• England’s game-style? Rigor Mortis!

    Unless and until something changes, the FA’s England team are dead to me from now onwards.

    I have waited and waited in reserved judgement hoping that Southgate, somehow, against all historical evidence of his previous coaching/ managerial career, might effect some transformational change on the psychological profile of his new-look and emerging England team. Against my better judgement, I hoped that his international experience and the relatively intelligent game-style that poured out when he played might somehow distill in to conjuring something new; something approaching intelligent build-up play; the wit to bring some improvisation up front to create and inspire a new ideal for playing. The penultimate WC2018 qualifying performance at home against Slovenia, however, demonstrated that Southgate and the whole England circus at St George’s Theme Park are unable to transfer the excellent recent club form of a number of players in to a coherent England game-style that is attractive to watch and builds hope for future performances at Russia WC2018 and beyond.

    Watching the stuttering first half performance against Slovenia was infuriating. For example, why:

    -pre-match, does the so-called ‘Home of Football’ bear the scars of the incessant commercialisation of the game with the less than pitch-perfect grid iron markings setting the tone for the stuttering England show that we were made to endure (and it does feel like an endurance watching England)?

    -00:00secs - 00:06 secs: did England play long straight from the kick off, put the ball straight in to touch and give up possession of the ball so easily?

    -03:26secs to 03:31secs do we persist with Joe ‘Hyper’ Hart who personifies laggard-England with his inability to perform the innovative sweeper-keeper role (i.e. poor first touch and subsequent incorrect weight of pass to Walker - too slow!).

    -03:46secs to 04:01secs is the team so lacking in movement leaving John Stones with no one to pass to? Stones is forced to give a 'nothing-burger' pass to Dyer who immediately has to whack it 30 yards backwards to Head-and-Shoulders-Hyperman?

    05:03secs to 06:08secs does our best performer in the early stages of the match - Rashford - show himself to be incapable of crossing the ball without hitting the first defender (x3 times)? Eventually, Rashford clears the first man on the fourth attempt, but he clears absolutely everyone else in the penalty box, too.

    08:14secs to 08:49secs after Henderson had found a good, positive, angled pass in to Kane does Southgate think that Sterling can work the ball from a starting position inside zone 14? Sterling losing possession of the ball leads directly to the central defenders being exposed and Joe Hart committing to a challenge that would have resulted in a penalty on another day, perhaps. Why do England seem particularly susceptible to being caught on the break?

    14:04secs to 14:25secs isn’t Bertrand breaking wide and left to make the job of playing out from the back easier if England want to play out from the back? Why does 'hyper' Hart make the throw to Walker, which may have put him under unnecessary pressure? Why does Walker’s decision making have to be exposed as he attempts a lame header that drops to a Slovenia player for a clear and good sight of goal (a better shot would have been 1-0, or 2-0 if the ref had given the penalty for Hart’s earlier mistake)? And why don’t Henderson and Dyer see that Walker’s header might fall short and not track the Slovenia player (no.11 Sporar) back towards their goal to provide the cover that’s needed in the transition?

    14:45secs to 15:23 secs is Bertrand the only player to break out from his position during this whole passage of play? England’s lack of rotational play, lack of fluidity and consequently general stiffness - verging on rigor mortis - makes playing against them too easy. Worse still, this performance anxiety always gets worse in tournaments these days, it seems.

    17:19secs to 17:30secs - does Gary Cahill go for a volley from the cross with his right foot rather than his left foot? Maybe because most of our players been developed incorrectly during the foundation stage leaving even our international players with skill-set deficiencies resulting in bad decision-making to go for a ball with their stronger foot rather than optimising their body shape and reach to stretch for the ball with the correct foot (i.e. good decision making and correct technique). If Cahill had reached for the ball with his left foot he might have hooked it straight in to the net (to conjure a finish like David Platt’s v Belgium at WC1990). If Cahill had been more central to the goal to try with his right foot would have been the correct decision, but as he was in front of the goal he could only deflect and take the pace off the ball with his right foot improving the chances of Oblak saving it. The optimised chaining effect of momentum would have occurred if he had tried to hit it with his left.

