Of course Ill never be England Manager, but I'll also never work for the FA. Not because I don’t want to but because I am not wanted. That for me is the exact reason why we struggle at playing international football.
In business a board room is full of tough people with the minerals to speak their mind. That doesn’t mean objecting or disagreeing with everything to be difficult, but it does mean if you’ve got an opinion or view speak up. That way there is a good chance we will come up with the right answer. But at the FA and in fact modern academies its becoming the industry of nodding dogs. Everyone is too scared to speak up or they fear they will be shifted out. You can actually be a champion for change and still have an opinion. Also, in the process of change you should be open about how it evolves and adjust. Embrace what works and tweak what doesn’t.
My feelings and rationale behind our early World Cup exit and future is as follows. Firstly on Roy.
World Cup Roy
Now I must say I am a huge fan of Roy Hodgson. He really comes across as genuine and is such an intelligent thinker. Most of all he comes across as an honest good guy. Also, who am I compared to him to judge? Incredible experience of world football. But, I want to share my view despite this. Although the exit breaks records for failure he has still been treated softly I feel and some quarters have seen these great attacking prospects and feel that giving them a chance is a step forward. But I’m disappointed in him. To me it’s so consistent with the whole FA message even at youth level. We want to recruit all players with the 'wow' factor. Ive said before that academies are only recruiting attacking 1v1 players. Looking for Messi. In my EPPP=EZZZ blog I spoke how I don’t see us looking for the varied other players that make up successful teams. To me its Balance, a balance of different types of players. I admire that he took the young players and to a degree was proven right. But then he left behind the experience where you need it most. At the back. Terry and Cole should have gone. Cahill was awesome up until the goal but overall there was clear lack of experience. This was even evident at corners against us when Baines was vacating the front post to mark the back. Clearly something that he’s been told, but when is the trigger to go? Surely that would be an over hit flight which means the front post low 'POMO' threat is gone? Uruguay clearly recognised this and nearly scored, twice. Things like that just don’t happen with Cole and Terry.
Winning is a group thing so equally Losing is also. So, as nice as Roy is and Gary Neville also for that matter, have to also take responsibility. We lacked no-how and knowledge at the back. When you set up a team to win I think the lack of experience and naivety can actually be an advantage in attacking areas, because it can equal unpredictable play and playing without fear. We saw that in Raheem Stirling. But should those words be how we describe defensive players? Should be organised, experienced, strong and excellent at reading the game. Youth or new faces is great for pace and athleticism, but it’s a trade-off. Especially when one of them is forced to play like a traditional left back. That being more a defender than a forward. So this Baines is a threat, how do you counter that? Play two players higher in attack creating 2v2. Suddenly Centre Backs get nervous and full-backs end up deeper and rolling in. One answer is to adapt your own formation? Why cant you change the formation/strategy. If you play three at the back then your full backs are released. We just didn’t seem to have another way which surprised me with Roy.
I also don’t think we have the big player in the middle that does all the ugly things. Spoiling, seeing danger, winning the ball and starting attacks. Rooney, apparently underperformed but do you look deeper? How well did Arevelo Rois do? The little bull-dog in the middle that just sat between the lines in the number 10 area and spoiled play. I don’t think we have got that and were not recruiting that player either. Its part of us see sawing from country to country looking for a winning formula then coaching all our player to be that style. Were in danger of doing that again. Football is not a pretty place and to win major international tournaments you need that balance. Only then can the great forward players go and win us games. Messi scored another great late winner against Iran. 90+ mins but what was the score when he did? They’ve got one deep midfielder Mascherano. A good player yes of course, but also an excellent spoiler and will 'play the game' to find a way to win.
In fact, Every team that has been successful has had a great deep midfielder who perhaps at times goes un noticed. I certainly do notice and De Jong was excellent against Spain. In fact if you go back over the last 20 years of World Cup Winners/Finalist, European cup winners and premier leagues teams, look at them and you will spot the player. I don’t see that player in the England squad. People talk of Gerrard but its like we want to slot him in their to assist the back end of his career. But bear in mind Gerrard was alongside a player like that during their European success. If this player was also of the calibre like those in the image, then I don’t believe we should have two players. Personally, that’s a job for one player, releasing all that talent then to open teams up.
