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Football Ground >> England just no darned good?


10/11/06 8:31 AM
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BaldTony
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
Member Since: 12/12/2002
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From the Telegraph "England is dead. Long live the foreigners." That might as well be our cultural motto, as we embark on a 21st century devoid of any semblance of superiority at football. The 0-0 draw with Macedonia at the weekend convincingly demonstrated that the new management regime of Steve McClaren and Terry Venables is no better than dear departed and savaged Sven-Goran Eriksson at turning over-hyped average players into world-beaters. Or even beaters of a side from a little Balkan country that hasn't arrived at a proper name yet, pending a dispute with Greece. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (bit of mouthful but that's politics for you) has a population of two million. But from that relatively miniscule total they were able to draw on 13 players on the night who looked technically better than England. That was a plain fact but it was not discussed plainly. McClaren, the new fall-guy, is still pedalling the line that England are actually better than this. "We just didn't play up to our usual standards," he said. Not true. They were mediocre and couldn't score. That is England's standard. All right, not against Greece in a friendly or Andorra (population 71,000) but against anyone else remotely adequate. In fact, England played rather better than they did at the World Cup, but it wasn't good enough to beat Macedonia. No one was outstanding, no one was world class, everyone looked less good than he generally does in club football, but then they play with better players at club level, i.e., foreign. Taken out of their cushioned existence at their respective clubs with skilful team-mates and day-to-day bonding, they are a below-par bunch, inferior to the ones we imagined before the World Cup when hype and hope whipped us up into a frenzy of adulation. They are, to a man, scrupulously average. This description currently includes Wayne Rooney who may indeed rise to meet the expectations heaped upon him. Meantime, he is a man who has been encouraged to harbour delusions of grandeur and turns out to be not that grand after all. He could be, but it will take humility, graft, determination and vast doses of reality. Those virtues may be in short supply. You've got to remember he is just a kid," Mark Lawrenson said during the BBC commentary on Saturday. Rooney is 21 in two weeks' time. He has been a full-time Premiership professional for five years. He has played at a European Championship and a World Cup. He is seasoned. He has even grown a beard. Rooney is, and should be treated as, a man, for whom childish allowances are no longer made. (Arsenal and Spain's Cesc Fabregas, incidentally, is 19.) Unfortunately, in the England set-up allowances are made all the time. When Steven Gerrard mis-hit a ball 20 yards in advance of a team-mate, a BBC commentator excused the ill execution as "a poor choice of cross". This implied that Gerrard chose to allow another England move to break down as opposed to simply misfiring. Macedonia were even blamed for making it tough for England by coming with three attackers. Usually we are told that teams make it hard for England by coming to defend. How about England making it hard for teams by playing well. There is no Eriksson to blame now. Perhaps Venables' tactical genius is not as great as we thought. There is much talk of England playing 4-5-1 or 3-5-2 against Croatia tomorrow. One suspects they can play just a blanket 10 and Croatia will be the more technically cohesive team. There is no other sport where you can so hide players' deficiencies by constantly discussing systems and formations. If you can't bat, it doesn't matter whether you go in three or five. If you can't bowl, it doesn't matter that your field has four slips. But if you can't shoot, you can still play up front for England. And blame the system. We have to stop kidding ourselves. England are just not very good. They have been trumpeted as potential winners of: a) the 2002 World Cup (because we had "the greatest young players of several generations" including Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Ferdinand, etc), the 2004 European Championship (because we had "the best young players of several generations" now including the gifts of Wayne Rooney), and c) the 2006 World Cup (because we had the "greatest team ever to leave this shores", including Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney, etc). England lost in the quarter-finals of all three. Pretty consistent going. But, no, we lost in 2002 because Gerrard was missing. We lost in 2004 because Rooney was injured. We lost in 2006 because Eriksson made Rooney play up front on his own (until he was sent off for stamping on an opponent's groin). Rooney was not playing up front on his own last Saturday, Peter Crouch was up there too. And then Jermain Defoe came on. England still couldn't score. You know what they will say now? We missed Owen Hargreaves, who until four months ago was widely ridiculed as ineffective. Plus, the Bring Back Beckham bandwagon will heave itself off the blocks. Why are we deluding ourselves? England are ordinary. You cannot blame the players. They are as good as they can be in the circumstances, i.e., employees at clubs where the super-proficiency of foreign players makes them either look better than they are or redundant. You might almost feel sorry for them, were it not for the thought that at least they live in stately homes and will never have to work again in earnest when they retire from the sport. You can hardly blame the managers either. It was the Football Association's decision to pay Eriksson like an emperor for his string of quarter-final deliveries. Who among us would turn down a fortune for work that could never reach fruition? Prime ministers accept the money all the time but they are never going to make the NHS operable. The real fault lies with the peddlers of delusion, the biased commentators who insist this is the greatest England of all time, and the receivers of the delusion, the fans who wonderingly believe it. It would be kinder to all concerned to accept the inevitable. The days of England being lauded as a football force are over. The game in England has moved on. It has embraced foreign players, foreign management, foreign ownership and the product at club level has noticeably improved. Ask Arsenal supporters. At every major club there is now a mini-Vatican City, a country within a country that has very little to do with this native land. Englishness is valuable for the fans and the fervour they bring, the fabulous stadiums that have been built and one or two players at each club who roughly reach the standard required.
