Lies, excuses and a stunning lack of realism

By Tony Attwood

Everyone’s got an explanation for yet another England failure.  Here’s one: there are no English players of merit in the Premier League is a favourite today.

Everyone’s got facts that they don’t want to bring into the argument.  The fact that there are no Dutch players of merit in the Eredivise is not mentioned.

Just as no one mentions all the school playing fields that were sold off at the start of the rape of our education system, and that has meant that the schools football structure has been killed.

Or the fact that to take a coaching course in England can cost up to £4000.   Walter reported that it was free in Belgium.

So it goes on, as it always does after each World Cup and European Championship.

But in the midst of all the shouting and moaning, two really interesting stories have emerged.  One is that many England players actually don’t want to play for England, and the other is that the all-powerful owners of certain clubs are so all-powerful that no one ever dares tell them that they are wrong.

I’m not sure anyone has linked these two tales directly to England’s regular and (at least here) expected early demise from the World Cup.  But they are linked, and should be considered.

The “I don’t want to play for England” tale comes from none other than our old chum Arry Redknapp who claims that players at Tottenham Hotspur would regularly ask him to withdraw them from England games “because they did not need the aggro of playing for England.  
Of course Arry is never going to reveal who said such things, because they were undoubtedly said in confidence.  So it was rather dumb but typical of S Gerrard to demand that Arry identify them.  Especially as S Gerrard wanted them “embarrassed” in public.   Employers don’t embarrass ex-employees, not least because it makes it harder to recruit new employees if you do.    “Don’t bad mouth your staff” is a fundamental of being an MD.
Here’s what Arry said to 5 Live: “I can tell you when I was at Tottenham, when full internationals came around, there were two or three players who did not want to play for England.  They would come to me 10 days before the game and say: ‘Gaffer, get me out of that game, I don’t want to play in that game.’

“That was how it was. I’d say: ‘You’re playing for your country, you should want to play.’ [They would say]: ‘Nah, my girlfriend is having a baby in four weeks, I don’t want to play’, and that is the truth, so it makes you wonder. And I think it’s only going to get worse. You see the stick the England players get and they come home, they’re earning fantastic money at their clubs, they’re all playing in the Champions League. They think: ‘Do we need the aggro?”’

S Gerrard gave one of his most rambling replies out of a series of rambling replies in which he said no one at the World Cup didn’t want to be there.  Which is not the point.  Those who don’t want to play for England, don’t play for England.  That’s what Arry said.  They asked before the game or tournament to have the manager’s help in getting out of it.

The only sadness is that they didn’t have the nerve of Carlos Vela to come out and say “I am not playing for you,” but had to hide behind the manager.

Gerrard then seemed to be lining himself up for a position on BT Sport as one of their many commentators who don’t understand any basic maths at all, as he added, “Does he mean five years ago? Or 10 years ago?”   Well Arry wasn’t at Tottenham ten years ago, so no he doesn’t mean 10 years ago.

But just how much do the people at the top know about what is really going on?  How many are duped by the yes men?

Luiz Felipe Scolari, Chelsea manager from 2008-2009, gives us an insight from a different angle.  “We agreed to use more players from the youth squads,’ he said in an interview.  “When I arrived, they told me there was plenty of quality there. But there wasn’t. The staff kept telling Abramovich that the Chelsea Academy was the world’s best. This was deception!”

Now that really is interesting, because the period that Scolari was at Chelsea was when, it seems Abramovich was lobbying Uefa to get FFP introduced – seemingly to shut the door on anyone else doing what he had done at Chelsea after taking over in 2003.

At the time I remember doing a piece about the lack of great players coming through Chelsea’s youth system, and looking back to John Terry as one of the very few.  Howls of derisive laughter from Chelsea fans in response, but not too many names of players who had actually come up through the ranks were provided.  In fact the only names we got were those who would come through.  The “you clearly don’t know anything about Chelsea, for it you did you would mention… [fill in name of youth player who actually didn’t make it after all].”

But the notion that the staff were misleading Abramovich in order to tell him what he wanted to hear, well, that’s something I missed at the time.

It raises the spectre of a man who makes it known what he wants, and then has staff so frightened of the boss that they tell him what he wants to hear.

If that were true, then we might ask, is it still the truth?  Are the accountants at Chelsea telling the boss that they can sail through FFP, not least on the back of a sale of David Luiz for £50m to PSG?

Or perhaps we can read Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea first time around as the break up of a manager who just wouldn’t say what the owner wanted to hear.  He certainly didn’t seem to be saying it, this last season, when talking about forwards.”

And then we might consider Man City.  All the reports suggest that the Sheikh and his chums employed accountants to come up with a wheeze that would get their accounts passed by the FFP regulatory body.  The fact that Man City’s owners believed the “experts” is shown by the fact that that they were utterly stunned when Uefa found the schemes to be artificial, and found the club in breach of FFP.  So stunned in fact that unlike all the other clubs found guilty they were unable to respond to Uefa within the deadline.  (Remember all those Man City fans who came on Untold saying this was because Man City had reported Uefa to the European Courts.   There was no case.  Saying it, as at Chelsea, doesn’t make it so).

