Lam­pard of­fers up in­ter­est­ing take on why Eng­land fail

Global Times - - Sports - JONATHAN WHITE The au­thor is a Shang­hai-based writer. jmawhite@gmail.com

Fol­low­ing on from Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn, a num­ber of high-pro­file mu­si­cians and a slew of cur­rent and for­mer soc­cer play­ers, for­mer Eng­land in­ter­na­tional Frank Lam­pard is the guest on the lat­est episode of the BTS­port and Copa90 YouTube se­ries FIFA and Chill, and much like when he wore a Chelsea shirt, he doesn’t dis­ap­point.

In a full and, ahem, frank chat Lam­pard re­veals such things as the tough­est play­ers he faced on the pitch (Steven Gerrard edges it) and his ad­mi­ra­tion for for­mer boss Jose Mour­inho, but the big­gest rev­e­la­tion is his be­lief as to why the Three Lions failed. Lam­pard be­lieves that Eng­land suf­fered from the play­ers stay­ing in club cliques, “miss­ing a trick” in not bring­ing through the Un­der21s and the rav­ages of Pre­mier League ri­val­ries.

He de­scribed club cliques as a “real neg­a­tive of the Eng­land squad over the years” but sug­gested there was no real en­mity and lauded the cur­rent FA regime for do­ing a bit bet­ter with bring­ing play­ers through. The worst thing, Lam­pard sug­gested, is some­thing that has not been dealt with. With tour­na­ment squads made up of play­ers who com­pete with one an­other over the course of the sea­son, it’s hard to ex­pect unity with the na­tional team.

It’s not the first time that he has said this. Back in 2015 in Sky Sports’ Mon­day Night Foot­ball Lam­pard de­scribed the com­par­i­son be­tween Eng­land and Ar­gentina – where the squad would re­assem­ble from all over the world – “They come home and there’s a big fam­ily, a dif­fer­ent spirit.”

It’s an in­ter­est­ing idea, al­beit not nec­es­sar­ily new. The in­ternecine na­ture of Eng­land squads has been raised be­fore by plenty of those in­volved. Lam­pard’s Eng­land peer Paul Sc­holes is on record as see­ing club ri­val­ries as dam­ag­ing Eng­land’s suc­cess with play­ers “sus­pi­cious” of one an­other, while James Beattie’s take from his five Eng­land caps was “sit­u­a­tions in matches where I should have been set up for goals and peo­ple were a lit­tle bit greedy and had shots them­selves” based on these cliques.

Dean Ash­ton went fur­ther and said while he was warned the Three Lions squad could be a bit cliquey, he once told Talk­sport, he wasn’t pre­pared for just how much. Lam­pard was one of sev­eral se­nior play­ers that Ash­ton said didn’t speak to him once dur­ing the camp, with only John Terry mak­ing the ef­fort to wel­come him.

The cliquish­ness may be a thing of the past and cur­rent man­ager South­gate has done his part to bring through younger play­ers, but that still leaves the last­ing marks of a long sea­son com­pet­ing against one an­other to deal with.

The Pre­mier League is slightly dif­fer­ent than oth­ers in this re­gard. To take two other coun­tries that have been known to build a squad from do­mes­tic-based play­ers: In Italy play­ers reg­u­larly move be­tween the big clubs, while in Ger­many ev­ery club seems happy to sell their best play­ers to Bay­ern Mu­nich. In Eng­land, you have ri­val­ries where play­ers will never move be­tween cer­tain clubs, which even Barcelona and Real Madrid seem to be big enough to work past – their play­ers cer­tainly have while rep­re­sent­ing Spain. Those coun­tries also have an­other thing in com­mon: sil­ver­ware in liv­ing mem­ory.

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