    18:22secs to 18:51 secs are the full backs so high so that Hart can’t play out from the back and elects to play a tricky 40m pass to (guess who?) a full back who then loses the ball in the ariel challenge and, due to some questionable positional play, Slovenia find a striker attempting a bicycle-kick volley in front of our goal. England were lucky that they were playing a mediocre team and that is wasn’t 1-0, or 2-0, or 3-0 by this point.

    I could go on, but it’s getting boring - and predictable. We have some good players (note good players, not great players; certainly none world class, in my opinion). Why can’t they show they’re good players when playing for England, though?


    - The Eni Aluko affair goes to the heart of all that is wrong with England. The cowardly FA ‘decision makers’ decided that, rather then face in to the problem and deal with it properly and thoroughly, they would revert back to a report from years ago that would seem to justify them removing Mark Sampson from his post as the England Women’s coach in another way. Guess what? It doesn’t. And this decision creates some residual issues, too

    - Dan Ashworth will not take accountability for his decision to appoint Mark Sampson even though he should be responsible and accountable for approving Sampson’s post initially and thereafter. This surely makes Ashworth’s role untenable from now onwards, too, doesn't it?

    - Gareth Southgate continues to support Dan Ashworth in his role, which is unacceptable.

    - Both Ashworth and Southgate continue to endorse the hardly progressive Aidy Boothroyd, whose lack of grace was evident when commenting on Kevin Blackwell’s Leeds whilst manager of Watford for the play-off final a few years ago. Boothroyd’s performance as a coach with the development team summer 2017 was demonstrably not at the level required to demonstrate a coherent game style. Instead, when the prize was in sight he deployed the default and tired, long-ball, kick-and-rush tactics by which other nations laugh at us.

    - Years ago now, on the day that David Sheepshanks opened St Georges Park the then England U19 manager Noel Blake was on the radio that same day stating that the Premier League clubs were not releasing players for tournaments and get togethers in a way that would facilitate a truly integrated national strategy (paraphrasing here). If Blake was prepared to say that in public then God Only Knows what was being said behind closed doors.

    - In any event, what kind of an organisation accepts the incredulous explanation of the way in which Russia ‘lost its computers?!?!’ so couldn’t evidence their bid process for WC2018 when that was topical and a reaction to that position could have been powerful? Forget current international GEO-politics, there is a precedent for withdrawing from international sporting competitions to protest at injustice. Doing so in protest at the manifestly corrupt Fifa process would have been justified and this would have won you friends at home and abroad. Your relationship with Fifa is damaged beyond belief and your team have no chance of winining, anyway, so why not consider it? It could have been your 1966 moment. You have shown yourselves to be spineless - again - and I’m not sure how many people here will even be wanting to watch the World Cup, given the stinking corruption still emanating from Fifa to Russia with love.

    - Why aren't your performances improving? Your then great leader Greg Dyke (you know, that bloke that sold off the Premier League and laid the seeds for your continuing demise) said the project brief is victory by 2022. I have written to David Sheepshanks to get a sense of how the clock is ticking (no response).

    - Why do I get no response from 'The Others'? I have written to Gareth Southgate to ask how many St George’s Theme Parks will be built in the metropolitan area where I live (no response). I’ve visited one in S Yorks and I have to say that I was very underwhelmed. You would have been better off investing the money in 15m x 20m MUGAs in the heart of as many communities as you can. Young kids need somewhere to play right outside their house. Their parents can’t drive them to these facilities every day. By the time that kids are old enough to go to these regional hubs on their own its too late for them. Their fundamental movement skills and football skill acquisition needs to be laid down before they leave primary school. Why don’t you get it?

