England’s chronic self-doubt proves terminal

by Charlie Coffey

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

However many Englishmen pull on the three lions at major competitions it seems they will be united by one thing: a fear of failure. The nation may be stuck in a vicious circle. The more we talk of our players’ inability to recreate their club form on the international stage, the more they believe it themselves.

The match commentators suggested that England would take only one of the German eleven in exchange for one of our own players. While I personally think it would be closer to six (Neuer, Lahm, Ozil, Klose, Schweinsteiger, Podolski), the fact remains that England have players who would walk into the German side.  Frank Lampard, for instance, has outplayed Michael Ballack ever since Germany’s inspirational captain arrived at Stamford Bridge. Miroslav Klose doesn’t even start for his club. Pulling on the England shirt, however, instantly puts doubt in the mind of even the most seasoned professional.

What is worse is that the opposition know it. It is obvious. Germany smelt blood from the men in red; they were relieved by England’s mental self-oppression. People talk of experience being the key in big games, but it was England’s more experienced players whose mindset was stifled, rather than liberated by past exploits yesterday. The expectations were high and they knew it. Meanwhile the 20-year-old Thomas Müller played without fear and finished with two goals and an assist.

Many critics blame unrealistic expectations in the English media. The Metro this morning, for instance, talked of the end of a ‘golden generation’. It is hard to rationalise the root of this phrase as this group of England players have not once beat decent opposition in the knockout phase of a major tournament.

Most of these losses have come down to penalties; essentially a mind game. Does anyone really believe that if England had taken Germany to spot-kicks that the outcome would have been any different to the one we are so used to: waiting to see which unlucky soul will have but a Pizza Hut advertising contract as consolation for his failure for the rest of his life?

Of course not.  Because like the match on Sunday, the game would be up even before it had begun. In the past we have let the heart rule the head when choosing penalty takers such is the doubt coursing through the veins of many players who are more than capable of scoring from 12 yards. A brief list of players who have missed penalties for us in major tournaments in the last 14 years: Jamie Carragher, Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince, David Batty. Men with the heart to take a penalty, but not the head, nor the feet for that matter.

For the above reasons I do not expect to see England lift a World Cup for as long as I live. Pessimistic? Admittedly. An overreaction? Maybe, but unfortunately this scathing conclusion is borne more from cold Muller-esque reason than it is from the self-doubt and resulting hot-headed panic seen in the eyes of the England team yesterday.

Read Charlie Coffey’s World Cup every weekday at my11.com.

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    Great article in the Times today

    Germany, a blueprint for future success

    World Cup 98, Germany lost 3-0 to Croatia in the quarter finals, they then fell to an all time low by losing 1-0 to England at Euro 2000. So what did they do to make sure it never happened again?

    Did they they panic?

    Did they throw millions on a brand new flashy stadium?

    Did they throw millions on a new high profile manager only to sack him after even more failure?

    Did they keep the same old tired worn out players?

    No, they didn’t. This is what they did and we should do exactly the same.

    In a radical move, all the clubs in the top two divisions without an academy were told they would not have their licenses renewed unless they established one.

    Those with academies were instructed to beef up – Ironically, to look at those in England as a prototype.

    With the league and DFB united in a way unheard in England, hundreds of millions of Euros were invested over a decade. The proportions of revenue filtering down to academies still remains higher than in England. We waste money of our money on expensive hotels etc…..

    The number of Germans below the age of 23 and playing regular in the Budesliga has gone up 15%, obviously benefiting the national game.

    All the kids coming through need coaching, which is where England falls flat on it’s face. In Germany there are 34,790 UEFA’s B, A and Pro badges, Spain have 23,995 compared to a pathetic 2,769 in England.

    If Capello has any dignity, he will walk now and those stupid prawn munching twats at the FA & the Premier League will invest that much 10 million into Burton Abbey which still sits empty and unused, until we change our philosophy at grass roots level, I’m afraid we’ll be falling even further behind the ret of the world.

    It’s time for revolution!!!!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    ps: in Germany they have a saying, the World Cup doesnt start until the semi final!

  • dexylongshot

    Klose was in the paper saying that Germany knew after the first 5 minutes that England were for the taking despite on paper having so called better players. He said, the players were not communicating properly.

    Out of both teams on sunday, what would be your first 11.

