England and the World Cup, as seen by Andy Munro.
This was about a team that went to Brazil with fans’ expectations supposedly low but, in reality, we all secretly harboured thoughts of at least a quarter final. However, it’s all ended predictably in disappointment and an early plane home.
The question is whether there is anybody to blame and I think that there certainly is a guilty party. However, I don’t think too much blame lies with our ‘Woy.’ certainly selection wise. The teams he picked were pretty much what most pundits would have selected with the possible exception of keeping Rooney as a central figure for the first game and perhaps the jettisoning of Ashley Cole might have been a bit premature.
I suppose we’d all like a manager who is tactically astute but also kicks every ball – the supremos of Mexico and Costa Rica spring to mind. However ‘Woy’can’t be blamed for players at his disposal and their general demeanour. Guilty party? Step forward the Premier League, with a little assistance from the laissez faire current government. Next time I see anybody speaking smugly about football on behalf of either organisation, I swear that I’ll do a Michael Fabricant.
Our national game is in a state. The lack of opportunity for home grown players is a scandal. If you listed Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England, we would be bottom of the league table on percentage of home-grown players playing in our top league. Meanwhile, none of the money being poured into the Premier League is finding its way to grassroots soccer. Unlike in my day, mollycoddled youngsters aren’t going to be attracted to playing on pitch 10 at Billesley Common on a rainy, windy Sunday morning with no proper changing facilities. No investment in decent facilities and the revenue needed to care for them is the reason. The biggest Sunday league in Birmingham is the Over 35’s, which perhaps says everything.
This means that once they leave junior age football, those kids, apart from the crème de la crème, are lost to the game and this includes the many late developers. Juniors football is generally a joke with manic parents screaming themselves hoarse in search of a victory at all costs whilst their kids suffer giant pitches and goals. What happened to the idea of small goals football, arguably as rare as rocking horse droppings? I remember, as early as the eighties, when I worked in Handsworth, there was a burgeoning ‘little league’ football but it never really progressed.
Meanwhile ,at Premier level, it’s a ‘brat’ culture and, watching England, it struck me that there are players who will try for their team (in fairness most of them) and those who will die for their team (none apart from arguably the much-maligned Rooney). Press the opposition like humble Costa Rica? With their misplaced superstar mentality, our lot couldn’t press a shirt; no surprise there then. And we were beaten by a country, mighty Uruguay, who I would be surprised if they had a population of a sixth of the UK.
On a final technical note, what was the biggest danger to us against Italy? How did Uruguay score their winner? The good old ball over the top whilst our team fanny about playing six or seven sideways passes so that when it reaches Sturridge and co, the opposition have had time to make a pot of tea. Lack of urgency and a complete inability to quickly change pace are our downfall. The simple fact is that the players are so used to the hurly burly of the Premier League that when they try to keep possession at the back, they do it too casually and go round in ever-decreasing circles.
It’s all a bit depressing but, having said that, roll on Euro 2016.