    - Why do you have no new ideas? I have written to a number of other people at the FA about a number of other things, but their reactions and performances off the pitch are stuttering, too. If football is a business, as the FA appears to believe it to be, then good business leaders know that they ought to listen to and engage with their customers otherwise they will be heading for trouble.

    There continues to be something rotten in the state of English football, but it goes way beyond the physical preparation of the players. I love England and wish there was something I could do to help. I wish there was some intel I could offer that would provide the keys to the court, but the football forces here come not single spies but in battalions. The 3 lions have lost the battle and may have lost the war forever more - unless and until something changes. What is to be done? Nothing short of a revolution will do.

    How long has this been going on? I started a blog after England’s abysmal Blomfontein display, wondering who could unpick the problems with England’s football. To date, these 7 years have been unlucky for me - and others - in that no one is able to get to the core of the problem. Wembley itself is an embarrassing aural experience: it sounds like a school swimming gala. I now think that unless the whole edifice is torn down, people replaced and we start again nothing can change - ever! That won’t happen, of course. So my time here is done. England, I can’t stomach your football any longer. I will be closing this site down before the terrible tournament game-style brings me out in hives again.

    Gareth - here’s your report: A for Effort & E for Attainment. The England game-style: a back to front paradox from start to finish. I’ve heard about players stiffening up, but I’ve never seen such a full scale rigor mortis from a body of men as when they freeze-over and go all stiff down Wembley Way (no - not in that way, Harvey, I mean the players' Hollwood Paradox).

    England, you’ve been like my girlfriend ever since the ball skidded off Kevin Keegan’s bubble perm for the 2-0 victory against Italy in 1977, but, now, consider yourself dumped! You can go home to DE13 (unlucky for some?) and take your ball with you.

    England, I give you the ‘Dele Alli Middle Finger Award' for:


    My message to the FA is this: Do one! We want our game back.



  • Chapeau to the 'Reluctant Leader' - Guess Who..?

    Gareth Southgate - what a thoroughly decent man!

    He has stepped up to perform this egregious duty, reluctantly, when all other options were exhausted. Despite Southgate turning down the same role before, due in part to his self deprecating nature and perceived inexperience, he knew that when his employers were again [red] faced with zero other options he had to stand up and face in to the 'impossible job' this time.

    Gareth I, for one, wish you well for these games and the remainder of the qualifying campaign Reluctant leaders can emerge through circumstance and inspire those around them. Gareth, truly, I say, 'Good Luck'!

    Conversely, Wayne Rooney is a leader I have been reluctant to endorse for a long time now. Another stay of execution for Wazza is bad for him and us. Wayne and his own team seem to have done a job on Gareth and the FA - once again. Can TEAM ENGLAND cope without their 'experienced leader'? Of course they could: Wayne's World is definitely on the wane and is bringing us another topical depression in the fall. Plus ca Change.

    This poor decision making from the FA Senior Leadership (i.e. seduced by 'Brand Rooney' and the globalisation of the game) goes to the heart of the matter and is one reason that the national team fails to perform time and again when it matters. What was it Einstein said about the definition of insanity..? Know this: there is a difference between interest and commitment.

    England [Your England] will do enough in qualifying - again - to send everyone insane with maddening stupefaction again at WC2018 in Russia. A 32 year old Wayne Rooney? This is getting old.



  • The England Man Biennial


    Green and Pleasant Land


    Dear all,

    The English patient (i.e. Football, The FA and The Future Game) is very sick. There is the presenting problem and the underlying problem. The FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, said that England ‘seem brittle at tournaments’ and ‘it’s something around psychological preparation and resilience’. That is the presenting problem. The patient cannot face the truth or lacks the self-awareness to diagnose the underlying problem. The underlying problem is this: there is a cancer within the body of the FA that is incurable.

