining a female. Oh well, that’s life, you live and learn. Its a bit like missing the winning goal in a cup final going to the toilet, which I’ve also done. We need more moments.
Now the reason England are now no longer near the top of the tree is simple. We are not good enough. The reason we are not good enough is because we lack ‘top top’ players. The reason we lack top top players is because our pool of players with top level experience is diminishing. The reason its diminishing is because more foreign players are coming into the EPL.
I actually believe it’s a two part problem, obviously if there are more English players playing top flight football in theory we are possibly more likely to produce more top top players. However i also believe there is a solitary aspect of the way English players play or in part their mentality that effect us in producing a team that can beat the best consistently. And no, it is not more practice at penalties.
Now reading the below may be a waste of your life. I can fully appreciate that if you do you may think it’s total nonsense, gibberish and the words of a sociopath. You’d property be right. But, I’m almost convinced I’m right about movement and I’ve told almost everyone who will listen my theory in the past 5 years. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to let ‘England’ know. This was my chance and I’m almost certain it will never be read. Do you agree, read on to find out.
For more of me, my letters and my opinions follow me on Twitter.
29 December 2013
Dear Mr Dyke,
It’s clear that England are in no shape or form close to being one of the best international sides. I’ve been watching our national side for approximately 20 years. In that time I’ve only genuinely thought we could win a major tournament once during the early Sven years particularly if you don’t include Euro 96 due to myself being a young and naive fan. The way I see it there are two issues; the diminishing pool of English players and how they play as a group of English only players.
There’s a fine line between enjoyment and success. If as a fan you have one you can accept not having both. There are plenty of examples of this at club level. Based on expectations as a fan it is when you have neither that you become discouraged and disillusioned with the side. In the past ten plus years the England national side have fallen short at every hurdle (including failure to qualify once) and playing a poor brand of football despite a wide range of managers in charge (Eriksson, McClaren, Pearce, Capello and Hodgson). This is to such an extent that people regularly say ‘there’s no pressure on England to succeed’ but there always is.
As football fans here in England we have been spoilt by the quality of foreign imports our clubs have brought to the country. The likes of Zola, Cantona and Bergkamp set the scene and the imports have increased to such an extent that only the best of the English players now have the opportunity to play at the highest level in this country. Clubs like to think that they get more value for money by buying foreign. But by looking at some the foreign players currently plying their trade here it’s is clear to see that whilst there are many superb and dare I say it world class players in the English top flight there is many extortionately paid lower quality players (that are no better than English Championship or League one level). In my opinion the reason managers or more likely chairmen believe they get better value is simple. There are two hypothetical players. They would cost the same and in theory have identical quality. The first player is English and plays for a mid level championship side. The second plays for the champions of Romania, has been recently capped for Romania and has played a small amount of time in club European competition. Who is the manager going to choose? Despite the fact that we all know that the Championship is a division of significant quality only bettered by the top divisions of the major European countries the lure of international experience can be blinding. We now live in a world where clubs can select players from a worldwide pool and as such this dictate many clubs transfer policies.
The problem with the English Premier League becoming a showcase for the worlds best players is as I say only the very best of the English players reach this level or are even given the opportunity. I am sure that every club has an example of having young English talent on the fringes of the first team when the club delves into the transfer market for an obscure foreign player who ends up not making any serious impact on the side. Therefore a young English player is prevented from gaining top-flight experience and is usually sacrificed from the squad at some point in the future. I would love to support a team that had a large proportion of English players who continued year after year to be given the chance with a sprinkle of foreign quality. The sad reality is that due to the example I gave above that this just isn’t the case.
This strangulation of English talent is a major issue. I do not know how it can be resolved. We live in a PC world where the FA’s hands will be tied and I suspect would not want to come down on foreign players with an iron fist. Whilst this is a serious issue that needs tackling as soon as possible I still believe that we have serious players. Player for player on paper our players Individually are superb. That cannot be argued. We may not have any of the top 3 or 4. But we have numerous players worthy of being amongst the best players in Europe. The only way we will see a decline in imports is if there is an incentive to bring through homegrown players. By homegrown I mean English, not French or Spanish poached at the age of 14 and naturalised by the time they mature to first team duties.
The increased number of foreign players has led to a general change in the way English teams plays. The success that our clubs have had at European level in the last 20 years shows that the issue is not at club level, the EPL is not in decline and if anything has strengthened in the last 10-15 years. In last ten years we have had 8 finalists in the Champions League and 3 finalists in the Europa League. The issue and this being the main reason for my letter is that when the best English players are extracted from theses sides to fill an international side they fail to perform. It sounds simple and maybe it is. People will say we just aren’t good enough, maybe we aren’t, but we always under perform in a way that is beyond disappointing. I believe that I have identified the difference in our play and the vast majority of European and South American sides.
There is a lazy comment that has been on the lips of many a pundit in the last 5-6 years that England players lack technique and that our national side is not technical enough. What defines technique? My definition of technique is the ability to perform a given action and how well you do it. However the general feeling when that cliché is brought up is more an implication along the lines of retaining possession. I genuinely believe that our players generally are no lesser passers of the ball than many other nations. The long and short range passing of Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick and Rooney is as good as anyone. I will concede that we infrequently produce players who have an abundance of flair. My view is that the difference between England and most other nations is not quality of player or the level of technique that these players have but movement and intelligence of movement.
As I say we have players that are superb passers. For their club they pick out incredible passes for teammates week in week out. A number of our best players achieve almost immaculate pass completion statistic regularly. But when England come together it’s a different story. Watch any England game and the theme is misplaced passes. What is the reason for this? I believe that it’s down to players movement and how intelligent they move when we are in possession. You watch the Spanish teams. They have what I call perpetual movement. They are always offering a teammate who has the ball and easy pass. Because of this they keep the ball. This isn’t down to technique. This is more about the mental side and being physically capable of performing as such. Technique merely is the cherry on the top to pull something extraordinary out of the bag. England on the other hand do not take on any particular movement. Therefore our players are forced in to trying more ambitious balls and the success rate is clearly lower.
This type of intelligence off the ball can be coached. But is it currently being done? I cannot answer that question, as I am merely an observer who believes he has identified the difference between our football team and many others. We need to be building footballers for the future who are well rounded. We look at the likes of Spain, Brazil, Holland and Germany. They are producing footballers who can play in a variety of positions, I would suggest that many of their players can play everywhere bar keeper, because first and foremost they are well rounded players. Apart form the archetype utility man are there many English players who could do the same? It is these subtle differences that leaves us dragging behind.
Somehow the FA needs to enable an incentive to bring through English players or dare I say it a restriction on imports. New rules must be implemented to favour home grown English players. Whilst that is important and it is, we need to amend the way we coach in the UK to develop more rounded players who excel in off the ball movement and have high levels of football intelligence. Going back to what I first said, if we were playing a nice brand of football that excites the fans and give us optimism, would that be sufficient. I suggest so.
I trust the above has been of some interest
Edit: I just inserted the youtube video of Becks vs Greece. I watched it and it put a smile on my face. Point made.