Can the persistent failings of a nation be down to the foreigner in charge?

In the wake of the humiliating defeat by the Germans and the “goal that never was” the one question many blundering pundits are failing to answer is: why do England always lose?

Since the spanking dished out to us by the old enemy, the so-called experts of British football have each cast their damning verdicts on the state of the manager, the players, the F.A and just about everybody involved with England.

The tabloids have followed the usual line of blaming the unfortunate foreigner. The Mirror ran with the dubious headline “Fabigo,” calling for the dismissal of the rueful Italian. But, can the persistent failings of a nation be down to the foreigner in charge? Can the manager, who has won just about everything there is to win in the modern era, have become implausibly inept overnight? Well, my answer to that question is a resounding no.

The problems in the English game run far deeper than a few tactical mishaps from an otherwise very talented manager. The problems even run deeper than the abject failing of the so called “golden generation.” The real problem lies with the grassroots of English football.

The fact that on any park on any miserable Saturday morning you can hear shouts of “get stuck in” and “nobody scores from row Z” just about illustrate the true reasons for our failings as a footballing nation. A country where physical endeavour is regarded as a greater asset than raw technical ability will never win the modern World Cup. Not until we start to coach our youngsters the art of possession football and the value of technical brilliance will we see a ship change in the fortunes of the national team.

If you were to walk along a Spanish or German park on a Saturday morning the scene would be staggeringly different to that of a British park. For one, the pitches would have been adequately funded by the efficient national footballing bodies of each nation, meaning that possession football is possible. The coaches would not be screaming at the kids and the parents would not even dare to abuse the referee from the sidelines. There would, however, be noise. The coaches and parents in such countries offer support to the young players. The freedom to express themselves would be granted by coaches who would not lambast their players should a rare mistake occur. The emphasis on these football pitches would be enjoyment and skill rather than the winning at all costs mentality advocated by the English footballing “experts.”

The footballing culture in these countries is different to that of our own. We find humour in the fact that eighteen and nineteen year-olds arrive at games still nursing a hangover from the night before. The acceptable image of the Newcastle fan, top off, tats on and moobs out, would not be found in the more cultured European nations. To ever attempt to reform our national football landscape we need to reform the way we view the beautiful game.

Remember that old saying: “The Beautiful Game?” Well why don’t we treat it as such? The British are always keen to portray themselves as the big-hearted gallant loser and if that doesn’t work we seek someone to blame. First there was Sven, then there was Fabio, but the truth is we need to look inward if we are to apportion any of the blame.

France won the World Cup of 1998 and the European Championships of 2000 after a couple of years in the international wilderness. After the Michel Platini and John Tigana era of the 1970’s and 1980’s France took stock. They assessed their shortcomings and planned for the future. A national academy for coaches and players was established at Clairefontaine. The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has longed preached to the English media the value of having player and coach development based in one efficient and mercurial compound. The willingness of the French later reaped full reward as numerous members of the World Cup winning side found their footballing feet at the national centre. Until the English government and the F.A invest into making the proposed plans for a national football centre at Burton a reality, the English game and the English national side will not progress on the international stage.


4 thoughts on “Can the persistent failings of a nation be down to the foreigner in charge?

  1. Hi,

    Enjoyed reading your posts – and I’m inclined to agree with you re: the cultural factors behind England’s shortcomings on the world stage (including the culture of the scapegoat, Fabio must regret taking a sip from the poisoned chalice now!)

    I’m admin for a sports blog ( and wondered if I could add your blog to our blogroll?

    Cheers, and I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

  2. A really good, thought-provoking piece. You have a new follower!

    You are absolutely right about the cultural aspect of the problem. This manifests itself all the way up to the national team, where it takes a pre-match beer to placate the mumbling malcontents. Puh-lease.

    The thing is that under-performance against national expectations is not a new issue. Since 1990, we have reached the knockout stage of just 6 of the 10 ensuing World Cup/Euro tournaments, in which we have won three out of nine games (for detailed analysis, see the link below). This is the record of a good team, not the great team the media and the players themselves make us out to be. It’s about time we stopped piling unrealistic expectations on a team which has never been a world-beating one.

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