Everybody in the world of football has expressed a view on the ‘answer’ that Greg Dyke is seeking to find. The new FA chairman has been clever. He has given us all the problem of finding him the answer rather than giving us the answer and letting us bring him to the ground by annhilating his views.
The reality is that we are dealing with a hugely complex issue. And there are probably many ways of solving it.
I believe there are seven key issues to face:
1. Culture: the countries we are seeking to overtake have different cultures to ours. When we seek to learn from them, we must understand that many of their ideas only work because of that difference.
2. Climate: we simply do not pay enough attention to the vital issue of climate.Many of the world’s leading football powers come from warm climates where possession is more important and defences lie deeper. This creates specific skillsets by necessity.
3. Premier League: we seem obsessed that only 30 per cent of Premier League players are English. Surely that is an outstanding opportunity? Based on 25 players per club and 20 clubs, there are around 150 English players learning among the best players from around the world. Surely that is enough players from which to build a World Cup winning squad? If the number falls because of quality reasons, that should help our best players to learn from even better players.
4. Technical inferiority: I am truly unconvinced that our best players are technically inferior to their global counterparts. Rather, I think that players in warmer climates have to develop better movement, better positioning and more pace and dynamism. My view is that their technical abilities are similar to our best players but that their movement/positioning/dynamism is on a different page.
5. Coaching: foreign coaches are accepted in the UK, but coaches like me who never played above League One level are written off rather than embraced and put into positions to make a difference. We are too slow here to allow our best teachers to teach. I have worked on my various licenses with some simply brilliant guys who never get anywhere because they cannot boast a top level playing career. That is a dreadful waste.
6. Philosophy: I completely get benchmarking; the idea of looking at the best and following in their footsteps is wise – to a point. To be the best, you have to be better than the rest. Being better than the rest is about leading not following. We have great sporting leaders in the UK,men like Sir Clive Woodward and Sir Dave Brailsford. And Lord Coe. We ought to use their knowledge of the winning business and harness it. We shouldn’t lock them out because they aren’t football people.
7. Our Strengths: it frustrates me that we do not seem to realise our strengths and use them as a platform to build our game. There is nothing wrong with being English. There is a huge benefit to it in fact. Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome used the strengths of being English to win the Tour de France And we need to do the same in football. We need to realise that the recent world champions have utilised shared values to unite their players. The nature of the countries has meant that the coaches have been able to adopt religious and family based foundations. I can still recall Luiz Felipe Scolari making a big issue out of that in Brazil’s 2002 success.
In England, those shared values are not so obvious. Our complex culture makes it more difficult to find the modern day ‘Bulldog Spirit’. But to succeed, we need to be a team, share an ethos, give ourselves things we believe in together. The problem can be seen at Government level where we are convinced by so little that our Government is a coalition.
We need to take on board the need to develop our movement, dynamism, positioning and explosive capabilities that the warm climate countries develop in order to break down deep lying defences. In warm World Cup climates, we cannot afford to have only English based methods and skill sets. Perhaps we need to send many more of our young players abroad to develop better skills.
We must not fear the foreign invasion of the Premier League. Money is attracting the best players. Let’s not legislate against them. Instead, let’s fight back by developing players and raising home- grown numbers.
We must stop believing that our players are technically inferior. I saw Liverpool play against Notts County. Philippe Coutinho’s footwork stunned me. But so did Daniel Sturridge’s. We are not as inferior as we think.
We need to be willing to give our best coaches, our best teachers, real opportunities to make a difference. Let’s give up on football snobbery. The best players will not necessarily be the best football brains. Jose Mourinho proves that.
Likewise with the FA’s development of a winning philosophy. Sir Clive’s stint as performance director at Southampton was not lauded. But I notice that they arrived in thePremier League after he had been there! Co-incidence?
Get our best people working in our footballing brain trust. Let our nations winners help design our footballing master plan irrespective of their sporting background.
The men who created our finest footballing moment in 1966 live on: Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Alan Ball… this was a team of men with strong personal values. This was a group who stood for something. Above all else it was their country that they stood for. Us. These were team players.
That must be our identity. Our team must make us proud. The men within it must stand out as men and as footballers.
We all have opinions. Mine are now out there to be shot at. This is a debate that will shape the future of our proud nation’s footballing achievements.
It is up to us all to give the debate our complete attention so that we land the victory we all crave.