• Epilogue

    Something has changed. 2018 H1 has been fantastic for Gareth Southgate and English football.

    The WC2018 qualifiers were appalling: 2018 has been enthralling! Thanks, Gareth, for restoring a bit of love & pride in to the idea of the England national team. It has gone better than we could all have dreamed of.

    I thought you might surprise a few people. You seem to have banished the sense of entitlement that's been hanging around the squad since 1998. This England team are reborn under your guidance and no one will be happier than Glen Hoddle (with a wink towards El Tel, too).


    So, Gareth, to paraphrase our first foreign SVENgali, 'first half good; 2nd half..?'

    I ask you: do you and your players truly believe in your emerging game style and can the players play with style and confidence to deliver good performances as well as results?

    The preparation has been good this year, but it's examination time now. My idea of success at WC2018 looks like anything within the following predicted grade parameters:

    Predicted Grade = Quarter final

    Best case = DREAM LAND :)

    Be Lucky:

    Any right thinking English football fan will be wishing you and the players the best of luck for the the next 3-7 games. We are hoping to see clear signs of progress for your project in this controlled environment.

    Vitai Lampada.




  • The Last Post

    An Ideal For Living – Football and The Future Game

    ‘What’s your dream, son?’, Steadman Scott asks young players, as described by Mike Calvin in his book ‘No Hunger In Paradise’. This story was recently converted to a documentary on a Pay TV platform (how very football of you, Mike). I haven’t been involved in any organised football or coaching for over 30 years, but having returned to see the picture the essence of football hasn’t changed. Football at its best is still a simple, fun game.

    Football - the 2 things:

    1 - to play, try and beat your opponent and score a goal

    2 - to win, concede fewer than you score

    Next: do you have a system? Catenaccio, Up-Back-Through, Gegenpressing (aka high press): everyone talks about their ‘philosophy’ these days. Well..., here’s mine:

    LOOK forward: play forward (when you can)

    PLAY in triangles (unless there’s a better option)

    PLAY as a team - with style and confidence!

    My preferred game-style? A collaboration between Bob Paisley/ Rinus Michels/ Johann Cruyff & Pep Guardiola. What I find fascinating about Pep’s Man City this season is that there’s a number of English players who’ve been exceptional. So it can be done, then, this thing of England players playing well. What is it about Guardiola that coaxes him to extract more value from these players under his coaching direction than Gareth Southgate can (Dan)?

    Ay, there’s the rub! After England’s shameful performances at S Africa WC2010 it’s been a biennial tournament embarrassment ever since. I haven’t enjoyed watching England play tournament football since that Beckham-esqe game v Argentina in St Etienne (WC1998). Do you remember Michael Owen’s wonder goal? This is still my favourite football moment in the last 20 years. Maybe it’s because there seemed to be a growing sense of hope in that new dishy football era and a certain ratio in how the England team were playing during those early years of the Premier League.

    Since then and after WC2010 I’ve tried to understand why England struggle so much at tournament football. There have been moments of clarity, but I haven’t been able to consistently wire-tap intercept the EEngland Omnishambles (Omni-FAmbles?) - yet. England are unbearable to watch these days. And I've watched them ever since the ball skidded off Kevin Keegan's bubble perm for his goal in the 2-0 win v Italy in 1977.

    So, where are we now? England thinks it has a plan, but it’s looking in the wrong direction, from my viewpoint. The FA might argue that the England U17 & U20 World Cup wins are a clear sign of progress. Some might say that in the U17 semi-final the Venezuela players were superior in their individual skill performances. They seemed to have better skill acquisition and game understanding to adapt to the adult version of the professional game - under a coach who has a vision of what success and attractive football looks like (it ain't all about the money to start with homeboys!). Where, for example, are the Premier League teams and English coaches who are going to develop these young English players for the next 3-5 years? It’s all very well having a DNA, Dan, but don’t look back in anger at the structural governance issues any time soon, ok? How are you going to get our U17 & U20 World Cup development team winners in to the starting line-ups of the Premier League’s top half teams?

    At a local level, when my kids joined the nearest FA Charter Mark club I was curious to see how the FA were directing the coaching provision at grass roots level. I'm a coach-helper and not involved in the admin side or on any coaching committee for the club, but from my position I can only report what I see about the FA’s involvement - EPIC FAIL! If the England national team is to produce consistently good performances then we need to change the coaching structure – RIGHT NOW.

    One thing that concerns me most is the kids’ skill development. If the kids’ basic control, dribbling and passing is not developed well enough (6-9yrs) before they begin to get fewer touches at 7v7 then our next generation will not be at the level to compete. The kids are not getting the right guidance and direction at the right time to help their development. From the youngest age groups in the grass root pyramid the better players are segregated out, which denies others the opportunities to learn from them. Guess what? There is a parallel in adult life where our leading players are now so rich on their retirement that they don't have the motivation or desire to invest their skills and knowledge in to the next generation coming through. What kind of a business de-scopes and refuses to integrate the lessons learned process for the benefit of stakeholders?

    As a grass roots coach/ helper what can I do? I can try and convey to this small group what I believe are the skills and attributes needed for playing the game well from childhood through to the adult open-age game, perhaps. Some of these skills will be quantitative for static and dynamic ball control with both feet and body:


    Wide focus = ‘eyes up’, ‘scan’,‘decision’, ‘correct body shape’, ‘what are my team mates doing around me?’