    Neuer (especially after James failure to come out for the first, not close down the angle on podolskis and go the wrong way for the 3rd, no one has even picked up on that).

    LAhm & Johnson, much the same to me. Terry and Upson. Ashley

    Muller, (Although Milner was probably my player of the tourno for us). Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Frank.
    Podlski, Rooney……………………………joke, Defoe, er no Klose.

  • dexylongshot

    *Terry Upson and Ashley. Another Joke.

  • mickey marbles

    “All the kids coming through need coaching, which is where England falls flat on it’s face. In Germany there are 34,790 UEFA’s B, A and Pro badges, Spain have 23,995 compared to a pathetic 2,769 in England”

    I did a blog on this last year, says it all. The players who landed this morning should donate their fat bonuses and advertising perks they made from this world cup crusade towards a scheme sorting out more courses for the up and coming trainees, we need to reach at least a comparable level with the above or we will be having the same story for next 20 years.

  • http://dexysden.com Bill

    Viva the Revolution!!

  • Mike B

    It’s obvious we don’t produce top quality players. How many English players do we export per year? Erh, none. Beckham & Owen were the last ones. Unless you count Matt Derbyshire who has been brilliant in Greece.

    As a nation we have lost our identity, we are a nation that has banned the word Christmas, we are afraid to wave our flag in case we upset people. Our football team played without heart, spirit, and national pride, our football team are a reflection of society today.

    I just hope the Olympics can make England and Britain Great once again…

  • Matt

    Stop panicing Ffs, this is the first world cup that we’ve gone out of after getting beat fair and square, it’s no big deal.

    If we play the players in thier right positions and stop hyping them we may do better.

    It really is that simple!

  • Matt Quinn

    Ive said for years that our players are simply not good enough. Ive never rated Gerrard as world class… and the same goes for Terry and Lampard. They dont have footballing brains and can only play one way. High tempo, 100mph bravado. The most depressing thing is that we have had to see them struggle year after year without anyone having the bottle to drop them and play someone who may be able to make the step up.

    International football is all about possession and quality on the ball. All these idiots that spout on about passion and desire are actually the root of Englands problem. If we genuinely believe that the players just needed to try a little harder and run a little more then that is the problem.

    I saw Chris Waddle talk about time-wasting and he raised an interesting point. He claims that England/English teams are the only ones who still run the ball to the corner to waste time. Not one other team does this. Other teams are so confident in possession that they can stroke it around teams in the middle of the pitch or between their defenders. A much more effective and accomplished way of wasting time…. and this is England’s problem. We dont have the players to even perform this simple task so our tactics are still stuck in the dark ages. We run the ball to the corners, we knock it long (anywhere will do), we dont play it square in our own half….etc…

    Unfortunately, this is how all the kids get taught from an early age. We should teach our kids to take risks, dribble the ball, keep possession with short passes, pass and move, be creative, do back-flicks (which is always tutted at by watching parents) etc…

    Until this happens, we will carry on producing players who dont have basic ball skills and are scared of taking a risk in possession.

    Ps. It has nothing to do with the foreigners in the premier league either. We didnt have any foreigners in the 80s and early 90s and we had Carlton Palmer, Andy Sinton, John Fashanu and Keith Curle playing for England then!!!

  • Charlie Coffey

    I agree Quinno.

    I played centre back for my uni team and even though that was supposed to be an alright standard my partner would pass directly to me maybe once or twice in a game. To pass the ball around the back was unheard of and if tried would lead to shouts of ‘get rid!’ and a bollocking for trying to overcomplicate things.

    We were never told to play differently by coaches who were paid and possibly (hopefully!) had some sort of qualification. Obviously the pros get better coaching but it is the basic philosophy of the country to be as direct as possible and that will always be in the subconscious. Even though we get beaten time after time as soon as we meet a decent ball-playing side we turn up again playing 4-4-2 in the same old manner and look what happens.

    I went on a tour to spain when I was 16 and Italy two years later and the difference in technique and ability to keep the ball was astounding, they were so meansured and made us look so clumsy and direct. Even doing kickups with the natives on holiday shows just how much better their touch is on average.

    I’m no coach but surely something like forcing national curriculum schools to play a possesion-based game (such as futsal where a team needs to complete 4 passes before they can shoot) is an example of how to introduce a different philosophy into our football psyche, which tends to be all chase the ball and the biggest and fastest are deemed to be the best.

