By Tony Attwood
England for once started as no hopers. Normally we start as the team that is going to sweep all before us, because we are so good. We know we are so good because we are England. The rest of them will be quaking in their boots.
But this time we didn’t. We were humble, admitting that by and large we were useless. And then suddenly after beating someone or other we were going to win because we were good, we were great, we had Rooney, we were England. And we had a manager who knew a thing or three about football. And he speaks languages. And who was that Redknapp chap anyway.
Except if you watched it, it was a bit like Arsenal playing Huddersfield Town. They (Huddersfield) were good – they gave it everything, but in the end even their silly supporters who thought it was incredibly funny to stand in the queue at Arsenal station chanting “Barcelona” probably realised there was a bit of difference in ability.
So why is England so very second division?
Everyone has an answer, so here’s mine. Ten of them in fact.
1. We don’t have enough qualified coaches. We have one coach for every ten in the countries that usually do well in internationals – one for every 15 in Italy. That is the prime reason – most of the rest of the reasons relate to this.
2. The English educational system is based on paying attention and working hard. It is all about focus. We don’t teach style, flair, inspiration, creativity anywhere at all in schools in England. Such things are considered to be non-English. I have heard so many teachers say that “you can do all the fancy stuff when you have learned the basics.” In short, we really can’t stand the arts – and in part football is an art. How many artists have we produced compared to the Netherlands? How many brilliant composers compared to Italy?
We had the man who was so brilliant he could create the modern computer – and what did we do – we hounded him to death because he was gay.
Only in the theatre and literature can England hold up its head in the creative fields – and how many times have the FA’s top brass been to the National or the RSC? .
3. Parents have got a lot of control over junior football. Go and watch an under 10s game in England and you will probably see one of these:
a) Parents screamed at their children to “get stuck in”
b) Parents arguing or even fighting among themselves, encroaching on the pitch, and being warned by the ref about their behaviour
c) Parents screaming abuse at the ref
d) A game that never takes place because there is no ref.
4. In England, if a group of people get together with a football they mark out a goal and select teams. In some countries they start practising ball skills.
5. There is no structure or organisation to allow youngsters to progress between junior football and the first team. Arsenal in fact has had to create its own system dragging bits of the FA behind it screaming. Arsenal moved its youth games, and later its reserve games behind closed doors. While Tottenham took the step of abandoning its reserve team because there were no solid tackles in reserve games, Arsenal created an extra group of players and started to put them out on loan.
There is now an extra step between reserves and first team squad, but we’ve had to fight to get it. Our loan team is vital to the future of the club – and we have one despite the FA.
6. The authorities have tried to stop Arsenal all the way. We have had links with all sorts of teams – currently it is Lorient and some emerging links in Spain. This is what we need – but in fact what we really need is an Arsenal team playing in the 3rd tier of English football, or the second tier of Scottish football or in the Dutch league or somewhere. That is banned in England. No wonder we are in trouble.
8. We need to move at a snail’s pace. Actually we don’t but it would be an improvement on our current lack of movement. Half a century ago Europe got rid of full sized pitches for the youngsters’ leagues. We’ve just taken the idea up in theory – but it could take a few years to introduce. Some people are unhappy. You have to get the kids used to the real thing, they say.
9. We have the FA and their debt (not to mention their association with racism, by their refusal to raise a voice against the actions of Uefa in dealing with the issue). The FA is still influenced by its view that its men can see the way forward. It has the vision. It is the FA. The FA that for years and years have embraced the long ball game of Charles Hughes. In a nation that decries theory and loves common sense it just has to be that the one theory we ever take up is so hopelessly and obviously wrong.
10. We are still stuck in the past. Put the big striker on because foreign keepers are not good at dealing with this. Bring on Andy Carroll. Come on, you can do it, you are English. (I was on holiday in Italy a while back and a group of people who didn’t know each other got together to play beach volley ball. It was friendly and fun – lots of laughs. Until the English said, let’s play a game – England v Rest of the World. And the English then started hyping themselves, shouting, “come on”, “focus”, “win the point!” OK it was one occasion, but I have seen it before. It was embarrassing. I pretended to be French.
So that’s it. So much to change, and no chance of doing it.
But at least the Ox and Theo weren’t used much, and so didn’t get injured.
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- EuroWatch: England crash out, the French depart and only our German gooners remain. Plus Marco Reus transfer chat