We seem too nice, not wanting to offend anyone. Win games in a pretty way like Brazil or Barcelona. But were England. If we had balance right we could at least compete and I actually believe we have great talent in attack that given a clean sheet to work with would flourish. Steven Gerrard today said, Uruguay were cute, clever, disruptive and difficult to beat. He and Roy need to listen to those words. All the answers are in that sentence right there. Why aren’t we? Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I believe we have to tools now. Not in the future, not “this is a project”. Its typical FA blah blah. We will say the same in 4 years and 8 years. Well I believe with the right balance and organisations I believe we have the players now that can win Euro 2016 in France, or at least be closer to having a go. Get us to a semi-final and in with a shout. Roy is right when he says it’s a fine line, we played well. I agree and I also accept it’s a tough group. This new set of players can put me on the edge of my seat. I loved Raheem skipping past people, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Barkley look great to me. Just got to get the balance right to allow us to play forward in exciting waves with the comfort the castle gates are guarded.
Were too nice
I heard some criticism of Luis Suárez for not being more humble to England. Why should he? It’s the World Cup and hes not English. This is where a bit of me thinks someone like José Mourinho would give us a chance because he’s simply ruthless. We need that edge to us. Find a way to manage games and win. I’ve said in my other blogs that were also not managing the balance of winning v losing as well in our academies.
England’s represented by lions but they’re not roaring. That’s because for the last 15 years we have been taming them. We’ve put them in a circus and whipped them into parading giants that jump through hoops on command. EPPP is also creating these performing lions. A lion is a confident leader that acts purely on instinct with devastating ruthlessness. That’s exactly what Englands needs back. We should see 11 stunning lions jogging onto that pitch like they’re ready to take on anything to gain territory.
In short, if I was in charge these are the things I would address
Next two years to 2016
1. England can be winning now. We have talent for 18 upwards. Let’s stop pretending we don’t care if we win because of development. Address the balance of the team and go into games with the right PEOPLE, PASSION & PLAN People, means get the balance right, we got it wrong. Passion, I don’t really see enough, I know the players are genuinely devastated, but seemingly all the other countries have better togetherness. I seriously think the British press don’t help with this. They really damage confidence and the victim in this tournament was Wayne Rooney. Finally we need a better plan. Roy says it was pretty much all perfect and wouldn’t change it, but im sorry, we lost. We also didn’t seem to be in control of strategy in the second game or maybe the players couldn’t exercise it because the structure was wrong?
2. With immediate effect, now. I would find a way to create prize funds that are ring-fenced. I am totally against the league 3 for reasons I’ve stated. I would create the reserve league to replace the 21’s. This should have regulation about a minimum number home players. I would also then keep the current U18 structure. However, Using the massive EPPP pot or others. I would put a prize fund in there scaled based on where you finish in the league. There would be one for the Premier League and then one for the football league youth alliance. Whatever way we look at it the owners of clubs and the face of football has changed. It is totally dominated by money. We won’t change it so we need to embrace it to find the answer. Chairman would suddenly take an interest in the U18 and even the reserves. This could prove to be a nice little bonus if those lads could climb the table. This in turn will put a different demand on the coaches and players. Pressure to win. You may say I’m being ruthless here, going backwards. But I’m not talking about grass roots under 8 football here. This is reality. We have good talent but they are not tough enough and don’t understand ways to manage games and win. The prize fund distributed will be at all levels and ring-fenced meaning it can only be used in the Academy structure with proof required.
3. EPPP needs addressing for U16 downwards. The main problem being the demands of coaches who are underpaid and leaving. EPPP says the best player should be at the best clubs. I don’t disagree with that. But surely the best coaches should be working with the best players? This main point needs addressed along with some others to ensure EPPP is not later proven to have failed. The scale of this is unthinkable. Many aspects of the EPPP are great and we needed radical change. But we need to ensure that its working and review it. I’m available ;-)