The press has been full of it. The phone in shows ablaze with it. The pubs are belowing steam with it. The whole country seems to have unified in bilious contempt for Roy Hodgson and the England team. We hear that Roy didn't have a plan, Roy hadn't prepared the team, Roy didn't know what he was doing. As I sat watching last night, I too felt frustrated and angry. However, in the cold light of day, I think we all need to stand back and take a look at what happened. England were desperately unlucky against Russia to concede a soft goal in the 92nd minute. Against Wales, Hodgson was lauded for his brave substitutions. Then what happened. The FA announced that Hodgsons job was on the line. We all saw a graphic illustration of how managerial uncertainty affects a team with the implosion of Manchester City's title attempt, when the club announced that Manuel Pelligrini was leaving. Did the FA learn?
If this was an isolated incident and the FA had a strong track record, we may put it down to a one off aberration. But the truth is that it is 50 years since England won a major tournament. No country has a God given right to win anything, but England has the richest league in the world. If anywhere on the planet should have the resources to develop players, it should be the UK. But look at the England team. How many world class players were there in it? I was discussing before the tournament and I pointed this oit to friends. They felt that this "young crop" would have the team spirit and the desire to compensate. When I pointed out the flakyness of the defence, I was told that our attacking options would compensate. Sadly we saw the true limitations of Kane, Vardy, Rooney et all last night. The sad truth is that whilst we were playing a team from a country with the population of Leicester, we couldn't manage a single moment of true inspiration or invention.
Over the years, England has produced a long line of world class midfielders. Hoddle, Robson, Gerrard, to name but a few. Sadly though, the money has rolled in, but the talent has dried up. This season, the outstanding midfielder in the Premiership was Mahrez. There was no one in any way comparable of English extraction. Have you ever wondered why? My son played youth football from the age of 7. How much support did his team, one of the best established and most successful in the Borough or Barnet get from the FA? The sad answer is none at all. How often did the FA send anyone along to see how clubs were doing with coaching? Never. How often did the FA offer places to our club for talented youngsters? Never. In truth, the FA does nothing. There are good,successful youth clubs, but they get no support at all from the FA. Young players get absolutely nothing from the millions that football generates.
Youth football clubs in England are judged by their success in winning trophies. Players at the best clubs are schooled in the arts of winning trophies, rather than developing strong core skills. As a result, other countries are light years ahead of us. Roy Hodgson is simply reaping the crop that was sown 15-20 years ago in youth leagues up and down the country. We see young players with promise emerge, only to be shut out of the best teams by the expensive imports teams need to win trophies. Take Marcus Rashford. Everyone I know thinks he was the player of the tournament for England, playing without fear and terrifying defenders. What chance has he got with Mourinho at Manchester United when an older more experienced player to the new managers liking is brought in. Two years ago, Raheem Stirling was in the same boat, but the press and fans have ganged up on him, destroying his confidence. We hear all this talk of "overpaid superstars". This is most unfair. Footballers get paid the going rate for the job. Unlike bankers and newspaper owners, they are pubicly accountable to the people who pay their wages. If you dislike the headlines that appear in The Sun, you can't get to shout at Rupert Murdoch. Footballers have to face the fans every week.
Whilst we can't prevent fans venting their displeasure, the FA could take issue with the newspapers that demonise young players. I believe a newspaper code of conduct should be drawn up and those papers that go over the top should be refused access to press conferences and players. I am not against criticism, but when attacks are unrelenting and personal, designed purely to undermine players, the FA should step in. An example of this was the papers reporting on a crowdfunding page to bring Raheem Stirling home. How do you think a young man with a crisis of confidence would feel about this? What support did FA bosses give him?
Roy Hodgson was just one of a long line of England managers given lukewarm support by an FA which is only interested in its own importance. Perish the thought that anyone criticise the FA and blame them, when they have a nice convenient scapegoat like Hodsgon. The FA has a long history of choosing managers who don't rock the boat. The most successful English manager of the last 40 years was Brian Clough, winning the European cup twice. The FA interviewed him for the job, but decided he was a "loose canon". Every appointment seems to be either be made in a panic or to be the safest possible choice. When was the last manager to be appointed, who had a track record of winning trophies with English players? Sadly, we seem to have even stopped producing successful club managers. This season, the trophy winners were Pelligrini, Ranieri and Van Gaal. What have the FA done to encourage English managers? Of course we hear about the "free movement of labour" and football being an international commodity, but if we are not developing the players and we are not developing the managers, we will never be anything other than an embarrassment.
I don't believe that the English are incapable of playing creative football or developing first class managers. I do however believe that with the FA in its current structure, we never will acheive anything on the international stage. We need root and branch reform, starting with youth football and with proper development for young managers. I think that we need an FA that comes clean and say "This is year zero and it will take us 20 years to develop a proper structure for developing a team that can win international championships". And we need a plan to get us there. If you look at the structure of the FA, there's no one who has been a successful player or manager at the top table. The CEO joined the FA from United Biscuits. Where are the Glenn Hoddle's. the Trevor Brookings and the Kevin Keegans? I'd love to see Roy Hodgson on the board. He is a football man and he knows the pressures on the next manager. I believe Roy was set up to fail and I rather suspect he knows it as well. When Roy needed unity and harmony in the camp, Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, who gave us Roland Rat, gave him a knife in the back. When players should have been concentrating on the next game, they were doubtless speculating about the next manager. Our most reliable players, such as Hart and Rooney looked like bags of nerves last night. These are players who have played with distinction at the highest level with their clubs. Last night they looked like novices. I believe the blame lies at the door of the FA. I hope that the English FA wakes up to the truth that this is their failure. To blame Roy Hodgson is dishonest and unfair.