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Is England falling out of the elite group?

Is England falling out of the elite group?


England invented football. They have the tag of a traditional powerhouse of the sport, in every tournament they enter, not necessarily as the main favourites, but with a supposedly solid chance of winning the tournament. Despite the hype, England has 1 World Cup (1966, Best Result since – 4th place in 1990) and a 3rd place in the European Championship (1996). Their outing at the 2014 World cup was a disaster, finishing bottom in the group. Now, to add to the woes, the U-21 National team suffered a group stage exit at the European Championships too, finishing last in their group, despite being classified as the highest seeded team as per the coefficient rankings.

Why does England falter at the big tournaments despite the tags?

The talented 21st century players for the English are gone. Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole are long retired now. There are world class players within the squad. The FA is rich enough to provide state of the art training facilities for the players of the various national level teams. Is there something wrong with the whole national set up? The player mentality? The coach?

Unlike most other nations, English players play in the country only. The Premier League is the richest league in the world and is getting richer faster than others. Which is why, the clubs are able to attract top quality players from other nations and develop a talented, multi-national squad from their youth set up.

Now, the Premier League and Football League of England also have rules regarding home-grown players. A home grown player is defined as one, irrespective of their nationality or age has been registered with a club affiliated to the FA of England or Wales, for a period of at least 36 months or 3 entire seasons before their 21st Birthday. The Clubs can supplement their squads with additional players under-21 on the 1st of January of the year in which the season commences.

England U-21
England U-21 side losing to Portugal.

To stay competitive, they need to attract the best talent. This means, as long as the home-grown criteria is met there can be foreign players in the club who rise through the ranks. The Premier League clubs buy top foreign players as they bid to win Domestic and European trophies.

Unlike other nations where 5-6 players of that country form the starting XI of the teams or regularly play 30+ matches a season? It is not true for England. So, the Premier League set up, in a bid to remain competitive, will pursue the best talent. This is not wrong, but it is definitely harming the development of English players. Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United have had a foreign core in their title winning seasons. There might be a few English players, but not a majority (the players here can include Rooney, Terry, Ferdinand, Lampard, Hart).

Big teams need managers with Big Egos. Roy Hogdson is a fantastic manager, but he is too timid. He is not able to manage egos of star players effectively, and he is not really capable of boosting his teams standing in tough times (this has been seen many times in the National team and club levels). His squad selections are difficult, as he is not able to select the right players for the system he wants. Unable to manage them and get them to really play a system he likes, means they falter against serious opposition. The squad is talented to get through friendlies (where you can nearly change the entire team) or qualifiers, when the quality of the opposition is not very high for the calibre of players in England

Now, another factor that affects England, the power of the Premier League managers. Except for the summer, England plays two matches over a period of 1 week at pre-determined intervals. To keep their stars fresh, the Premier League managers request the England manager to rotate their players, or not play certain matches or limit his minutes. It’s a tough situation as the fans expect the players to perform on both stages. Injuries or fatigure from International matches may affect club form, and the manager tends to get the stick.

To the players, they do not have enough of a drive as other nations. The other teams are united. They have a desire to play for their country and whilst disappointed they are willing to play for the junior teams if eligible. England? Why were Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw (who recovered from injury by then) were not included? They could have made a difference.

Overall, England have the talent to be a real force to be reckoned with. However, there needs to be more room for English players to develop in the Premier League. The Manager needs to assert his dominance on the squads and get them to play for the country. Players should also be willing to accept the decision of the authorities.

In the near future, England may not be living up to their hype, but if the changes are made to develop their young English players, the country might be looking at a genuine chance of winning the World Cup or European Championship.

For Euro 2016, England have more or less secured qualification. They need to start working on a system that works for the squad and practice, apart from that, there is not much that could change for England in the Euro 2016, but they can start to see positive advances in the national team set up, at least 2 years from now.

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