July 04, 2012
Horse 1339 - How To Improve The England Squad
Yet another tournament has been and passed and whilst Spain have proven that this squad is one of the best of all time, England have yet again been consigned to the pit of mediocrity and whimpered their way out of the tournament.
The song "Three Lions" by Skinner, Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds which became the unofficial song of Euro '96, has two soundbites which even 16 years later, could have been said yesterday:
"We'll go on getting bad results"
"We're not creative enough and we're not positive enough"
This was said all the way back in 1996 and yet despite a so-called "Golden Era" which again yielded nought, nothing of serious consequence was done to fix the problem. We're quickly moving from "30 Years of Hurt" as the song suggests, to well on the way to 50.
Many minds have thought about this over the past 20 or so years but I believe I have a relatively simple answer: Britain.
From 1884-1984 the Home Nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northen Ireland after the invention of the republic) played in a competition called the British Home Championship. The idea is crudely simple, get the four national sides to play each other.
The idea works perfectly well in Rugby, although that competition has been expanded from the original four Home Nations, to including France and later Italy. I can see no reason why it shouldn't work in football either. The only opposition I can see is the stubbornness of the English FA and of course the clubs themselves.
The idea of course also works perfectly well in football and in 2011 the other four nations Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northen Ireland resumed on what will be a biannual basis, the Nations Cup. The "first" edition was won by the Republic of Ireland 1-0 over Scotland.
It seems somewhat stupid to me that if England keep on failing for tournament after tournament and playing in "friendlies" which the crowds themselves shy away from, that the FA rejoin the tournament. Surely more passion, interest and of course travelling fans would be generated within the UK. The lessons of hooliganism which existed 30 years ago, have surely by now been laid utterly to rest what with the Taylor Report, the introduction of all-seater stadia and various pieces of legislation designed to ensure that hooligans are kept away.
I bet that an England v Scotland fixture would pack both Wembley and Hampden Park. The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff would also probably have people piled up to the rafters for a Wales v England fixture.
England's chronic problem is that the players do not play together often enough. Mostly it's because of resistance from their clubs and not wanting them to travel. I would find it very strange indeed if Manchester United wouldn't release Wayne Rooney to play for England at Old Trafford for instance; why would it be an issue for him to play at Wembley, when it wouldn't have been to play at Stamford Bridge the week before?
The Republic of Ireland has almost certainly benefitted from playing in the Nations Cup. Their performance at Euro 2012 whilst it wasn't exactly ground breaking, was in part made to look worse by the fact that they had what would eventually be both finalists in the group stage.
If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else, then I'd be entering England into the Nations Cup. It wouldn't just be because of so much tradition but rather a very real need to improve the national side.
Posted by Rollo at 17:00