Italy and England are similar in that after the last World Cup, both their coaches resigned – Lippi and Eriksson. They are also similar in that many people doubted the abilities of their new managers – Donadoni and McClaren. Now, Donadoni and McClaren share many similarities as well. They were both professional footballers when they were younger and they were both heavily criticized for the “new direction” they wanted to take the national team. So as you can see, there are many similarities between Italy and England. However, that is where the similarities end, because while Italy qualified for Euro 2008, England didn’t.
Now why is that?
There are many many reasons to be sure, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the players and the manager. After all, who else is actually on the field playing if not them?
The problem with English football and their fans is their humongous ego. They go around thinking that they have the world’s best league and the world’s best players. They think Gerrard and Lampard are the best midfielders in the world and they are also sometimes deluded into thinking that the defensive pairing of Ferdinand and Terry is mightier than even the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union.
For every English player that they think is the world’s best, there is a comparable player out there. De Rossi could stand in for Gerrard, Rosicky for Lampard, Mascherano for Hargreaves, Ronaldo for Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Puyol would be more than a match for Terry. The fact of the matter is that English players are terribly over-hyped; they look good only on paper. They are like cars with fancy names like Silverstreak and Moonblazer, but when placed on a test track, will struggle to get around faster than a donkey.
And it keeps getting worse. The problem with English football doesn’t just begin and end with its players, English managers too are to blame. Of the top five clubs in the English Premier League now, guess what, none of their managers are English. Zero. Zilch. Nada. A French is heading Arsenal, a Scot at Manchester United, a Swede at Manchester City, an Isreali at Chelsea and a Spaniard at Liverpool. This problem is not just inherent in the Premier League, take a look at other top clubs in Europe, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Olympique Lyonnais, AC Milan and Barcelona, none of them have English managers.
Actually, this problem made itself known almost 6 years ago when Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed as head coach of England. Of course top managers don’t just make themselves known overnight, but the lack of quality managers does suggest something about the plight of English football as a whole.
After the shocks and gasps have died, the English FA will no doubt have a long and serious look at state of football in England. What I foresee happening will be a xenophobic knee-jerk reaction and that is to impose a limit on the number of foreign players in the Premier League.
And McClaren? Not to worry, the cogs of his public relations machine is already turning. In PR, one of the first things you learn is that when you commit a mistake, be prepared to admit to them and then promise to make amends – which is what he is doing right now. He has vowed to stay on but I doubt anyone wants him to. Time and time again, he has proved himself to be clueless when it comes to team selection and tactics. Moreover, a simple but unscientific poll on Soccernet shows that only 6% of 45,000 surveyed wants McClaren to stay on. That is barely 3,000 people and I’m guessing most of them are Croats and Russians.
If he had only spent as much time working on tactics and team selection as he did on his frilly PR initiatives, then maybe England would have qualified and I won’t be writing this right now.