Why the English underachieve
England is the birthplace of the most beautiful game in the world; football.
It has the most followed, lucrative and spectacular league in the world; the premier league. It has the most loyal, passionate and die-hard fans in the world. Its football infrastructure is world class and now legendary (eg Wembley). Its club sides have dominated European and world club football for decades now.
Reading the above you would think then that, as a nation, the English national team would be world beaters and the best or one of the best in the world today, right? That it would be a clear favourite to lift this current Uefa Euro 2012™ championship trophy, right? Sorry to disappoint you but no, it is far from it. It is ranked 6th on the Fifa world ranking behind Spain, Uruguay, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil.
However of the six best ranked teams in the world, the English are the only nation yet to win a major championship in more than 50 years. Their last title was the world cup they won on home soil in 1966. Why do the English underachieve?
On the eve of the kick-off of another major championship, which I tip the English to most certainly not win, it is interesting to see why they have it all and still underachieve.
In as much as the league is the most spectacular in the world, the lower league plays an excitingly high tempo game but the content on display is pretty outdated. There is very little passing football but constant long passes, filled with a lot of wing play. Long thrusts from the goalkeeper or defenders over the midfielders to the strikers or wingers to pull out for headers to score are the spectacle always on display. This is called the kick and rush and it is outdated in the other parts of the world.
The negative impact of this is that the youth players, who are supposed to be the future lifeblood of the senior national teams, are formed through these leagues. They are therefore not formed to play modern day football.
The teams play this way because that is what the fans want to see, so it’s a cultural thing.
The premier league, as highly rated as it is, is dominated by foreigners from all over the world. The best coaches (managers) are all foreigners and in fact no Englishman has won the Premier League as a manager for decades. Today the three best teams are coached by foreigners: Roberto Mancini, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger of Man. City, Man United and Arsenal. This, however, unfairly casts doubt on the capability of English coaches.
There has to be a modernisation of the English “footballing” philosophy and the winning mentality and education. Though football was born here, it is now a science; a science that other nations have taken from the inventors and further developed to a new level. Take for example the Spanish and their ultra modern possession, timed movement and aggressive pressing football, the total football of the Dutch, the “samba” football of the Brazilians and the all-inclusive power football of the Germans, while the English, deep in their hearts, have not really evolved their kick and rush football of the 60s. Humility is key here.
The technical crew chosen by the English and the unnecessary pressure they have to live with to carry out their duties is self destructive. Look at what unhealthy pressure and unrest did to the English players at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The players were so scared to play football they practically looked 20 years older on the pitch. Needless to say they were heavily sanctioned by a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Germany.
Once again it took them unnecessary months to pick a successor to Fabio Capello, who threw in the towel way in March, only for his successor, Roy Hodgson, to be named days before their second most prestigious football championship.
In their respective clubs, the English players are generally not the star players or regular match and title winners for their clubs, short of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, who is a world class player anywhere and by any standard.
It would take a miracle for England to win this year’s European Championship. In fact, with Wayne Rooney, their star player, suspended for the opening two games and injury problems that have kept out quality players like Frank Lampard and Cahill, coupled with the brewing racial problems between John Terry and the law, further intensified by the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand from the team, I see a likely and catastrophic first round exit for the English.
I am a passionate Premier League follower and I must confess that being a Nigerian we all grew up watching the match of the day but even that has almost the same format as it did 20 years ago. It is paramount to keep one’s culture and traditions. In fact that is what defines us as humans. However, success is synonymous with well planned readiness to evolve and borrow from others more successful to beat them while keeping our core values. That is what the Spanish did and The English would do well to follow this successful example.