One might also consider similar things are happening at Monaco and PSG in France.  “OK I want us to pass FFP” says the boss from far away.  “Right ho” says the employee and ever wilder stories are made up until ultimately it all goes bang.

Is this an epidemic across football?  An epidemic of lies, excuses, patching things up just to get by for another day?  Remember Blackburn Rovers, being taken over by Venky’s whose chairlady said  that they were going to make Blackburn Premier League champions, using that wonderful phrase, “How hard can it be?”

She then appointed a range of semi-crazed people who took the club in and out of the courts, losing cases and money all over until in their last accounts they showed that they had ended up £54.5m in debt.

But back to Arry.  Arry’s tale will be familiar to every Wales supporter who got sickened by the activities of the media darling Ryan Giggs.  After his international debut in 1991 against Germany, R Giggs esq, that great servant to Welsh football, refused to play a single friendly international for nine years.  

But shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.  It spoils the story of Giggs as God.  Giggs who looked every inch a manager after tapping his watch on the touchline.

Of course once we start wondering about truth in football, the mind can wander anywhere.  One wonders about Tottenham under Mr Levy.  He’s not the owner, but might well be the mouthpiece for the owner whose wishes are presumably, Champions League now.  Fail to deliver and out goes the manager and in comes the next one.

One can imagine the job interview at Tottenham with each succeeding manager.  “We want Champions League next season, can you do that?”

“With the players I have lined up and the players you have here, absolutely,” says Ron Manager, knowing of course that he can’t deliver, but knowing its worth it for the pay off – and the fact that everyone in football knows that Tottenham make that demand of each manager.

Of course the AAA would like Arsenal to behave like Tottenham, and demand of the manager success each season.  If it doesn’t come, kick the manager out and get another one in. But i we look at the Tottenham model it doesn’t work.  If we look at the Chelsea model in terms of the youth team, it doesn’t work.  If we look at Man C in terms of passing the FFP test it doesn’t work.

Just demanding something doesn’t make it happen.  Just demanding the players will turn up for international matches in which they will play for a team that regularly fails doesn’t work either.

England has entered 17 world cups.  They won the one where they played each match at Wembley, and came fourth once.  England has entered 13 European championships, and have come third once.  30 competitions, one victory, one third and one fourth.

Two questions emerge:

1.  Why would we expect people in football to tell the truth?

2.  Why would we ever expect England to win?


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31 Replies to “Lies, excuses and a stunning lack of realism”

  1. Great article. Spot on in regards to clubs and gives you a perspective of what Wenger is doing at ours for the year he has been at club – juggling youth, stars,finances and stadium and still bringing success and CL on a yearly basis. Sometimes you have to lose it all to see what you’ve got. Well I for one hope we get to see Wenger at AFC as long as possible.
    Have a good day

  2. Great read. If you ask me, I’d say England’s problems stem from playing far too many matches, no winter break, thereby making players constantly injured. Those that manage to get there are either out-rightly tired or just patched up to be there. Teams that will go far in Brazil are those countries that didn’t have players in top English sides as key players…those countries that didn’t have their key players in UCL final…those countries whose major players didn’t stay fit all season for their clubs. These players are humans!

    My own Nigeria is likely to make it to second round but they clearly do not have players with enough quality like the Three Lions. Their biggest player in Mikel Obi had limited Chelsea appearances at ended season to thank for his fitness…just as Victor Moses at Liverpool.

  3. The choice is top plays from abroad weekly or England doing well every two years

  4. England needs someone like arsene wenger even if it has to be a short term basis (caretaker) which permit him to operate from his current employee Arsenal they can’t miss to afford him, wenger will simply give the chance to those who merited the call up not based on media ranking which I see as England’s problem. specifically they arsene wenger to manage their team if they must achieve something in the upcoming european championship comes 2016

  5. Fascinating Post, and certainly hits the right spots in many ways.

    The FFP is a step in the right direction, but the ‘punishments’ meted out to those clubs who have transgressed, mainly the obscenely wealthy ones, have been relatively toothless.

    The fines imposed by UEFA, instead of the attention grabbing option of throwing them out of the CL, have also been watered down by having a large chunk of the fine suspended, and in any event the sums involved, which seem eye watering at first sight, are mere pinpricks to their wealthy owners with seemingly limitless oil pouring out of the ground making any fines just a flea bite.

    Still better than nothing – but how much dickering was done behind closed doors to arrive at a deal both UEFA and the clubs could agree on?

    You are right in your comments about ‘Arry, but he has become a real ‘rent a mouth’ over the years, and although Gerrard did not handle his comments well, he has a point, in that Redknapp should either have kept his comments to himself or put up the names to substantiate his point.

    Again you are right – naming names is not going to happen. Instead any Spuds player, since Redknapp’s managerial stint there, who played for England will be smeared by the allegation, whether it is true of them or not. Guilt by association.

  6. England’s problem is that they are not good enough to win the World Cup or any other cup competition. The pressure from the media keep these old horses in the team (Lampard/Gerrard). It’s time England take a step back and start building for 8 years from now. Start blooding in the young players and allow them to grow into winners. We see Arsenal fans calling for Wenger head when he stick with young players but after three to four years we see the end product of a Song, Ramsey, and others. England needs to stop doing patch work to the current team and build a new Squad.

