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July 2021

10 reasons why England were awful at the Euros.

By Tony Attwood

England for once started as no hopers.  Normally we start as the team that is going to sweep all before us, because we are so good.  We know we are so good because we are England.  The rest of them will be quaking in their boots.

But this time we didn’t.  We were humble, admitting that by and large we were useless.  And then suddenly after beating someone or other we were going to win because we were good, we were great, we had Rooney, we were England.  And we had a manager who knew a thing or three about football.  And he speaks languages.  And who was that Redknapp chap anyway.

Except if you watched it, it was a bit like Arsenal playing Huddersfield Town.  They (Huddersfield) were good – they gave it everything, but in the end even their silly supporters who thought it was incredibly funny to stand in the queue at Arsenal station chanting “Barcelona” probably realised there was a bit of difference in ability.

So why is England so very second division?

Everyone has an answer, so here’s mine.  Ten of them in fact.

1.  We don’t have enough qualified coaches.  We have one coach for every ten in the countries that usually do well in internationals – one for every 15 in Italy.  That is the prime reason – most of the rest of the reasons relate to this.

2.  The English educational system is based on paying attention and working hard.  It is all about focus.  We don’t teach style, flair, inspiration, creativity anywhere at all in schools in England.  Such things are considered to be non-English.  I have heard so many teachers say that “you can do all the fancy stuff when you have learned the basics.”  In short, we really can’t stand the arts – and in part football is an art.  How many artists have we produced compared to the Netherlands?  How many brilliant composers compared to Italy?

We had the man who was so brilliant he could create the modern computer – and what did we do – we hounded him to death because he was gay.

Only in the theatre and literature can England hold up its head in the creative fields – and how many times have the FA’s top brass been to the National or the RSC?  .

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3.  Parents have got a lot of control over junior football.  Go and watch an under 10s game in England and you will probably see one of these:

a) Parents screamed at their children to “get stuck in”

b) Parents arguing or even fighting among themselves, encroaching on the pitch, and being warned by the ref about their behaviour

c) Parents screaming abuse at the ref

d) A game that never takes place because there is no ref.

4.  In England, if a group of people get together with a football they mark out a goal and select teams.  In some countries they start practising ball skills.

5.  There is no structure or organisation to allow youngsters to progress between junior football and the first team.  Arsenal in fact has had to create its own system dragging bits of the FA behind it screaming.   Arsenal moved its youth games, and later its reserve games behind closed doors.  While Tottenham took the step of abandoning its reserve team because there were no solid tackles in reserve games, Arsenal created an extra group of players and started to put them out on loan.

There is now an extra step between reserves and first team squad, but we’ve had to fight to get it.  Our loan team is vital to the future of the club – and we have one despite the FA.

6.  The authorities have tried to stop Arsenal all the way.  We have had links with all sorts of teams – currently it is Lorient and some emerging links in Spain.   This is what we need – but in fact what we really need is an Arsenal team playing in the 3rd tier of English football, or the second tier of Scottish football or in the Dutch league or somewhere.   That is banned in England.  No wonder we are in trouble.

7.  The passing game is everything.   Counter-attacking is good, but not as the be all and end all of the game.  But that is where England are stuck.
8.  We need to move at a snail’s pace.  Actually we don’t but it would be an improvement on our current lack of movement.  Half a century ago Europe got rid of full sized pitches for the youngsters’ leagues.  We’ve just taken the idea up in theory – but it could take a few years to introduce.  Some people are unhappy.  You have to get the kids used to the real thing, they say.

9.  We have the FA and their debt (not to mention their association with racism, by their refusal to raise a voice against the actions of Uefa in dealing with the issue).   The FA is still influenced by its view that its men can see the way forward.  It has the vision.  It is the FA.  The FA that for years and years have embraced the long ball game of Charles Hughes.  In a nation that decries theory and loves common sense it just has to be that the one theory we ever take up is so hopelessly and obviously wrong.

10.  We are still stuck in the past.  Put the big striker on because foreign keepers are not good at dealing with this.  Bring on Andy Carroll.  Come on, you can do it, you are English.   (I was on holiday in Italy a while back and a group of people who didn’t know each other got together to play beach volley ball.  It was friendly and fun – lots of laughs.  Until the English said, let’s play a game – England v Rest of the World.   And the English then started hyping themselves, shouting, “come on”, “focus”, “win the point!”   OK it was one occasion, but I have seen it before.  It was embarrassing.  I pretended to be French.

