Well what can we say about the recent European Championships with England? It was a farce from top to bottom. Only England can go into a tournament with no expectations and still come out disappointed.
I’ve been around the block too many times to get excited about England at a major tournament but of course when it comes to kick off I want them to do well. I want them to win it, even though I know they won’t.
If you’ve been following my thoughts over the last few years you will have heard and read a few times that I am dismayed about how the country has gone about its national team. So I don’t need to really go into detail how ridiculous it to see the number of players available for
England in the Premier League drop from 40% to 33%, and then even lower than that for last season. I dread to think what the number will be next season. On the first weekend of the Premier League season there were just thirteen foreign (non-British) players playing across the entire division. We’ve certainly come a long way alright.
So was it really a big surprise that two of England’s best hopes in Euro 2016 were players that were playing lower league football and had to come up through the ranks. Jamie Vardy’s story has been a fairytale, while Dele Alli joined MK Dons when he was 11 – in 2007, when the problem with foreign players in England was already a big one. How many Dele Alli’s have been discouraged from choosing football as a career because the scouts at top level teams look abroad?
Mind you, you wouldn’t exactly be encouraged if you saw what happened at top level international football with England. The management wasn’t spectacular, was it? Roy Hodgson had Harry Kane taking corners. A lot was made of Kane’s lack of goals, and the fact he looked tired. I don’t think the manager helped him.
It is unforgivable to go into a major tournament and not know what your best team is for any game, to constantly make the wrong selections, the wrong substitutions and be too hesitant with the right ones. England lost against Iceland and that exposed plenty; one of the darkest days in the country’s history, and Hodgson paid the ultimate price, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a revolution.
Because as disappointing as the defeat against Iceland was, how poor was the press conference the day after? Hodgson says ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here’ – sorry Roy, you’re very experienced in the sport, you should know. And Martin Glenn tells us all he’s not a football expert. This is the man who is responsible for finding our next England manager,
which is now confirmed as Sam Allardyce.
I’ll reserve judgement on Sam (out of the candidates available, he was probably the best choice) but I don’t hold out much hope for the issues that plague our game to be resolved with someone like Glenn in charge.
It’s not practical to go scouring the lower leagues for the likes of Alli and Vardy because these are incredible stories of triumph in adversity and they stand out because of their rarity. Yes, they were forced into lower leagues because of the problems that have been caused
by the influx of mediocre foreign players clogging up squads and denying opportunities. But you can’t just go out and find them because they might have had the confidence knocked out of them. Plenty will have dropped out of the game altogether.
With a radical overhaul in terms of academies and attitude to home-grown development, nothing will change. And you hear people talk change, and they talk it well, but gradually the problem has got worse. People are encouraged by Alli and Vardy and don’t get me wrong, I think they’re both great, but they highlight the problem in the first place. And what a shambles it has been for England, relying on them and an 18 year old who only made his senior debut at the back end of last season.
It was a gamble which suggested there was no preparation and also that there would be no cohesion in the squad. That proved to be the case, but I always thought that in Hodgson, the FA had employed someone who they thought would just say yes to them.
There has been concern about the UK’s decision to leave the European Union because of the economic uncertainty which followed it. I don’t want to get involved with the political side of it, but from a purely football point of view, could this eventually provide the shake up we
need for our talented youngsters – and they are out there – to finally be given the proper opportunities they need to develop?