    The FA is staffed by well intentioned people who lack the professional insight to understand what it takes to be successful at football. Coaching courses are woefully inadequate and the financial resources available are wasted in the wrong areas (i.e. up to £1Bn spent on Wembley Stadium, St George’s Park, the World Cup 2018 bid process, Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson and a super-sized staffing structure that aspires to get an FA Cup final ticket, at least).

    Roy Hodgson, in his France 2016 exit interview said ‘I don’t know what I am doing here!’. That is Shakespearean! One thing that Hodgson ought to have been doing at his final England press conference was showing some accountability for the sides that he set out at the tournament. The France 2016 results might go down in history as the worst set ever from an England international side - to date. They certainly seem the most shameful at this time. It’s like ‘The England Man’ has locked-in syndrome to the ‘England Biennial' of maddening shame and stupefaction’.

    What is to be done? It seems to me that the players mistrust England get togethers as the FA tries to justify its existence with ever more elaborate pomp and circumstance. I ask you: what would happen if the FA was dissolved? Consider it: in my view the players would have a better psychological preparation for games if clubs released them to go and have a bit of fun doing what they love away from their club environment for a short while. A change is as good as a rest, as they say.

    I put it to you that if the FA was disbanded we could build a new Jersuslam of which we could be proud. Public money and resources could be spent on regional centres that were affiliated to the professional clubs where Key Stage 1 & 2 kids play. Then, we should leave kids alone in their friendship groups to play with joy and delight throughout primary school, but with augmented coaching from the regional centres for talent identification and accelerated learning. Professional clubs could then look to bring kids in to their environments more regularly from Year 7.

    We need to bring back the joy of football in this green and pleasant land. Currently, we can’t play and it’s painful. How long (has this been going on...)?

    Yours sincerely,


    (Currently - the sickest man in Europe)



  • Winter Is Coming (how many more years of hurt?)


    Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).

    Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool).

    Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

    Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

    So the young knights from Old Albion are gathering in Kingslanding (St George's Park) readying themselves for battle. Fare Thee Well, men....

    Will they end 50 years of Hurt, though, Henry? Winter is coming, so the expression goes on the hit TV show Game of Thrones, and my pitch is that ‘you know nothing, Roy Hodge!’ Like an agricultural labourer tending delicate orchids, how likely is it that Hodgson's flowers can survive the harsh environment of tournament football in France? Picking Jack Wilshire, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge has meant leaving out the Premier League fitness of Danny Drinkwater. This seems imprudent: any England centre back pairing looks fragile already not withstanding any injury worries (i.e. Eric Dier could be playing centre back before the group games are out). Drinkwater would then be the premier choice for an in-form defensive midfield role, would he not?

    Drinkwater’Gate’ goes deeper. Should Rashford have gone with Gareth Southgate to the undercard tournament and become a France EuroU21 winner, for example? Is it better to have the experience of winning a tournament or be a ‘tourist’ in another unsuccessful squad? It’s unlikely Rashford will get much game-time at France 2016, given that Vardy, Kane, Sturridge and Rooney - who lest we forget has been picked as a striker - are of a higher order in Hodgson’s pack of cards. So, by taking Rashford as an extra striker [who may not play] has the Hodgson shuffle unbalanced the squad by knocking out Drinkwater?

    Of course, Roy Hodgson knows more about football than I ever will. That said, it's as clear now as it has been throughout his career that his decision making is not the greatest. Replacing Hodgson with the next fool is not going to change England's fortunes until the structural problems are fixed, but in the interim I do believe in performance related pay. Senior stakeholders at St Georges Park think that England will win a major tournament in the 2020s. Do you?

    The choice is stark: do we continue hanging on in quiet desparation [the English way?] or, after France 2016, do we boycott international football altogether? Until the Garcia report is published in full and we have transformational change in Fifa and world football what is the point? Ok - it's the economy, stupid, I heard someone say, but we can't just carry on with this can we? Carry on with what, exactly [i.e. see Henry Winter, 50YoH, p 162...]