So that’s it.  So much to change, and no chance of doing it.

But at least the Ox and Theo weren’t used much, and so didn’t get injured.

33 comments to 10 reasons why England were awful at the Euros.

  • Shard

    You left out the media Tony. The media bigging up managers like Pulis, Fat Sam, even Phil Orange for a while.. The leg breakers being ‘Nice young lads’ and all round good eggs, and Johnny Foreigner being too clever/fast for his own good, and of course always diving all over the place. Sadly, many in the public seem to accept this sort of view as something to be proud of and cherished. As if it represents how football always was, and should be played.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Do you know if we encourage our current players at all levels to study for either refereeing or coaching qualifications? Might this be something covered in our Academy for the younger players, or a way of broadening our senior players horizons should they be recovering from injury for instance. It might be a way of keeping some of them in the game if they fail to make it as players at the level they hope to

  • Have a look at the fa’s website about the coaching qualifications. They’re bloody expensive, take up a lot of time (I haven’t been able to do level 1 because I can’t guarantee having four Saturday’s free in a row). For the level 1, why is not free? Why isn’t the material available online and then assessed at the end, with a single day or whatever for the explicit practical stuff?

  • insideright

    @Shard – oh how right you are! Media that only feels that it can play back to the public what it wants to hear (pseudo- patriotic twaddle)and media that is often totally reliant on football for its finacial stability. SKY, for instance, pays a fortune to football for rights to cover games (which need therefore to be hyped) but without that coverage SKY would cease to exist.
    As a result all aspects of football from transfer deadline day to Stoke’s brand of ‘anti-football’ is given a gloss that it neither deserves or warrants. Everything gets dumbed down – and that includes the tactics that need to be employed for a ‘golden generation’ of English footballers to survive in competition with superiors. And I don’t blame Hodgson for that either.
    @Tony – reason 11 – Jack was injured!

  • david

    I agree with Shard the media MoTD, Talksport etc bum players up like Gerrard, Rooney and lampard. These players become roll models for the younger generation.
    We have always done it, made a player bigger than the “team” Gerry Francis, Bryan Robson, Alan Shearer and the worst of all David “one trick” Beckham.
    They become undroppable because if a manager grows some balls and dropped them, the media would witch hunt him out of a job.
    It isn’t a coincidence that teams like Swansea have done better than the northern cloggers, with no big name players.
    Arsenal also have players who fit in the Wengerball system of passing and teamwork, when they step outside of Arsene’s wing and leave they only look average players.

  • indian gooner

    Andrew…nice suggestion might actually improve the way a defender reads a midfielders moves or an attackers reads a defenders intentions.imagine then, djourou and diaby would be world class for us…:)
    on a serious note, what you say is true Tony, everytime i read some english newspaper, the media go all out in praising the english players.ill be honest, there is not a single player in the english squad who can match the skills of even defenders from the spanish team when it comes to retaining the ball.maybe jack..but no one else.this team cannot hold the ball, cant pass or see a move emerge, cant orchestrate the game (like pirlo did…he was there, unfazed by the surrounding players, the pitch conditions, the fans and their chanting,…that calmness and ice cold demeanour and those balls to chip that penaly…that is genius), or even to have real confidence to make a difference.
    As long as the media big these fools up, they will stay mediocre..
    and going by the headlines in major newspaper after england got out of the group…long shall it continue…

  • dan

    Being an under 9’s/10’s coach for some time now, we’ve(club) had some exceptional talent play for us. I started to realise looking at the style of individual players who seem to get picked up (scouts)or noticed, tall/aggressive/hard runners & hoofers. The small creative players blessed with the ability to manipulate space in tight areas are considered weak and lack the desired traits which English clubs believe true footballers require to reach the next level, many of the scouts confirm that the clubs don’t want flair. Iniesta/Xavi/Messi and even Maradona would never of gotten the chance in England, e.g. A.Caroll 35mil of British pride!!!

