Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Ashes Aren't Big Enough.


Up, walked the dog and as sometimes happens, I had a few thoughts.

Less than 24 hours after their second defeat in the World Cup, England's slim mathematical chance of progressing to round two was blown to bits by a wonderful Costa Rican performance against Italy.

England's woeful tournament showings, especially since the 90's come as no surprise to me and I honestly believe that England are destined to never win a trophy (or come anywhere to winning a trophy) anytime soon and it goes far beyond the way football is taught at grassroots level.

If you've a few minutes to spare, here is my reasoning.

Firstly, the nation's obsession with celebrity - Football has enjoyed a huge popularity surge over the past three decades. The Hillsborough disaster in 1989 brought about a change in how football was watched live, with the introduction of all seated venues. That coupled with the birth of Sky TV and their glamorous coverage of the Premier League has made Football more accessible and its fan base has broadened beyond expectation.

In the last couple of decades, the media's obsession with who is doing what to who has more and more branched out from film and music stars, to encompass those involved in sport. It has created idols, heroes and villains off the pitch, of persons who really should only be any of those things on the pitch. We now have a nation full of people more interested in what players are wearing, or who they are sleeping with, than what they do in their primary profession.

The spoiling of our children - Wealth, in fact, has very little to do with the compulsion to spoil. I see kids, even with parents on low income, wearing all the latest fashions, playing Xbox, sporting the brand new home strip of whatever team they claim to support that week, all because they stomp their feet until they get what they want.

From the sport perspective, I see kids playing in youth football teams demanding they play for another team because they think they are better than those around them (in many cases, they are nothing special). I see parents pandering, letting the child dictate, rather than explaining to them that perhaps it be better to stay and fight and lead because the cream will always rise to the top.

Many don't teach their children that life isn't always easy and that you can't just give up and walk away when things get tough. Most things in life have to be earned. You have to work hard to achieve your goals.

Another word for spoiling is ruining. Kids are literally being ruined by mums and dads who simply find it easier to give in. Bluntly, they are morons breeding a generation of (excuse me) fucking idiots. Spoiling is not love. It is as destructive and abusive as the more obvious forms of neglect.

Those lucky enough to be picked up by top clubs and go on to sign professional forms, in many cases, are given too much too soon. The very best are millionaires in their late teens and even the lesser players are on so much dough that they consider themselves 'Billy Big Bollocks'.

It is not right that they are not given time to grow as people and it can hardly be any great surprise that no British, let alone English player has been considered the best in the world for as long as I can remember, what with all the distractions of money and fame and everything that entails.

It is total rubbish that the influx of foreign players to these shores has hindered the rise of home-grown talent. Grounded, humble, grateful and of course talented lads should have learnt from their overseas counterparts and become as good (if not better) but all of what I address above has put paid to that. You can't blame Dennis Bergkamp for a waster like David Bentley. The culture in other countries, whilst nowhere is perfect, is obviously more conducive to producing not only better footballers but better people. Who would you invite to your dinner party? Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney? Of course, there are exceptions but I would generally stand by what I say.

The bottom line is, those England boys who went to the World Cup are the best we have. Sadly, whilst there has undoubtedly been hard work to get where they are, they are disadvantaged by being the product of British society that sets them up to fail. Too many end up overpaid millionaires, interested only in personal glory and how they are perceived in the media.

It will take a huge change to our celebrity and media obsessed culture, not least in addressing how we raise our kids, to have a positive knock on effect in changing our nation's future footballing fortunes. Can we get them off the PlayStation and out onto the empty fields? Can we make them earn their favourite team's football top or a new gadget by doing some chores? Will we set them limits and boundaries and instil the ethics of not giving up, teamwork and respect? Keep their feet on the ground? Make them work hard to reap the rewards?

As upsetting as being knocked out of The World Cup after two games is, it will probably change nothing, with so many willing to accept the circle of mediocrity, as long as it's teeth are straight and it's dressed correctly.

Grim as it may sound, perhaps only a huge catastrophe, a war or a natural disaster that devastates the nation, would give us the true fighting foundation to build on (and not just from a football perspective!).

1966 came after 21 years of rebuilding from the end of World War 2.

Unlike the devastation of war, the ashes of this current footballing debacle simply aren't big enough for a Phoenix to rise.

Internationally, we're done and have been for quite some time.

No one wants war or disaster, so the only answer is fundamental change.

Can we change in large enough numbers to make a difference?

I'm going to keep trying.


Tweet @hoganwatford


  1. Damning, depressing but true :( Such a well thought out and brilliantly written piece. All the mugs in the media should have a piece of this but they won't coz they thrive on the bullshit circus.

  2. Brutal. But honest.

  3. Maybe a bit melodramatic but I think the basis of your arguments is solid. You do write well Paul and from the heart.