    Winter is coming. Remember: life [at FIFA] is strange and life keeps getting stranger every day. And yet we still allow the procession to move on to Russia 2018, where the stakeholders and tournament selection process - and those doing the selecting - all have a case to answer. In this ultra competitive over-commercialised sporting arena, where England's 'White Walkers' and the true spirit of football in Old Albion are on ice, the biggest statement you can make is to turn your back on football’s product placement.

    Have your say on the FA - link here

    Monday 13th June update:

    Life at UEFA gets stranger every day, too. For example, the press are reporting that Vitaly Mutko, the Russian politician for Sport, Tourism and Youth policy, was in the stadium and seen applauding the balaclava-clad ultras that charged England supporters at the end of the match between England v Russia Sat 11 June. I find it astonishing that despite there being a bit of noise about this in the press in the days afterwards there is no actual sanction for Mutko or Russia overall. It seems like there is a new story almost every day in the press that point towards foul play. This Geo-Political phase of play is in need of some new players and a new strategy, it seems:

    FIFA WC 2018 (Russia) does not compute!

    FIFA WC 2022 in Qatar? Nope - in tatters!

    By tolerating this procession of corruption it brings shame on all of us. I say we can not 'Carry on Regardless'. Some might say that it’s only football and is not that important. If that is true then it can only be in the context of life itself being not that important. Football is beautifully inclusive (i.e. no expensive specialisation of kit required and even the ball itself can be improvised from other materials, if required). It may be the best chance we have of fostering a spirit of brotherhood/ sisterhood to celebrate diversity, love and life.

    If we tolerate this (i.e. these corrupt western business practices and bad governance from our football administrators), then radicalisation and intolerance of western culture as a whole will be next. This is not someone else’s problem. This is your problem. This is our problem across the generations now and in future. The universe might be expanding, but here on earth we are rubbing shoulders with each other more and more and we need now - more than ever - to learn how to get along.


    Tuesday June 28th - update:

    Let's not have the discussion about changing the manager. Let's have the discussion about the FA themselves - front and centre. The patient (England) is sick and the condition seems terminal. There is a cancer within the body of the Football Association and the patient doesn't look to have the mental resilience for the fight.

    Should we turn off the life support machine [money] and build a new Jerusalem of which we can be a proud football people in the 21st Century?



  • FIFA: A Football Bucks Fizz

    Stars in your eyes, Gianni

    Where do you go to dream?

    To a place we all know

    The land of make believe



    "...the only [football] people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

    This was Sepp Blatter's response at the news of Gianni Infantino's Fifa Presidential election victory, as I understand it. "He has all the qualities to continue my work,” said Blatter. Maybe Blatter’s ego was the reason for saying this to secure his own idea of his [Blatter's] own legacy. Or, perhaps Blatter thinks that his fellow countryman is just the type of puppet needed to ensure that the ‘Sepp Blatter Football Mission' is continued from beyond the gold bars or the grave: place your bets!

    The Swiss home towns of Infantino (Brig) and Blatter (Visp) are less than 10kms apart. Ordinarily, this would be enough to preclude Infantino from the top job due to his past and potential future dealings with those previously at the very top of UEFA and FIFA who now have been disgraced. That Infantino's victory looks positive is only in the context of the pre-election favourite Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa having been defeated saving Fifa and football from the surrounding controversies that undoubtedly would have impacted Qatar WC2022, too.

    So Infantino is the least worst option at this time. What can we expect? Let's see:

    A World Cup expanded to 40 teams? No thanks. Oh wait: we could expand it to 64 teams and co-locate the Women's World Cup in to the same tournament (a real football family...?). That would be progressive. Would Swiss Gianni's heritage countenance that? Let us remember that Switzerland only gave women the vote in 1971 and Infantino was billed as the progressive candidate in this sham election.

    I say bring on the Garcia report now and let us see the facts and have justice done.

    ARE YOU FIFA? You should have video [evidence].



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