  • WalterBroeckx

    exactly. Becoming stronger is something that can be worked on. It doesn’t matter if a youth player is “not strong enough” as a youth player. If he has the skills to trick his way out around his opponents he has the major thing needed to become a good footballer.
    Let him develop that skill, it doesn’t matter if he gets beaten a few times by a big tall defender who kicks him in the air (ok it does matter if the ref does nothing). The future is being technical enough.

    I’ve seen enough big, strong centre forwards in youth games scoring 5 goals in a game just by running through the week defenders. Getting all the praise but when he becomes 18 he hasn’t got the skill to dribble past a defender who by then is as strong as he (because you can work on that when you grow up from around 16-18 year) and then he ends up nowhere.

    But don’t worry in Belgium we have been blind for a long time about this. Our national team is even more rubbish. We now have a few talented young players like Hazard, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, … but non of them played their youth career in Belgium but went to countries that are known for learning their players to play a technical game like France or Holland.

    Those young skilful but weak players you coach lose their interest because they get bullied each week and don’t get a proper chance compared to the bullies. And the bullies will hardly make it as they don’t have the skills.

    What a waste of time and and energy…

  • WalterBroeckx

    I know some clubs in Belgium have started educating their youth players in the skills of becoming a ref. They have to do games of the u6 to u10 as a ref. It helps them in knowing the rules and understanding the refs better. I think this is also something that should be done.

    Your proposal is very wise. It should be done. It can only help the players in getting more educated in football.

  • ian

    With regards to junior football, my nephew played for a Championship club at u10, 11 & 12 level. One issue here is the home team decide just about everything, number of players (usually 8 aside but sometimes 9)the length of the game which is usually one hour, but this could be 2 x 30 mins, 3 x 20 or 4 x 15. They even decide the number of subs and also if the offside rule is applied. So there is no structure.

    The other issue is very much related to the coaches, my nephew was described by his coach (a former player) as “the most technically gifted 10 year old he had ever seen”, one month later a new coach joined and described him as “average”.

    To their credit (this particular club)have addressed the issue of parents shouting and giving advice, parents are only allowed to say “well done, unlucky, keep going etc) they are not allowed to say “pass to x or shoot” and do not allow any negative comments to be made about anyone including the opposition.

    One child was asked to leave the club because of the actions of the parents! Of course the parent blamed everyone else, but failed to realise the impact that they had had on their own childs future.

    Interestingly in a game once my nephew was tackled very hard and caught on the ankle, the oppositions manager instantly took his player off. The child knew instantly he would be subbed, did not moan or complain, just went and sat and watched the remainder of the game quietly. My nephew was also subbed and whilst he said he was OK to continue, his parents were told that he was better to be rested to ensure no further damage, he also said “I am here to look after these boys, the result is not important”.

    Two weeks later in a school cup semi final, my nephew was hurt quite badly, being the best player in the team the sports teacher told him to “run it off” my sister tried tio explain the result wasnt important and he should look after his boys, but the school teacher did not see it quite the same way!

  • goonerob

    I fully agree with most of what you say, Rooney being the prime example in this competition. He played 2 matches and was awful in both, couldn’t pass,hold the ball, receive the ball or beat anybody but we consider him godlike, he wouldn’t get a look in for Spain, Germany, Italy and others. Fortunately despite the cloggers Arsene continues to buy and develop players that are technically good and don’t rely on “hoofing” the ball upfield. In Holland they start training very young and they always do it with a ball at their feet, as one of their top coaches said it is the prime requirement to be comfortable with the ball and make it part of you when you play. Spain have now taken it too far and are boring to watch but they have an unbelievable ability from front to back with the ball and very rarely lose it, England barely managed 2 passes before they gave it away. Arsene needs to take over the FA and perhaps we can catch up.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Tony for FA Chairman with a 10-year tenure.
    If, by that time Tony doesn’t get England to win the Eurpean Cup and reach World Cup semis he get deported to Manchuria for 2years with no access to any FA games.

  • OscarTone

    If you feel so strongly about it, go get a coaching badge or assist with a local kids team. As far as i remember flair & imagination were quite the rage in English football in the 1970’s; we never even qualified for tournaments then.

  • Manchuria eh?


  • Kentetsu

    @dan, Walter:

    In the Ajax youth system they judge players – when scouting or already at the club – according to a system called TIPS, a (Dutch) acronym for:

    Techniek: Technique/Skill
    Inzicht: Insight/Intelligence
    Persoonlijkheid: Personality
    Snelheid: Speed

    If you score well on those four points you may make it at Ajax. And, as Walter said, at this stage physical strength is not that important. You can quite easily add to your strength at a later age, whereas it’s very difficult to change any of the above four.