    Would Lionel Messi have been given the chance as he was with Barca despite his size if he grew up in England, or would he have been told he didn’t have the physical attributes to compete with bigger boys playing, in Beckenbauer’s words ‘kick and rush’ football?

  • Mike B

    we have this debate every time we go out of a major tournament, which is every time tbh, providing we qualify that is.

    I played at a decent standard when I was younger but I was very small. Kick and rush has always been the English way, all the successful sides at under 15 had 6 footers with mustaches, the ball would be hoofed up to them and hope they would bundle the ball in somehow. At not one time were we ever told to keep possession of the ball. If we won 8-0 and all the goals came from hoofs up the field we were congratulated. If we lost 2-1 but played brilliant football we were told we were losers.

    I like your futsal idea Charlie, that would really help.

  • Mike

    I’ve been calling for a cap on players wages and general overspending in the Premier League for a while now. Am I the only person who can see through the Sky Sports shine, big graphics and the excitable commentary that makes the Premier League look so much better than it actually is.

    Man Utd, Liverpool, and even Chelsea will feel the pinch of interest waver in the Premier League. The club academy issue will surely be addressed at the FA, that’s a brilliant point by the Times journalist and of course Mickey Marbles!

    I think Capello should offer to take a pay cut, not a huge one: but such a gesture would make England supporters and the FA feel slightly better about things.

  • Matt Quinn

    Am i the only one who thinks that footballers are paid what they deserve?

    Its all supply and demand. Until people boycott football- dont go to matches, dont pay for Sky, dont buy the merchandising then why shouldnt the people who generate all this knock-on wealth (the footballers) recoup it????

    We seem to think that the salaries should be linked to talent. This is not necessarily true. Its like movie stars. The biggest grossing actors like Tom Cruise or Adam Sandler are certainly not the best actors. They are, however, the ones who draw the crowds in and make the money. Similar with footballers. The premier league generates huge interest and wealth so surely the main stars of the Premiership should have their salaries linked to this wealth? (obviously it still has to be done within a certain % of a clubs turnover)

    Also, think of all the hours upon hours people spend talking about football, writing about football, watching football, dreaming of football etc… thats how much it dominates peoples lives. As much as i admire doctors, i wouldnt ever pay £600 for a season ticket to watch a years worth of operations.

    In every walk of life, there is inequality and salaries are not based on how worthy someones job is. Otherwise doctors, nurses and the army would be on far larger salaries than bankers. However, they are not.

    I am probably slightly better paid than a nurse (as are most people on this blog)… is everyone prepared to take a pay-cut to bring themselves in line with nurses? No? So why do we expect this from our footballers? Like that horrific documentary blackmailing premier league footballers into donating a weeks salary to a nurse fund!!! Why? How are footballers linked at all to a nurses salary??? Answer- theyre not. They are just an easy target.

    I havent heard many footballers comparing themselves to the army, yet since their world cup exit, many fans (mainly red top readers) are comparing the England football team to our boys in Afghanistan. (aka… our real heroes). Why? How are the two linked???

    Anyway— rant over! It just really annoys me that people use footballers as an easy target for such melodramatic overreaction. Our media goes over the top before a game… ie. comparing England v Germany to the World Wars, and then the media are the ones who, after the game, compare our losing football team to serving soldiers in the military. Yet half this country is driven by the media and follow whatever “The Sun” tells them to.

  • Conor

    I agree with Mike that Capello should take a pay cut. Then again England getting knocked out was not entirely his fault, the team lacked any enthusiasm and did not look like they were up to the job of representing their country.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    The problem is, it’s a very complex situation we are dealing with here. And one that has many implications.

    Our media have a lot to answer to this is true, as you will indeed find out after the world cup when 2 new major stories will be hogging the front pages, stories that may in fact, break up the current squad, which won’t be such a bad thing.

    After reading another excellent article in The Times this morning, it’s all to do with our interaction with results, the reality is, we need to handle these with more humility, with more critical engagement and and less scapegoating. Why does someone always have to take the blame? Can’t we just except defeat and move on? No, we can’t, as a nation we are extremely arrogant, why should we expect to win the World Cup, what makes us any more equipped than Portugal, Chile or even a technically gifted side like Japan?

    Yes, the Premier League and the FA have a lot to answer for, but until we learn to except defeat and learn from it, we’ll be having the same old debate for many years to come.

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