Saturday, 21 June 2014

England’s World Cup Failure is Fault of the Working Class

Ok. I hope that got your attention. If you are a staunch Labour voter it’s precisely the sort of outrageous slur and pile of old steaming horseshit you expect from a dirty filthy Tory boy.

I shall now explain why you are wrong you flat cap wearing low-life scumbag.

But before I go into this I should just explain one thing. I know absolutely nothing about football whatsoever. I didn’t play it at school apart from on the odd occasion in the playground and I rarely ever watch a game other than during a World Cup.

But, that in essence is what I think qualifies me to be able to see the cause of the problem so clearly because, I believe, a big part of the problem is that everyone involved in football has almost always been involved in football and therefore is simply incapable of seeing where it’s going wrong. They are too conditioned, too used to seeing things from one perspective and too concentrated on the detail to see the big picture.

The problem with English football is that it is a game for the uneducated lower classes. And I don’t think I am, in fact, committing some kind of class slur by saying so – I am simply stating facts.

I remember a kid at school getting picked out as a talented footballer and then in the last year of school seeing him waiting for the bus every morning as he went off to Aldershot Football Club. I remember hearing that the money was terrible and that he spent most of his time cleaning the senior player’s boots – but that was apparently the way it worked. He was serving a servile apprenticeship that required no intelligence - in fact it demanded limited intelligence to be endurable.

And that I gather is the way that everyone gets into football. They get spotted as a talented kid, encouraged to spend as little time in the classroom as possible and as much time on the pitch as they can and then get fed into the football club machine until they are either cruely spat-out and rejected or until they ultimately make it to the big-time and start earning a decent living playing the game.

I guess there must be some smart academic kids in England who show some early talent for the game but no doubt even if they do manage to combine study with lots of time playing football their most likely well-educated parents wouldn’t dream of sending them off to do 5 years boot cleaning at a football club and give up on any reasonable level of education.

So the result of all that is that the lucky few who do make it to become players, then eventually retire and become pundits or presenters (Lineker etc) or get into management and coaching and then eventually one or two such as Venables, Hoddle or now Grandpappy Hodgson get to coach/manage the National side.

It should therefore be no surprise that the sort of analysis that comes from the TV studios only has any real insight or depth of analysis when it comes from the increasing number of foreign luminaries who are drafted into to displace the mindless drivel of our home-grown football monkeys droning on about a game of two halves, ‘it needs more vision and more communication on the pitch’ sort of nonsense.

And equally it should be no surprise that England has for so long failed to deliver any kind of promising performance on the pitch – because the same type of people with the same lack of analytical nouse migrate from the pitch to management.

I remember a story a few years back when it emerged that a particular Chelsea player, whose name I frustrating can’t remember, was derided by his fellow players because he read a broadsheet newspaper. Apparently he was an outcast because he was thought to be wasting his time exercising his mind instead of his legs.

It’s not that I am suggesting that England players should all have first class degrees, be capable of reciting great tracts of Shakespeare or harbour ambitions to get into brain surgery after their playing careers finish.

But I am suggesting that if we largely deliver poorly educated, generally lower working-class kids into the system who then have their entire lives run by football clubs staffed by people with a similar background then it should be no surprise if when the select few do eventually reach the top of the pile that they do lack the vision, analytical skills and insight that are required to build and hone a successful National team.

When Sir Clive Woodward finished up as England Rugby Coach having won the 2003 World Cup he turned his attention to football. In one newspaper interview he claimed that he never really liked Rugby and had always preferred football. He said one of his mates was someone senior at Southampton Football Club and he was going to get into coaching or managing football clubs through that route.

I think he probably could have made a big impact by applying some of the world beating continuous performance improvement techniques that he applied to English Rugby that so spectacularly turned us into World Cup Winners and World Cup finalists four years later.

But equally, I am not at all surprised that he is not part of the English Football setup. I just can’t imagine anyone having opened that door to him. To be involved in English football at any senior management level I imagine you wouldn’t get a look in unless you were one of those who had trodden the same path as all the others – i.e. been a football apprentice done good.

So lets stop all this nonsense about Roy Hodgson being a lovely old bloke – give him a break – look forward to the Euros in 2 years time-crap!

Bollocks. Hodgson may be a nice bloke but barring at least a five goal margin in England’s favour against Costa Rica on Tuesday he needs to be sacked along with his unshaven, miserable faced Captain – Gerard. England’s self-respect demands that at least. A public flogging (particularly for Gerard – it couldn’t make him look any more miserable) would be more appropriate.

And then the England setup needs to look deep into the abyss. Stop deluding themselves about ‘building a young team’ and ‘looking to the future’ and accept that the meaningful failures are not the on the pitch tactical failures. They are far more serious. They are systemic - so the system needs to change.

And that means breaking out of football being a working class game, run for working class people by working class people and all that old nonsense. Football gained a classless appeal for it’s audiences a long time ago but it’s still clearly run on that old failing basis.

Because while playing and managing English football remains the unintentional preserve of the working classes the world has moved on. The inverted snobbery of football simply cannot be sustained – the class divide must be smashed and the finest analytical minds from all areas of sporting experience and performance must be employed to dismantle the entire system and rebuild it as as a high performance machine that can deliver.

England Expects. Still.

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