The failed English 2018 World Cup bid culminates a terrible year for English international football, where mood has spectacularly gone full-circle. The current depression following our failed 2018 bid is in stark contrast to the beginning of the year when the national side were riding a wave of optimism. English fans looked to the World Cup in South Africa with impatient confidence but the dreadful displays in the tournament – in particular our humiliation by old foes Germany – crushed the English optimism.
However, the 2018 bid had lifted us out of the gloom and had us looking to the future – hosting a tournament where England’s new generation of talent would shine backed by home support, but the bid’s failure yet again disposed of English optimism. So is the state of the English international set-up as bleak as the prevailing mood of the English faithful?
Well currently, we have a national team that is shy on the international stage and apparently fearful to play in front of their own fans. The fatigued statement that England’s top players fail to replicate their excellent club form on the international stage is still unfortunately very much relevant in explaining the England team’s lack of success. The ability of individual English players is undoubted but the attempts to shape a team and accommodate the different styles of these top players have ultimately bore no fruit. The continuous formation changes and the high profile removal of the captaincy from John Terry produced a team that, in South Africa, appeared disorganised and dispirited.
The new qualifying campaign has seen Fabio Capello place emphasis on England’s youth with the aim of developing an England team to be more competitive in the future. However, with Capello’s impending departure after the European Championships in 2012, the project lacks the stability needed to develop the new generation of England players and therefore, many doubts will remain to the success of this new direction for the England team.
Off the pitch the failure of the 2018 bid marks the English Football Association’s second consecutive failed attempt to host the World cup tournament after the unsuccessful bid for the 2006 World Cup. The failures clearly illustrate that the English Football Association has become alienated in the world of football politics i.e. FIFA. Now I will not pursue the arguments that football’s governing bodies are corrupt or anti-English but what certainly remains apparent is that England lacks a commanding voice on this international stage.
Arguably, English football’s only current success story is the strength of the Premier League, but can our league’s success be the reason for the demise on the international circuit? In the aftermath of the 2018 bid failure it has been stated that England as a football nation is perceived as arrogant by the rest of the football community due to the notion that England gave football to the world and therefore holds a self-assigned paternalistic role in world football and the Premier League’s strength, commercially and with the success of its teams, can be said to have bolstered the apparent English arrogant stance within football politics. Indeed, when the controversial 39th game of the Premier League was proposed to UEFA and FIFA it was roundly opposed and seen as an English attempt to achieve its own global theatre without the football’s governing bodies and their signature competitions.
It is evident then why English football can be perceived in such a fashion, and call it their envy or English arrogance, what is certain is that the Premier League has become a separate entity to the rest of the football community – which is happily settled under the umbrellas of UEFA and FIFA. Undoubtedly, the Premier League’s success has led us to assume a superiority that is not tangible on the international stage and it is essential that if we are to succeed with any future competition bids, then we must penetrate the political sphere of football more effectively and not assume that we can simply have our way because of the English football portfolio.
The Premier League has also been made the scapegoat of the national team’s unsatisfying record in major competitions over the years. The influx of foreign owners into the Premier League, attracted by the prospect of owning a club in the most commercial league in the world, is inherently having a negative impact on the state of English football. The desire for instant success has seen quality players imported from around the world, and although there are no qualms with the type of football that has consequently been produced, the new emphasis will certainly hinder the development of English talent within the Premier League.
The next generation of English talent is vital if England are to reverse their fortunes and although new rules are in place to aid the development of English youth talent, the current state of the Premier League is unlikely to provide a substantial pool of quality English players. It is this lack of depth of high calibre players that inhibits our success and makes us look on with envy at the squads World and European Champions Spain are able to assemble.
So is there any hope for the chronically frustrated England fan amidst the bleak nature of the English game? After the failure of the 2018 bid, former England manager Graham Taylor stated that “I’m just surprised that we’re surprised.” Maybe what we need to take from 2010 is that on the international stage England occupies a new role – our football prestige has not supplied any favor within the cohorts of football’s governing bodies and at the current moment, our national team is sadly not on par with the very best in the world.
The ongoing success of the Premier League seems to be both our only hope and also our troublesome burden. As long as our domestic clubs continue to be successful then the high expectations for the national team will remain but we can only hope that the abundance of quality in the Premier League will spill over into our national setup and mean that we do not have just a handful of world class players but a team of them. The prescription of patience to this problem is not one any English fan wants to hear, but although the current times are bleak, I remain certain in the future the three lions will be proudly roaring again.