When you look at the England World Cup campaign, you have to look further than the eleven men on the field and the manager Roy Hodgson. As far as I'm concerned, England can forget major tournament success for maybe the next twelve years. The reason is not because Roy Hodgson picked the wrong players or because Wayne Rooney seems to freeze on the biggest stage. We can ask why Costa Rica with a population less than London, are top of the the group, having taken both Italy and Uruguy apart. We can ask why some of the best players are in the Premiership, but not in the England team. We can ask all manner of questions, but they will be the wrong questions.
The real question we should be asking is what is the point of the FA? The FA doesn't run the top echelons of English football, that is run by the Premier League. They run everything else, lets start with youth football, where we are breeding the next generation of flops. Every Sunday of the season, I go and watch my sons team play in a youth League. He's now 14. Despite the millions of pounds which football generates, none of it trickles down to his level. All of the teams in my sons league are affiliated to the FA, but there is zero effort put into making sure the boys get any proper coaching. Some of the teams I've seen over the years are an absolute disgrace. When my son started aged seven, we entered a tournament. I witnessed the coach of another team reduce several of his players to tears, simply because they "hadn't performed and given it there all". They were seven years old. When our boys played this team, I realised that the guy was clueless. This season, our team have had a new coaching team. The new outfit are properly qualified coaches, who know their job. The result is that the team have gone from being nearly relegated last season to topping the league they play in. The boys are enjoying their football and there has been a step change in the quality of play. Best of all, they are playing excellent football.
The point is that none of this is down to the FA. In other countries, their associations have set up a structure to ensure that talent is nurtured. In this country, often smaller and more skillfil boys are cast aside in favour of stronger, more physical boys. As a result our youth leagues are "dummed down" and many teams are talent free zones. I wonder whether Messi would have ever made the grade in the UK. Here he'd have been rejected as "too small" when he was 13 or 14. We like great big lummoxes who can simply knock the budding Messi's over. Alarmingly in youth football, most league referees don't seem to mind. Challenges which would often result in a card in the premiership, don't even get a free kick.
I've thought long and hard about this and I have come to a conclusion. Have you ever seen the film "The Producers" by Mel Brooks? In this Zero Mostel's character, Max Bealistock runs a scam producing Broadway flops. His accountant Leo Bloom realised that you can make more money of the show flops, as there are no questions are asked as to where the cash has gone. It occurs to me that whilst England are a football basket case, everyone at the FA can have a nice cushy time.
The whole structure needs a complete overhaul. It has to start at the bottom with proper coaching standards for Youth teams and referees that protect the smaller skillful kids. It would also be good to see the FA take action against the type of parents who overreact to every decision. Once this is fixed, we might actually start getting a few more decent skillful players, with a bit of creativity, coming through. You only have to look at our champions, Manchester City, to see how bad the situation is. There are only two England players who are regulars. Joe Hart is a quality Goalkeeper. The other is James Milner, who is a utility player. The number of truly world class creative players in the last 30 years is abysmally small. Gascoigne, Barnes, Le Tissier and Hoddle spring to mind as creative geniuses. None of these players got the number of games for England that their talent warrented. In any other country, teams would have been built around them. In England, they are seen as luxury players.
It has reached the point where we can't even see another Gazza on the horizon. Until we start encouraging maverick talent, instead of squashing it, we are doomed. in my opinion, the FA is run on the principles of Bealistock and Bloom and they don't want to upset the comfy applecart. Until that is acknowledged, nothing will change. Click here and tell me how many of the people running the game you've ever heard of? http://www.thefa.com/about-football-association/structure when you read their biogs, it is pretty clear what the problem is. Where are the Trevor Brookings, Glen Hoddle's etc on the board. These are people who actually know what football should be doing.