By Tony Attwood
Sometimes one is forced to stop and think, “Who pays the players?” and “Who has to keep paying players even when they are injured in an international match?”
Come to that, “Who takes the players on at a very early age, builds and runs the training facilities, develops their skills, advises them on lifestyle, well-being, fitness and everything else?”
Who does all that? Who pays for all that?
Many years ago one club manager (I can’t remember who) stated that international football managers are like car thieves who nick your car, race it, wreck it and hand it back to you, telling you to get it ready for the next time they need it.
I do recall that Fifa went bonkers at the statement and hauled the manager before its execution squad, or something like that. I also have the feeling Mr Wenger referred to the sentiment later and also got a ticking off.
Now behold: a car thief complaining. Step forward one Gareth Southgate, who is telling us that the Premier League has put clubs in an “impossible situation” by having to field players without enough rest after the World Cup.
Rubbish of the first order.
Fifa arranged the world cup in such a way that if clubs were to have given players who reached the semi-final stage of the competition the full amount of rest that is recommended, the players would have come back to fitness just in time to play in the current round of ludicrous international matches. So what would this Southgate man have the League do? Start the league somewhere around 20 October? Presumably so – and with the PL clubs paying the players all the time.
So Southgate is now doing the bleat of all managers suggesting that the Premier League should do more to help England. In so doing he ignores the fact of the huge advantage England already has – the only major country in football that has all its players playing in its own national league. Every other country, such as Belgium and France, has players playing in leagues all over the world. But England has them all together. And still that is not enough.
Now he wants to have them all on holiday as well. Just to help him.
Shall we ask who trains these players? Who paid the transfer fee for them or brought them up to play football in a certain way from the age of six?
Shall we ask which country has such a small number of qualified coaches per 1000 players that it is shamed by every nation from Germany to Iceland.
But no. Now we have to listen to the Southgate man who has become a psychologist. “I think it’s psychological freshness, rather than physical. Everyone adapts their training load appropriately. But I think when you see the league, there are a lot of teams haven’t started yet at the level when they are at their maximum. A lot of injuries across certainly our league, I don’t know about the rest of Europe.”
I am reminded of Tony Adams comment on hearing that Arsenal had appointed Mr Wenger. “What does he know about English football, he’s French.” Of Mr Southgate one might say, “One does he know about psychology? He’s a football manager.”
And he goes on, “I don’t really understand why our league started so early, but they did…”
So let me explain. There are numbers involved Mr Southgate so you might want to get out a calculator. There are 38 games to be played by each club in the League, plus three weeks given over just to FA Cup matches. And there are 52 weeks in the year. Players need four weeks holiday and five weeks training before playing a competitive match. Six weeks are taken out of the season playing internationals, as we are having this week and over last weekend. That gives 34 weeks left in the season to fit in 38 games.
Not too difficult you might think, but successful teams might well play ten or more European games and some League Cup matches too. And maybe more than just three FA Cup games.
Think about it Mr S. Their ain’t no time left, and the simplest thing to do would be to cut out these crazy new international leagues that you are prancing around playing in, in front of 200 spectators and scoring no goals.
Mr Southgate continued. “Look at Tottenham, who had so many players in the semi-finals of the World Cup. They had to put players straight into matches on the back of very little pre-season. It was an impossible situation for the coaches, really.”
And I am not one to defend Tottenham, and indeed I think they took outrageous risks with their England players, but what else does he want? It is the Premier League that pays the wages and keeps football on the agenda. Maybe Southgate wants the situation reversed so that the internationals have the full season and League matches are just fitted into “League weekends” when internationals have a break.
Or maybe he’d like to go back to the days before the 1960s when teams would often play three games in four days over Christmas and Easter. Never mind the injuries – just issue the instruction to the clubs to get the players patched up once more ready for the next round of internationals.
However there is another option. Clubs could start offering players a bonus if they don’t play for their country, or if they change their nationality to that of a country that never gets to finals. Armenians and Gibralterians get an extra £5000 a week.
Of course there might be a little more to Mr Southgate’s outburst if he had considered the matter BEFORE his team played this round of games. But international matches and forward thinking? Sounds odd doesn’t it. Instead what we found was this…
“I hadn’t looked into when the season started until when we got back from the tournament. Maybe they were expecting us to be back by the end of June. I assumed the rest of the world were going to be there until the middle of July.”
One thing is absolutely for sure. Whatever goes wrong, it is never the fault of the FA. Or England. From the abject failure to build all-year pitches for youngsters to train on, to applying to run the world cup in England and getting two votes (one being England). It is never the FA’s fault. It is always someone else.
Just like a car thief: bring on a new car and I’ll drive it til I crash it.
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