Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where are our heroes?

In the week where England almost certainly lost whatever chance they had of qualifying for the European Football Championships, the Sunday Times makes the running on a topic which should focus the mind on the problems, but, unfortunately, miss-kicks the ball and falls flat on the face instead.

Analysing the 32 teams contesting the Champions League matches on October 2-3 columnist Jonathan Northcroft reveals that 12 players who are qualified to play for England were in action. The Scots had 13. Germany had 20. That takes care of most of the old enemies. Oh, sorry, forgot France. They had 34. Caesar's all-conquering legions had 30. Jonathan concludes, quite rightly, that England are shooting themselves in the foot by not having enough top-quality players being honed in the top club competitions.

It's a shame that in a long and well-thought-out article, he misses the point.

He tells us that there were 53 Brazilians, 15 Turks, and 11 Ivorians (or whatever people from the Ivory Coast are called?). He neglects to tell the reader that none of these people has any right to live or work in Europe.

He bemoans the fact that of the 53 Brazilians present only a few are of international stature. So, why are they here? He railes at the thought that Michel Platini might get his way and cut the number of English clubs in the Champions League without any analysis as to why Platini has also questioned why so may “foreigners” are playing in Europe.

Northcroft falls neatly into the trap of identifying a problem, yet posing no solution. That's easy – anyone can do that! Finding problems routinely causes no difficulty. Finding answers plagues us all.

England have no real ambition to do well in the World Cup or European Championships. If they did, the F.A. would be leading the charge towards more English players playing for the top clubs in England. They would be actively pursuing foreign owners, like Abramovich, who routinely turn up to cheer his country (Russia) on at England's expense in the major competitions; yet allow him to field a flotilla of foreign imports in the domestic competitions.

A little enlightened self-interest would not go amiss at HQ.

Until these sort of problems are addressed at the highest levels England will only pay lip-service to ambition. Until the interests of clubs are subordinated to what's good for England no progress will be made. Until the people who administer English football wake up to the danger of putting club before county – no progress is possible.

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