Another campaign has come and gone. We looked forward to it, we sung the usual range of songs, we waved our flags, we booked our seats in the pub, and we watched as another England performance ended in despair.
The usual recriminations are coming out – ‘the players are not good enough, the manager has failed, the tactics are wrong, our season has too many games and the youth coaching is inadequate’. I copied that quote from when we failed to qualify for the 1994 world cup. I expect we’ll be saying the same in 2034.
Blaming the manager is an easy thing to do but let’s look at this. Fabio Capello is the most successful club manager England have ever employed. Steve McLaren has done well in Holland. Sven was also successful as a club manager. Maybe the players are simply unmanageable.
Wayne Rooney, Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard are outstanding players – wearing their club shirt. They are too good to be left out but for England they are not good enough to be left in.
Gerrard and Lampard can’t play together, we are told. OK, don’t pick them then. Wayne Rooney had a great Euro 2004 and two miserable world cups since.
In Emile Heskey we have a striker who specialises in not scoring goals – an interesting novelty which must have passed the experimental stage by now. Peter Crouch has scored over 20 goals for England but hardly played because his goals were ‘only against smaller teams’ – perhaps like, er, Algeria and Slovenia then.
In my view, the problem with England is the same as it is with France. Young players getting enormous salaries, a luxurious lifestyle, cars, mansions, girls etc and see an international career as a means, not to represent their country, but to boost their marketing rights.
We are told the players are ‘tired’. Yet with Brazil and Argentina, not only do many of their players play in Europe, they also have several flights each year to South America for qualifying games. Sounds quite tiring to me.
Are South American players fitter than their English counterparts? Of course not. The difference is that there is simply no pride, passion or commitment. Look at teams like Ghana and South Korea. They know they are not good enough to win the cup but they will have a go.
The players see themselves as more important than the manager – hence it is insignificant who is the boss, the players will just kick a ball about till they can go home, add to their portfolio, and point the finger at the manager for trying to make them work too hard.
The question is – do you pick the best players? Or do you pick the players that want to play?
I’d like to have a go with the latter. The next game is a friendly against Hungary on 11 August. Let’s give an entire new squad a chance and pick young players to make their debut or who only have a few caps at the most. They know that a good performance could cement their place in the squad and will hopefully have the pride and incentive to put in 100%. We may not win but that is the point of friendlies.
Of course we all have short memories anyway. By the end of September Rooney, John Terry et al will all be heroes again, we will wave the flag when Euro 2012 comes round and then all have the same arguments afterwards. But if we genuinely want to reach the latter stages of any summer tournament we have to accept that, no matter how good a player is, you can't force him to play if he doesn't want to - we have to make brave decisions and stick to them.