  • Andy Kelly

    In the mid-1960s the FA appointed Charles Hughes as FA Technical Director. Nearly 50 years on and we are still light years behind everyone else because of this man.

    If the FA said today “OK let’s fix the problem” it will be another 10-15 years before we see the benefits.

    We need more clubs like Arsenal to take the Jack Wilsheres out of the schools’ system and teach them how to play football properly.

  • dan

    I have my FA coaching level 1 badge, however many of the other clubs didn’t bother until they were expected to become chartered standard to enter the league. My bother though being a Villa man trains his team the pass and move philosophy, which many parents from other teams have come to respect and admire, leading to some parents nick naming them little Arsenal. He has noticed the more brute teams have taken the Stoke(kick you till you scream) approach during the match, even the parents will voice “get in there”, “show him who’s boss.” Sad they expect the bullying of 10yr old’s.

  • nicky

    I feel you might have also left out “the weather”.
    Can it be a pure coincidence that the two teams reaching the Euros Final both come from the warm and sultry south of the EU.
    And does that add weight to those who advocate a winter break in English football?

  • zzzzzzzzzz ohh the white PERE zzzzzzzzzz

  • Lanz

    Nice one again. But do these people read your posts? If they do, will they change? These points are so obvious; how many English players or managers do well in other leagues? How I wish some person will strategize and scheme his way into the FA chairmanship and then do a Gobachev for them!

  • rusty

    I’ve seen studies on youth football (the New York Times Magazine ran one last year) — one of the big problems, believe it or not, is player birthdays. In a U10 league, say, the oldest participants may be ten months older than the younger ones, which makes a difference, on average, in size and strength. These marginally-older players get to play in the preferred positions (and in my experience, youth football is not well known for exceptional wide play), more coaching, peer recognition… but by the time everyone’s done growing in their teens, who’s to say they were the most talented?

  • Wooby

    Hi everyone, just thought to ask: what is the emphasis on winning vs having fun for children growing up playing football in England?

    I live in Canada and our national sport is hockey. We have ongoing discussions (angst) about developing our youth in that sport – some of the points raised are similar to what you (Tony) have raised. One of the points raised a few years back was that there was such an emphasis on team play and winning in junior teams that individual creativity was stifled. Since then, there have been more emphasis on encouraging real young kids (8, 9, 10 year olds) to have fun, learn to play with the puck, and generally, try to score rather than prevent the opposition from scoring. Is there a bit of that going on in England with respect to football?

    @Nicky, full agreement. It is not hard to see why English players are worn out in June. At a time (Christmas) when others are resting, they are playing 3 games in a week!

  • ne

    nice one tony…
    England have a very strong squad actually base on the player the squad have. Except the midfield area where creativity and holding up the ball is so important. England rely so much on counter attack and high ball which is easy for opponent to read their game. I was wondering why they didn’t bring cleverly if jack injured, rooney seems isolated up front and desperate for a partner to play a passing game.
    Arsenal, Man u, Swansea and Spur recently are the only few team that playing the passing game. But yup, the FA and pundit only applaud and admire the stoke game which is base on the high boring ball and physical brutality and end of the day bring nothing for the national football. Last time i have these debate with a friend, for Argentina to utilize messi true talent in international level, they should encourage their midfield player to go and play for a club that use to play a passing and holding tactic game.
    Hope the FA sees these in the bigger picture and not in a small frame…

  • Ong Bing

    I can not imagine, if Arsene Wenger not came to Arsenal in 1996, what happen with Arsenal and English football?

  • marcus

    The fundamental difference is that refereeing in Europe is different to the UK.

    UK refs allow football to be anywhere from brutal, whereas European refs view the sport almost as a non-contact sport.

    (When Webb reffed the World Cup, we saw English permissive refereeing)

    Holding the ball in English football is
    1) quite dangerous
    2) quite difficult if someone can charge through you and not get penalized

    In Europe holding the ball is a different ball-game.

    That’s the essential difference; Pirlo and Xavi hold the ball, and control the tempo and the shape of a game.

