FEAR FAC­TOR

Eng­land’s play­ers fail to im­press

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

IS IT just me or is the English na­tional team a bit of a sham­bles at the mo­ment?

There’s no point beat­ing about the bush or kid­ding our­selves. Do we re­ally have the ta­lent that we think we have? Or do the play­ers just look good against ‘av­er­age’ teams?

There are some qual­ity young play­ers in the Eng­land side that per­form reg­u­larly in the Premier League but con­tinue the English tra­di­tion of go­ing miss­ing at the major tour­na­ments (or just away to Slove­nia).

English sports fans are pa­tri­otic – you only have to look at the sup­port that fans put in at ev­ery major tour­na­ment and even mean­ing­less friendlies played on a mid­week Oc­to­ber night.

We like our sport­ing teams to do well, whether that’s win­ning the Ashes or watch­ing the Eng­land women show how it should be done on the big stage.

From a young age, all chil­dren who love foot­ball dream of play­ing for Eng­land. Whether that was the Gas­coigne era, the Beck­ham era or the Rooney era, ev­ery child dreams of em­u­lat­ing the suc­cess of their he­roes one day them­selves.

But as the ca­reers of the most tal­ented take off, wages soar. Our foot­ballers be­come de­tached from the nor­mal strug­gles of life for the av­er­age fan and forget some of what it means to see your na­tional team do well.

Do they lose some of their pa­tri­o­tism – and hunger – in the process of be­com­ing young mil­lion­aires play­ing foot­ball for a liv­ing?

We hear all the time, whether it’s Terry Ven­ables, Fabio Capello or Sam Al­lardyce, that the play­ers wear­ing the Three Lions are proud to do so and that they care.

We are told that play­ers are des­per­ate to do well ev­ery time they pull on the shirt. So, what is go­ing wrong?

When play­ers come out on Twit­ter in the pub­lic eye apol­o­gis­ing for their in­ept­ness to break down teams like Ice­land, do they truly mean it when they say ‘it was an honour to rep­re­sent our coun­try and it’s just a shame for the fans’?

There’s only so much un­wa­ver­ing sup­port we can give them.

With the me­dia be­ing so widespread and the pub­lic so eager to pick-up on any slip of the tongue, play­ers are shack­led into a PR bub­ble. They have no free­dom, no ex­pres­sion, and this shows on the pitch.

Far too often in the last ten years (or since the fa­mous day of 1966) I’ve seen an ex­pres­sion­less English side take to the field.

Play­ers look scared to play for their coun­try and seem to be so self-con­scious that ev­ery move, or slip, they make will be an­a­lysed to death. Foot­ball shouldn’t be about that; we envy teams like Ger­many and Italy, sides that glide around the pitch and play at­trac­tive and suc­cess­ful foot­ball – win or lose. Their play­ers come out of their shell and spray 40-yard cross­field balls when called upon by their coun­try, whilst ours seem to quiver and pass the ball back­wards. There is such a lack of at­tack­ing in­tent in the Eng­land side and this is the root cause of the prob­lem. If you don’t take risks in the mod­ern era of foot­ball, you can­not win a game. It’s hard to un­der­stand our foot­ballers’ dif­fer­ence in form for their club and then for coun­try. If you asked a Ger­man what is more im­por­tant, the Bun­desliga or the na­tional team, they’d an­swer na­tional team. If you asked the same to an English per­son they’d have to think.

‘Oh, but we have the best league in the world’,‘it’s more com­pet­i­tive in the Premier League’,‘it’s more en­ter­tain­ing’. This is ex­actly where our foot­balling cul­ture is flawed nowa­days.

We so often claim to have the best league in the world that all our na­tional play­ers play in. We think this is a win­ning com­bi­na­tion that should equate to na­tional suc­cess. But it doesn’t.

Play­ers have picked up this cul­ture where the league means more to them, a cul­ture where the Premier League is the be-all and end-all. This is wrong. This shouldn’t be the way.

In­ter­na­tional foot­ball should still be the pin­na­cle of foot­ball in this coun­try, like it is in Ger­many.

Their play­ers want to go to these tour­na­ments and do their coun­try proud. English play­ers are fright­ened to en­joy and ex­press them­selves as they fear the back­lash of fans and the me­dia if (and when) it goes wrong.

Play­ers need to go back to en­joy­ing their foot­ball fear­lessly for Eng­land. And if that means we lose 3-0 to the Faroe Is­lands along the way, I don’t care – we have to get back to play­ing foot­ball with a pur­pose.

This cul­ture has been in­stalled in our foot­ballers for gen­er­a­tions and is not go­ing to change overnight. Play­ers aren’t in touch with the English way of life any­more – our academy play­ers don’t wash the boots of their se­nior team­mates.

To earn the re­spect of the sup­port­ers, they must value play­ing for their coun­try and show the world what they can do.

And un­til this changes, teams will con­tinue to play fear­lessly against Eng­land – as they know that they are play­ing a side crip­pled and sti­fled by fear.

Jamie Vardy does the Man­nequin Chal­lenge af­ter net­ting against Spain – but other Eng­land play­ers are scared stiff

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