The long, slow death of English football started to gather a little pace this week when Roy Hodgson announced his England squad for the forthcoming game with Norway.
With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard having announced their international retirement, the squad and its prospects are thinner than ever.
Much as I congratulate Delph, Colback and Rose, are they really of the highest class?
Hodgson has taken the one player at Chelsea (Cahill) and two from Manchester City (Hart and the perennial substitute Milner) but the top clubs are not exactly falling over themselves to provide him with top English talent.
As I write, I hear the Sky pundits talking up the Premier League as “the best league in the world” which for all I know it may be. It’s certainly a massive product which makes billions of pounds for very rich businesses and footballers but at what cost?
All the top clubs have academies to develop the stars of tomorrow but hardly any of the young players make it. Chelsea have one player in their squad who came through their ranks – John Terry – who is hardly in the first flush of youth and has retired from international football anyway. Arsenal have Wilshere and Gibbs who came through the ranks, as well as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Chambers who all came through Southampton’s ranks. Manchester City had no one in their squad today who came through the ranks and, they will argue, who cares? They will probably win the league this season and their fans won’t give a toss about the players’ passports.
I see international football as being in decline in this country. Club football is infinitely more popular and unlike in many other sports like cricket and rugby union, the game is not run with the international scene in mind. We’re crap and we know we are and we are quite happy if the manager buys another ready-made foreign superstar to our club at the expense of the England team.
The last world cup was a little different from usual in that most people knew we weren’t very good and would not make much progress and it was no surprise when we performed even worse than some – not me – expected.
We have some good players, no doubt about it, but I would argue that we don’t have a single world class player, except maybe Ashley Cole who Hodgson omitted anyway, bringing about the player’s subsequent retirement from international football. Gerrard and Lampard were well past their sell by dates, Hart is a very good keeper and Rooney is a very good striker. But not one of them would be on the space rocket to Mars in an Earth squad.
At last we have been rumbled for being crap. The media hype that accompanied every England trip to a major championship fooled enough people before but it doesn’t anymore.
There are some talented youngsters coming through, for sure, but very few at the very top clubs who will be playing in Europe, gaining vital experience and expanding their ability.
We’re doomed and we’re working our way down to the League One level in world football.
I think it’s sad because I am bit old fashioned and I like to see my country to well but I understand that for a lot of people international football is something that gets in the way of the Premier League.
In a few years, our embarrassing trip to Brazil may be seen as a high point in English football.