    The English are relatively unfamiliar with holding the ball, and therefore, at the top level, they look a bit amateurish.

    AS long as players like Shawcross can break legs with impunity, we will never learn the Pirlo/Redondo/Xavi way of playing, and will be confined to football’s second tier.

    End of.

  • marcus

    The best English player of the last few decades was Paul Gascoigne.

    Paradoxically, he was a much much better player internationally than in the EPL…which may well be down to the fact that his style of play, based on possession and technical skill, was not particularly suited to the EPL…

    (Just a thought…or conversely, another truly great and skillful player like Duncan Edwards was only able to thrive in the English game because he was physically abnormally strong)

  • Pat

    Tony, I agree with your points.
    I’d like to add the following: the bigger the base of young footballers we draw on, the greater the chance of having good footballers.
    There are certain things that are happening now that diminish the base even more. I’ll highlight three:
    selling off school playing fields;
    hiring out public parks for commercial concerts during the school summer holidays;
    reducing local council youth services to even less than the bare minimum.
    Public money has to be spent to make sure all children with potential talent have a chance. This is not happening, and sadly not likely to happen.

  • ARSENAL 13

    @ Tony..nice one again.

    Above all I think, managers lack freedom to decide on which player to select and what system to deploy.

    ROY has done a good job, with the players he had. Next tournament, Brazil 2014, I see England doing good ( provided ROY stays).

  • Flashman71

    Tres Bon Tony!

  • Arsenal1Again

    England did poor because Jack Wilshere was missing.

    At my school it seemed sport took precedence ovr academic work. If I missed a lesson or even a carol service like I did one year I was asked to make more effort in future, but if I missed a single game of Rugby or Cricket, I was gated for at least a week and given secondary punishments.

    All the English players in the English league have managed to land jobs paying 1000’s of pounds a week – they did this because there are exceptions up and down the country.

    Today song writers are the equivalent of composers of of old, and I would argue we have produced more decent songwriters than the rest of Europe combined.

    English people when abroad do the “We are English” as soon as they become a group in anything. Like you say, it’s very embarrassing at times – but mostly because it’s predictable. Of all nationalities, I could not pretend to be French or Welsh. lol.

  • JustAnotherGuy

    If anyone caught the Lion City Cup challenge that was hosted in my country, you would see the difference in coaching across Europe and South America. We had Ajax U15s, Man City U15s, Porto U15s, Vasco U16s and my country’s(Singapore) U15s and U16s.

    Ajax are by far the most technical team between the teams. They insist on playing from the back. Pass and move and they have a gem of a AM blessed with brilliant technique. Mancity kids were damn huge and was literally “bullying” other teams(they spanked Singapore’s U15s by 6-0). Vasco and porto showed good skills and technical ability. In the Semi Final, Ajax won 4-2 over Man City. Man City just couldn’t keep the ball well enough unlike their Ajax counterparts who were passing the ball brilliantly. No matter how much they closed down Ajax, the Ajax players are able to retain the ball and continue passing. The final will be played between Singapore U16s(who spanked Vasco 4-0) and Ajax. If you have Eurosport you can catch that match

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Perhaps we shouldn’t be sharing all our secrets with the rest of England, eh? People have said that only at a club like Arsenal could a player like Jack Wilshere make it. When we’re providing the only supply of English players who can play the international game and PGMOL have to protect them or suffer the wrath of the FA, we’ll look back at the idea that players like Ashley Young or Steven Gerrard got anywhere near the England squad.

  • gooner murphy

    Hi Tony as always this was an open honest oppinion Here In Ireland we have our own Gaelic Games, Football.and Hurling which is played with Stick somewhat like a Hockey stick & Small leather ball. Anyhow my point is, this is a totaly Amature Sport yet it has hundreds of thousands playing the games, Millions watching the games around world WHY because just like Soccer it passed on by our parents/ mentors ect its is a great sport to play; However every Club of which there is Over 5,500, are Instructed by the controling authority to only allow Qualified coaches From level 1 up to 3 and this is also applied to all schools /collages Unv; the money genrated by sponcership, gates recepts, build new upto date statiums and Over 10,000 Level One and 8,000 level 3 coaches of course it was’nt always like this but good qualified coaching has be occurring over the last 20 years because it is organized and run by open minded people willing to Learn from sport development world wide