English national team – A drastic change required

England’s pitiful showing at this summer’s Under-20 World Cup and European Under-21 Championship has once again highlighted the deficiencies of our nation in major football tournaments.

Last year’s distinctly average and ultimately underwhelming showing at Euro 2012 was generally expected due to the resignation of Fabio Capello and the late installation of Roy Hodgson into the manager’s seat.

In reality there was little to indicate that the performance would have been that much better even if the Italian had remained in charge and there had been no upheaval.

This country’s continued inability to challenge for titles at international level is now becoming something of an embarrassment.

Even the FA’s get out of jail free card of a Britain not winning Wimbledon has been consigned to history, now we require our national name to step up and provide some glory.

There have been many suggestions as to why our teams consistently fail on the big stage, too many games, not enough youngsters coming through, too many foreigners, the need for a winter break; a combination of all of the above.

It strikes me that due to the power, prestige and success of the Premier League, no one is prepared to jeopardise that product to help enable the England team to flourish.

Could it be time for a radical change in thinking? If we look at the other main team sports in this country, cricket and rugby, both their domestic games have bent markedly for the ultimate benefit of the national team.

England cricketers virtually never play for their county due to the international commitments; England rugby players routinely miss chunks of the Premiership season because they are representing their country.

I’m not advocating anywhere near the same level of sacrifice, those two sports are heavily reliant on the finance brought in by the national side, the central contract situation from cricket is also something that is not feasible in football.

My point is that until someone somewhere recognises that until we do something substantially different or revolutionary then our fortunes are unlikely to change.

I would like to see our international players allowed two months off at the end of the season away from their club sides to prepare properly for a tournament.

 If this was limited to World Cup years, that’s just one season in four where clubs would have to survive without their stars for the end of season run in.

It’s already accepted by everyone that the African Cup of Nations will debilitate teams for a month to six weeks every two years so surely we could accept the same every four for the good of our national side.

I acknowledge it wouldn’t be fair; some teams would lose more players than others and some players may even resent the fact that they could miss finals and title winning celebrations but it’s time to look at the big picture.

There would of course still be no guarantee of success but in a sport where the competition is getting tougher year on year, unlike Rugby and Cricket there aren’t just five or six main competitors, this would give us our best chance of achieving something great again.


Allen Whyte


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