Monday, 17 October 2011

Is football all about the players? Part 2 of 2

Jamie Carragher and Ray Wilkins give their thoughts on why the England manager should be an Englishman. Carragher's argument is hard to argue with, but Wilkins' analysis reflects badly on the state of the English game

I had said previously that I'd report back on the talk about modern footballers at the Leaders In Football conference earlier in the month. In truth, I've been stalling on getting round to writing this blog since so much of what Jamie Carragher, Ray Wilkins and Fabio Cannavaro said on the day was reported by the media. Such is the life of a blogger who also has a full-time day job, getting round to writing up a blog on something you attended can be rendered a lot less worthwhile if somebody gives the press a few soundbites. 

The talk was less of an insight into the mindset of a modern footballer than billed, and proved to be more of a rambling discussion which leapt about quite a bit. As it turned out, the most interesting stuff was what Carragher and Wilkins had to say on the subject of the England manager. Their thoughts are not especially ones that I agree with, but were well argued nonetheless.

Carragher has strong feelings that the England manager should be an Englishmen: "Its not anything against foreign coaches coming to manage England, it’s just about what I think international football is. It’s our best against their best. Whether that’s the best keeper, best centre forward, wherever. If we’re short, then we have to improve.

"Surely if you’re English and you go on a coaching course, the idea is for the England manager’s job to be what you aspire towards? For me, you shouldn’t have a foreign member of staff. The best doctor in the country should be the England doctor, or whatever. It should be your best against another country’s best," he said.

Wilkins credits moving to Italy with turning him into a proper professional, yet still
thinks the England manager should be an Englishman due to the players' mindsets
Ray Wilkins was in vehement agreement with Carragher, saying: "I’d like to see an English manager. We’ve tried it and we haven’t gone that far in World Cups with foreign coaches. I had the fortune of going to Italy and playing. Their attitude to football is completely different to our attitude. When Fabio came in there were lots of changes, especially on the discipline side. Now, I’ve no problem with discipline at all, but the England player reacts slightly differently to the way the Italian player reacts. 

"I never became a professional footballer until I was 27 - the day I moved to Italy. That’s when I actually started to live the right way, which meant I was able to play for a long period after. Everything was so professional; the diet was kicking in then. I thought I was relatively professional until I went to Italy and realised I was unfit. The fitness coach took our fat counts, got the results and said 'We’ve got a fat guy in the room'. So of course I’m looking round thinking 'Where is he?'. But it was me. I was the fat guy. It gave me the routine I needed to live each day. Within a month I lost an inch and a half off my waist and I was flying."

Isn't that depressing? Ray Wilkins has played and lived in Italy and completely immersed himself in the culture and the mindset, and credits the experience with broadening his horizons and turning him into a proper athlete. Yet he has so little faith in the England players of today that he thinks they wouldn't benefit from a foreign coach with advanced ideas telling them a few things they might want to change if they want to cease being a national embarrassment every time they go to a major tournament.

We might be miles behind the Spanish and Germans in terms of technique, but we're even further behind when it comes to hunger. Our mollycoddled players just aren't prepared to put their faith in one man and work their backsides off. Unless perhaps if that man is an Englishman who'll "keep things simple" and constantly praise them to the hilt. 

So in answer to my original question back in part one of this blog - Is Football All About The Players? - the answer would appear to be, in this country at least, yes. It's not a happy state of affairs, but one we're stuck with for the foreseeable. All part of football's general sickness at the highest level in England.

I'm off to flick through my 1986/87 Panini sticker album and see if I can spot some ambition and pride in the players' eyes. I can hardly wait for Euro 2012.


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