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Mr. Rogers On Soccer
England fans are in desperate need of analysis.
By Andrew Rogers
SUNBURY ON THAMES, England (Friday, February 9, 2006) -- Wednesday was a very grim day in the life of one of the most deluded and ignorant England fans on the face of the planet -- me. Watching England fall to Spain 1-0 at home led to stern self-analysis.
What may concern the readers is I should know a lot better than to convince myself in the buildup to a friendly fixture that England is decent at football on the international stage. However, like smoking, Valentines Day and Christmas, I failed to grasp the fact that supporting England is bad for your health, mind and wallet.
The truth is all too apparent and, as a qualified coach and former player, my experience tells me not to bother with England. Yet, for some sadistic reason I persist.
This nation's addiction to England's cause is bad for business the next day and for the country's mental well-being. It defies any notion of reason to keep convincing oneself of something known to be contrary to the black and white facts, and then beat oneself up over that truth. So, I've decided to draw up a checklist that every fan should go through before engaging in supporting England in the buildup to a game, as well as on match days.
1. England stinks
Only in a country where the evacuation of Dunkirk is celebrated could a nation get so worked up by an overrated side. The fact is we have only won the big prize once.
In 1966, the political chicanery that went into creating the World Cup victory wasn't on the same level as iin South Korea in 2002. However, most South Americans believe world governing body FIFA had conspired to contrive the Germany-England final and, in the decider, who can get forget the goal that wasn't a goal from Geoff Hurst?
OK, so with FIFA and world politics on England's side, we can just about get there. But when have England's subsequent performances suggested its a top nation? The best sides can play over 90 minutes, 120 minutes, and into penalties. These are the rules and that is how the game works. England has consistently used penalties as an excuse to stop playing and prolong the game. When it comes to the shootout, it loses the confidence and swagger displayed in the night clubs when the players are sipping on Cristal and burning 50-pound notes.
2. English players' aren't good enough
A great Premiership player does not equate to a good international. The Premier League is exciting because the fans make a great amount of noise and truly care. The players play with a level of discipline often found on the playground in junior school. This is what makes the EPL so much fun, but it's the complete antithesis of the international game where control, not blood and thunder, is king.
None of the top four teams in England has a homegrown coach and only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson has made any attempt to keep his side English. As a rule, the best Premier League sides don't have English players.
Therefore, before being draw into the buildup for the next game, make a mental note that the English don't have very good players. No one abroad wants to buy them unless they sell shirts, they cannot get into top sides and the nature of their game is only suited to a particular brand of football.
3. Money, not winning, matters to the FA
A quick glance at the Football Association's recent chief executive officers will tell you where the priorities of "Team England" lie. It's not the Three Lions and their unique position in the football world that govern its thinking, but lucre. After Graham Kelly resigned over dodgy loans paid to the Welsh FA, English football has been governed by a marketing executive (Adam Crozier), accountant (Mark Palios) and TV executive (Brian Barwick).
Now, I apologize if I've missed something here, but isn't football about developing players and winning teams? If this was strictly the case, surely England would employ a football person to lead the administration?
Instead, the FA has employed business people to develop the brand, organize their finances and develop TV rights. There is nothing wrong with this, but the direction the FA is going is not player oriented and it shows in the EPL and at the international level.
<>b>4.Club versus country
It may be called a debate, but the reality is there is simply a set of concrete facts. The clubs\companies pay the players around $6 million a year. The representative England side they turn out for six times a year pays in a week what the players normally make in half a day.
England has an inferior coach (Steve McLaren), and is exposed to serious grief from the public and press, not to mention the hassle of playing against sides no ones has heard of. If injured, players lose out on club bonuses and, worse, still can jeopardize future contracts. Can the players really be expected to care about a setup that pays next to nothing, is a glorified marketing brand and consists of inferior players?
Worse still, the system asks a little more of their technique than they're comfortable with. The kicker is, playing against The People's Republic of Eastern Eurostan emphasizes just how overrated, and overpaid the English side is when the opposition keeps the ball for 15 minutess on a dodgy pitch.
Of course, the players try, but what is fairly transparent is international football is an anomaly in the football world that can be hazardous to their careers, egos and wallets. Playing the hero in a friendly sandwiched between EPL and Champions League campaigns is beyond inconvenient. It might be marketed as the highest honor in football, but fans should be mindful of where the players' priorities are likely to be.
5. Practice Time
The domestic season runs from August to May, the players train and play consistently together for over 300 days. The national team spends at best 20-30 days preparing. The group of players you play with consistently changes and the manager doesn't deserve their trust.
Irrespective of the supposed standard of player, should fans expect to be watching a decent standard of football? Probably not, if internationals didn't have the emotional and historical pull, would any one really care? The players don't have a chance to prepare properly and are conflicted by the interests of their paymasters.
A quick recap:
1. England has always been useless.
2. Current players equal rubbish. Previous generations equal rubbish.
3. The FA, guardian of the game, doesn't care about winning, why should the players?
4. The team only tries to perform at World Cup, in the process wasting time and money.
5. International football, by its very nature, is an inferior product.
So, there you have the Mr. Rogers' checklist to maintain your sanity next time you hear the words Three Lions. A pilot doesn't fly before checking his plane is safe. Fans should not support England until it has completed its safety checks or could crash and burn with fans investing their time in overrated, inconsistent, and conflicted second-tier players.
Now Mr.\Ms Soccer Fan, your hour is up. That will be $400 please.
Andrew Rogers, a regular contributor to the United Kingdom's League Paper and Non League Paper, lives in Sunbury on Thames in England. Formerly the director of communications for the Long Island (N.Y.) Rough Riders, he is a UEFA 'B" license coach and plays semi-professionally with Spelthorne FC.
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