How much time has fleeted past since we last did that? An exorbitantly packed Old Wembley Stadium was rocking with a hope of the home side emerging triumphant way back in 1966. The final, although went down in history as one of the most controversial and queer ones, but is still very much etched in the minds of English fans all over the world. But the phrase ‘All over the world’ presents an irony owing to the extent to which the English Football team has keeled over to. Alf Ramsey or the so-heralded ‘Messiah’ for English fans has left behind memories which last forever, and by forever I may well mean forever or simply, a moment as eternal as that would hardly repeat itself in the near future. Although, after all that unfolded at Wembley buckets of years back, English football had begun to hit a downright rock bottom. A rock bottom from which, even the current crop of English players has failed to recover from.
A lot has changed since 1966, apart from the Odyssey gaming console and the OLT mobile networks. The game has evolved in numerous ways ranging from its popularity and the effect the ‘famous’ English media has on it, which is regardless to say colossal these days. The captain’s armband has changed arms almost a dozen times and the current skipper is usually the one to take all the blame in the world for the losses. The popularity of the English Premier League became a subject of augmentation and there has been a significant multiplication in its reputation for luring superstar players with the latest examples of Angel di Maria of Manchester United and Diego Costa of Chelsea. This has given to rise to beliefs surrounding poor linkup between players of rival clubs who play for England, as per the fans. Steven Gerrard and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard were often accused of not fitting in together despite of being indispensible towards their clubs.
The Wembley stadium these days isn’t as packed as it was when the English team battled 10-12 years ago. A deep lying skepticism has settled in the minds of football fans all around the world that The England National Team is increasingly losing its prominence in the International arena. The World Cup showings turned out to be nothing short of torturous for us English fans but there were, as always some obvious positives to take such as the emergence of young starlets such as Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Luke Shaw.
Decades have passed since the then English blooming talents actually developed into world class footballers but now, it seems the ages of 19 and 20 are becoming the ‘bottleneck’ ages for English football. Current captain Wayne Rooney is the latest example to have come through that bottleneck age to emerge as a world renowned player but this trend is slowly fading. Week in, week out we are now accustomed to watching young players dazzle the Premier League pitches but there’s something seriously wrong when they feature in National games, especially in their senior teams.
We all remember the outcome of the U-21 UEFA EURO competition of 2009, don’t we? What would come as a shock for those who don’t, let me tell you that the English team reached the finals, only to be ousted by the Germans. The fact that the knockout blow came at the most penultimate stage in the tournament does signal that there was something in there. But, have a look at the young English team that commuted to Sweden to compete in that tournament-
Now, notice how many of these players participated in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup. Just 2. Surprising isn’t it? Now have a peek at the German team which faced England in that tournament-
The number exceeds the English one by some margin, doesn’t it? And those players were vivacious in their bid to win the World Cup. This is clearly indicative of the fact that there are some hitches or snags with the blooming of English talents in the Premier League. Although, it’d be highly captivating to see whether the current crop of dazzling talents live up to the potential or stagnate, but this something which undermines our foundations.
We see players feature almost every week in the Premier League and some of them including Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling earn plaudits for themselves in every single game. In a general sense, here’s where the media plays its part. A player, not necessarily an emerging one leaves us chuffed to bits after a brilliant showing and the media starts to herald him as the ‘Next Someone’ and these sort of headlines start to dominate the back pages and the media outlets on the Internet. The pressure of delivering a tad bit of exhilarating performances starts to kill him from the inside and a fear of failure creeps in. That’s one reason why our current English side doesn’t feel courageous enough to do something out of the ordinary to grab a goal. They know that if it goes wrong, they’ll have to pay heed to some chin music. After all, the famously ‘infamous’ English media always needs some tidbits to chew upon. The bottleneck aged players gets adversely affected by this and as with Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs, they get prone to injuries and these are the most unfortunate and destructing part of that age.
A long and hard Premier League season makes sure that the English players never get a decent period of rest from their schedule. And young players, being largely inexperienced are the first ones to get affected by this thing. And competing twice a week in a League as pacy and physical as the Premier League and then carrying the burden of a whole nation can knock the stuffing out of any player, let alone youngsters. And being the most entertaining and competitive league in the world, rivalries between clubs and tensions between players are sure to persist. And with the entry of foreign concepts and philosphies, players have varying and differing tendencies which, in turn become conflicting and they find it ever tougher to gel.