10/11/06 8:31 AM
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BaldTony
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
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But lump those players together in England shirts and they sense their own inadequacy even if they do not speak it. There is a general lack of confidence about England, a tentativeness against strong opposition that robs them of collective might. It might be time to think of themselves as Scotland do. Once a national side possessed of genuine world-class talent, the Scots are now ranked among the minnows. They have average-to-good players, not great players, but with the Hampden roar behind them and a below-par France in front of them, they were able to summon up the spirit to forge a fabulous, heart-stirring 1-0 victory on Saturday as England were failing against Macedonia. It is a lesson. Scotland were forced to confront their ordinariness under the foundering management of Bertie Vogts. With Walter Smith at the helm and Ally McCoist in the locker-room cracking jokes, they have bonded, battled and accepted what they are. They make the most of being ordinary together. That is England's best hope. To be ordinary with spirit. We really must, as a nation, stop telling the players they are vastly better than they are. It might be born of good, patriotic intentions, but it is a con.
10/11/06 9:43 AM
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Shotgun Mick
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 8146
What a load of bollocks. England's first 13 or 14 players are as good as any other Nation's in Europe. It's just that thy are clueless how to play as a team. They need a good motivator and tactitian in charge though and what have they had the last few years? Swedish Mr Burns and Mike Baldwin.
10/11/06 9:59 AM
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Govnor
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
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"Swedish Mr Burns and Mike Baldwin." LOL at that
10/11/06 2:40 PM
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Govnor
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
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LOL...that 2nd goal sounds comical.
10/11/06 3:14 PM
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Yougottawanna
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
Member Since: 09/21/2001
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That article is a little harsh IMO. It asks us to accept that guys like Lampard, Gerrard etc.. are actually not that good, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Teams underachieve, it happens. Should Brazil resign itself to being ordinary "with spirit" now? They left in the same round as England.
10/11/06 6:59 PM
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BaldTony
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Edited: 11-Oct-06
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Brazil usually play great, and sometimes play not so great. Sadly, for England it seems to be the other way round. In my lifetime we've had 15 minutes against Argentina in 86. The quarter+semi final comeback in 90. All of Euro 96. 1 friendly, 1 WC V Argentina. A bit against France before collapsing. Germany 5-1. And that's pretty much it. Sod the lot of them. Except Gerrard, who is allowed the odd bad performance. Even Superman died once.
10/12/06 7:49 AM
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Shotgun Mick
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Edited: 12-Oct-06
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Your love for Gerrard is like no other.
10/13/06 7:03 AM
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savateur
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Edited: 13-Oct-06
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 861
NO offense, but you brits tends to overestimate the value of many players. Actually it's the same all over the world, if you read an italian or a spanish football forum, they all tend to say that they have the best players of the world. It's normal because 99% of football fans all over the world tend to focus on their leagues, this is particularly true regarding top football countries like England, Spain and Italy. The truth is that a player could be a good player in a League but completely crap in the national team, or in another team, different system of play, different managers, different defences. Look at France, they have a (semi)crap League 1, but they have players like Thuram, Vieira, Henry, Trezeguet, Zidane, who have played (well) in many different leagues. Being good in one league does not means automatically being a great player. For example here in Italy there's a player, Lucarelli, from Livorno FC, in the last 2 season he scores tons of goals. But he never played for the national team, just because, Livorno plays a kind of football designed properly for him. But he's 30 and he never scores a lot of goals when he was younger and played in different teams. Probably for a Livorno fan, Lucarelli is the best player in the world, but we can say that he's not.
10/22/06 10:51 AM
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Roots
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Edited: 22-Oct-06
Member Since: 08/21/2002
Posts: 339
oh my god, i am in tears for this post. The best, most true post i have ever read, on any forum, about any topic. You are an icon Tony. If ignorant, arrogant english fans could realise your truth, maybe they won't go into tournaments so cocky then come out so dissapointed. How many coaches can you blame? You have some gifted players, but are by no means an elite footballing nation. And please give us canucks back owen hargreaves! We haven't qualified since 86 do to the english and scottish soccer mafia controlling canadian soccer.

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