  7. Come on… If you were a young player picked for the England squad, wouldn’t you be embarrassed when everyone could see you were a spuddie! They don’t have a problem with the national team, it just highlights to a whole nation that as a player they’ve failed at the club level.

  8. England`s problem is 1, the media plays the football for its players, they make their players so good than what they really are.Stop exergerating these players ability.And how many English players do you find in the Bundesliga, Laliga and Italian serie A? none.Address these issues and you could get a chance

  9. Dawson’s debut for England was embarrassing enough – gives the ball away with a hopelessly poor first touch, attempts a foul to make up and ends up injuring himself in the process. Comedy gold. If you were that poor at football and that over-paid to be a footballer, you’d probably be too embarrassed to expose yourself infront of the nation again.
    However, none of the above stopped the usual experts on talkshite etc. I mention no names from putting forward Dawson as a candidate in the autumn to play at CB in this WC. Oh dear.

  10. Why would we expect England to win? And why not?

    Until 2008, Spain only had one European Championship. Now, they have 3 and a WC. Just saying.

  11. I hate Townsend (commentating) so much that I just wish Campbell scores and shuts him up. Jones has fouled him as has Smalling & got away with it.

  12. Wow, some quite stupid comments on here today, for example

    ” the media plays the football for its players”….

  13. Neither Costa Rica nor England are looking too good right now. Jack is working hard but to be honest the midfielders are playing like they’ve never seen each other before. Joel has had some nice touches but Costa Rica has been playing rather conservatively waiting to catch Enlgand on the break so there aren’t too many players up front to run at the England defence.

  14. Suarez must not be allowed to play football again. He has bitten 3 opponents and does not deserve to be allowed in the game.

  15. menace

    You forget Suarez plays for Liverpool so it must be someone else’s fault.

    ‘Suarez gets shouldered in the mouth’ seems a no brainer to me.

    I sense a T Shirt coming on.

  16. Georgaki-pyrovolitis,

    I think you were too hard on Jo D. I get his comment and I agree with him although his phrasing could be better. The English media do hype the country’s players beyond their abilities.

    Jo D is on point in my opinion.

  17. Gnasher on the loose!!

    The referee was shown the bite marks and he did nothing. It is apparent that the whole scenario is a shambles. I hope Suarez is not allowed to play in the EPL because it is a danger to all players and supporters. One cannot say when he will strike again.

  18. Maybe he is a rodent and he must bite to keep his teeth from growing out of his face like a narwhal.

  19. Hope none of the players or for that matter the manager are used as scapegoats. Our useless FA…..different story.
    There are way too many problems in English football and the issues that surround it to blame anyone out there on the pitch, and the fans seem to get that.
    For once, Arry seems to be telling the truth, I am just surprised he said there were only three players
    I have a confession, I am part of the problem of English football, caring very little about England, or for that matter other international teams, just want our players back safe sound and on good form. The only hope I have from this tournament is that Brazil do not win it, mainly because they are not that good but are clearly being helped whenever they need it.
    Still some enjoyable games, but not so long until we have our Arsenal back

  20. You know, in the 1930s when the federal police no longer trusted to keep peace and order from communist and mafia, the congress helped to create the FBI and independent attorney to curb the problem. A similar action needed to save football not only in Great Britian but also in equally corrupt and inept countries. My country too.

  21. @ chinasa
    I can just see that happening you know, that can only be AW’s next step, if he does take a next step. There would probably be civil war in UK at once.

    Seriously i can see England soon start to consider him, especially after next season.

  22. It is fairly obvious that Harry is lying.

    You tell me of any Spurs player in the last 5 years has actually been good enough to play for a rather inept England team.

  23. bob mac
    surprisingly: Townsend, Dawson, Walker, Lennon, Huddlestone. Make your own mind up as to whether they’re actually good enough. Kane looks like one for the future though.

  24. Kind of similar to a previous response on England, but quite simply England don’t pick their best players. They never have. They pick media darlings and then those media darlings create cliques and their mates are picked. Until THAT changes then England will never win anything. Players like Rooney, who is not good enough for world level, is picked because the media has told everyone he is as good as Pele (LMFAO). Same happens in the PL, but the little darlings get away with it because refs cheat for them.

  25. England have so many problems, administered by the idiotic, the greedy…or both,coaching, media, the premier league, match fixing, some players adapting to hot climates, lenient refs on some players at home, perhaps as Arry says, a lack of hunger in some, but think being semi paralysed by fear is one of the biggest of the problems. Consistently performing less than the sum of the parts in tournaments, the worst pen shootout record in world football which defies chance….and logic…..arrys claims. Several managers have identified this, Maclaren, Sven, Capello….and Roy H has bought in a sports psychologist.
    Reminds me a bit of the fear our players have shown at times, wonder if the ending of the medias favorite subject…the trophy drought….will have quite an effect on our players. Not sure what can be done with England tho, don’t see an end to that trophy drought.

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