For Example, with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, players from that part of London carry are acclimatized to adhering to a philosophy which is rather different to the philosophy which Arsene Wenger preaches at Arsenal or Mauricio Pochetinno preaches as Spurs. And on top of that, these top London or Merseyside or Manchester clubs never fail to have a pop at each other. We very well know how passionately the game is followed in the country and the sight of flying, ruthless tackles testify them inch perfectly. These things even serve as reasons as to why both Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard constantly failed to play well together.
Although, its undoubted that both are exceptionally gifted exponents of the game but they’ve been taught entirely differently by their clubs to operate in a similar position in resembling ways. Lampard was moulded into more of that box to box player by Mourinho during his first stint as Chelsea while Gerrard was typical midfielder who possessed a shade everything, including his box-to-box mentality. But in a flat 4-4-2 shape the two central midfielders are supposed to be different kinds of players, one with a box to box tendency and the other with a holding mentality. The positions of these two were in conflict all due to this.
Apart from players like Mark Hughes, David Beckham and Michael Owen and the current examples of Micah Richards and Ashley Cole, English players are seemingly averse to join foreign clubs. This may reflect their so called patriotism towards the Union Jack but also reflects their mentality of shying away from new challenges. These new challenges help them get acclimatized to different playing conditions and this inexperience or whatever we may call it lurked around most obviously in the stamina of our English players in Brazil. They looked out of touch, tired and all over the place. The playing conditions out witted them and their staminas betrayed them.
Now, the inflation of the entry of superstar players in England worsens this situation. Danny Rose, the Tottenham left back was hardly in the fray of selection this past World Cup. His performances last season under Vilas Boas and Tim Sherwood were almost average. Under new boss Mauricio Pochetinno, as was the case with Southampton, he believes in young players more than anybody else. He’s prospering and is nearing a selection but imagine what would’ve happened if Spurs had bought an Alberto Moreno(who was a reported target of theirs), who is clearly better than Rose on recent evidence. And Ben Davies’ capture would’ve jeopardized his spot further and the bottleneck age would’ve torn his career to shreds, which is otherwise on track. This is what is happening with our players at other clubs.
Alexis Sanchez’s arrival at Arsenal will create, or is creating a similar jeopardy for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Meanwhile, a player such as Tom Cleverley who was dubbed to be ‘The Next Paul Scholes’ lost his spark all due to the pressure media was piling on his shoulders. After his loan move to Aston Villa was sealed he himself admitted that ‘It was good to get away from the negativity at Manchester United’. He was rightly being slaughtered as a scapegoat for the torrid season United endured and he wasn’t the only player to be blamed for all that transpired at United.
Rivalries may also have a near detrimental effect on the link up of players on the pitch. Although, it was good to pay heed to Jackie Wilshere calling Wayne Rooney a father figure but still, some sort of error in communication would persist. Gary Neville, as most would know ‘Hated Scousers’ and Wayne Rooney was a young lad who turned up from Everton. In his Autobiography, ‘My Decade in the Premier League’, Rooney claims that he was sometimes too scared to linger around too much with Gary Nev. And since, Gary Neville hated Scousers, they hated him, tit for tat and boom, there goes the link up in flames.
The Class of ’92 at Manchester United, the Arsenal and Spurs conveyer belts were major parts of the English side of the 1990’s, along with some Newcastle and Blackburn players. Such conveyer belts like academies hardly exist. And if they exist, they never seem to produce English talents.
Arsene Wenger is too engrossed in buying foreign players and so is Jose Mourinho. Brendan Rodgers is a mixed bag type of manager who does believe in youngsters but it’s hard to spot a nationality pattern in it. Louis van Gaal has already fielded 30 players so far and has a knack for blooming emerging players into world class ones. James Wilson and Tyler Blackett, if nurtured well can make a name for themselves on the International stage. Same’s the case with Argentine Spurs gaffer Mauricio Pochetinno.
The team is currently undergoing a transition period, and a pretty torrid one. It’d be hard to imagine the current hosts of players win something big and that’s why Roy Hodgson is having a dip into the deeper trenches of English football, as evident from the selections of Fabian Delph and Jack Colback from Aston Villa and Newcastle respectively. It’d good to witness this but as of now, the width Theo Walcott provided is being sorely missed. There’s hardly a presence of a pure winger and even our so called wingmen tend to drop deep and have a run at opposition defender from the middle areas.
These are tough times, but Rome wasn’t built in a day or overnight. After every night, there’s daylight and although, it’s still some years away but my message to English fans would be- Sit tight and watch all the bad times fleet past, lads. The best is yet to come…