    Narrow focus = correct skill decision in the moment (sole? Inside? Outside?, Instep?) Where do I put the ball with my first touch?

    And now: what is developing around me? (show how to shift the focus from narrow to wide/ wide to narrow, as required to position oneself to see as much as possible of the pitch, players and significant moments through 360 degrees at any one time).

    There’s a squad of qualitative attributes that professional players and top coaches seem to call character – whatever that means? In any event, there should be a quantitative and qualitative skills matrix that could be baselined, standardised and implemented across our grass roots football to enable young players to see where they are now and where they could go on the development journey. I don’t see that the FA is driving this at grass roots level. What are they doing?

    When I was a spotty 16 year old sat on a bus with the young Manchester City stars that went on to beat Manchester United 5-1 (‘The Massacre of Main Road’) I didn’t think that my game was at the level to be successful against these players and the likes of AC Milan & Ajax. Football - bloody hell: you can have all the skills in your kitbag (I didn’t – some have), but if you don’t have the confidence to truly believe that you belong in certain situations you’ll end up talking yourself out of success on and off the pitch. This is what happens to England now, I think. They don't believe they deserve their wages (Seth Johnson Syndrome?). When it comes to tournament football which brings little recovery time along with 'park-the-bus' tight spaces requiring greater skill and improvisation our players seem to run out of different ways to play. Our energetic kick and rush style won’t cut it in tournament conditions so we have tried to copy other nations instead of building on our own football strengths and heritage (DNA Dan - the copy-cat man?). We haven't developed our own game-style that is 'of us' where we can play our way to success: so biennial summertimes we need artists (style and confidence) - not engines!

    You will no doubt have other things that drive you to distraction about this simple, but beautiful game (e.g. another of mine being why are school astroturf pitches closed most of the weekend when so many of our games scheduled on grass are called off with bad weather?). When we return to the focus of what grass roots football should be about - nurturing a love of the game and giving kids a chance to have a lot of fun – the central message of Mike Calvin’s No Hunger in Paradise shrieks out at me like a goal-scoring stadium tannoy. Do parents truly understand the 'opportunity cost' of chasing this football dream?

    As a kid I had some early misplaced confidence in my ability, which affected my general attitude as a teenager. Some poor guidance followed and I left home at 16 to live in a football club house. I didn’t even imagine or believe that I was going to be a footballer. I only agreed to sign as an apprentice because it seemed a cool thing to do and I’d been too stupid to prepare myself for any other options or plan B at that time. So, due to my own stupidity and creeping like snail I found the transmission to my own crisis. The opportunity cost to me was that I staggered in to adult life completely ill-equipped to cope. I ended up on the streets for a while. Football seemed to slide away.

    The premise of No Hunger in Paradise is that 180 boys of circa 1,500,000 playing across this green and pleasant land go on to play in the Premier League. That’s 0.00012%. They are terrible odds. Of course, sustaining a professional career in any level of football must be amazing, but the odds are still heavily stacked against all the boys that you have ever watched play - including your own. Can you afford to take these risks? At what cost?

    These odds prove that any notions of professional careers for kids who haven’t left school - never mind primary school - are audacious. Last year, one of my kids was playing in an inter-school primary football competition in West Yorkshire. One of these Yorkshire primary schools had their team in a full Man City kit. A number of these kids were supposedly ‘on the books’ at Man City with one boy in particular who was already on a four figure inducement, according to the word on the wing. Thousand(s)? Weekly? That can’t be right, for a primary school boy, can it? These inducements will and do skew parents' decision making - never mind the kids... This is happening all over the country and is actively encouraged at the behest of rogue agents who have been let loose by deregulation from our friends at Fifa.

    The next generation of kids coming through these academy and football systems now can't cite Brexit (whoops - sorry) to get on the party bus to the good life. They might have been told (again) that they are the best in the business since the last time they made the cut, but have they checked the hunger in the eyes of the boys coming out of Africa and South America? We need to re-boot our football ambitions here and re-frame the player and coaching pathways if we want to compete with the best. We are miles off it now, but there are people amongst this football joy division who are desperate for English football to be a success. To be clear, forget the showbiz ceremony that is the Premier League. It doesn't represent English football. Richard Scudamore treats English and British football fans with contempt. If the FA won’t or can’t do more to help us and we want the English football system to work and to be respected internationally then we need to think of another solution now – RIGHT NOW!

    Meanwhile, we await another tournament procession and live in vain hope that we might perform better this time.

    Well..., I've read the books. I've got the T-shirts. I've even listened to talkSPORT round the clock for nearly a decade & I'm done with that, too. This is my last post on this website before I close it. I haven't achieved what I'd hoped (who does?). I'd hoped to create the mandate for change for English football success. That was evidently preposterous. Until everyone including the Premier League gets together and decides to collaborate on a new plan for English football success then the 'Route to Green' is a 'No Go' decision.

    So I'm off - this game is 'all played out'. Definitely Maybe.

    Can DNA DAN do the fan django..?

    Gareth – over to you. I hope you’ve enjoyed your winter break.

    Good luck!



  • 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)



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