In Football, Sport on 3 July 2012 at 10:30

I am taking the liberty of publishing an excellent short article from my long friend Barrie Harding that, to me, sums up the problems Roy Hodgson has with the English national football team.

The European Championship once again showed just how far we have to go to be able to compete with the top sides. And right now we are going further back rather than forward.

Don’t believe anyone who says that English players cannot be technically improved. We are essentially the same people as other Europeans (including Spain and Italy) so why are they so much more comfortable on the ball. One word answer – attitude.

It’s the attitude of the fans first of all. The football was nicely played but do you think the average fan will be prepared to watch that slo-mo football every week?

The clubs clearly don’t believe so and persevere with the usual thud and blunder type of game that is more exciting to watch for the fans and relies more on strength than on skill. Gone are the days when we could overpower teams. They are all as fit if not fitter than us and even when not as physically strong – as with players like Iniesta and Xavi – they have so much skill they make players like Milner look like an elephant trying to swat a fly.

I’ve heard “experts” saying that we can be as good. Physically I’m sure that’s correct but unless we have a complete rethink of our whole attitude to the game nothing will change insofar as our international side is concerned. And if we did decided to change it won’t be the current squad or even any of those currently playing now at any age that will benefit.

Look at our school system and see how many schools actually encourage football or have the proper facilities or coaches. How many kids do you see kicking a ball around in a playground? When a kid does show some skill they get into a organized team – and who gets to the top of that team? Not the best but the biggest and strongest.

Kids develop physically at different times – some earlier than others and if they are interested in football they look better than the smaller kids because they can run faster and generally knock the other kids around to impress the coaches who, themselves, are indoctrinated in the same ways of developing athletes rather than players.

This isn’t new. It happened when I was young and playing football. My point is that we haven’t progressed from that same attitude we had back in the fifties and sixties.

So don’t hold your breath for an overhaul of the way we play. If we accept that as a given the next question is how do we make the most of the footballers we have and that means developing a style and tactics that fit.

Barrie Harding

PS I am reminded of a comment made many years ago that fits our basic football player. It concerned a player well known for being a strong powerful athlete with the nickname of “Horse”. When asked whether this player got that nickname because he was powerful and graceful as a racehorse his manager replied “no, it’s because he has the brains of a rocking horse and the close control of a clothes horse!”

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