Home and Away

England's retro route-one football belongs in the past

A flapping goalkeeper, slow defenders, laboured midfielders and all creativity stifled: Hodgson's team are a sorry sight

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 3:06am

Thankfully we are safely returned to the 21st century and EPL football this weekend. For most of the week we have been treated to a ghastly display of outdated ideologies with the England team competing with one of the country's political parties for the top prize in Jurassic thinking.

England's woeful retro exhibition of route-one football during their World Cup qualifier against Ukraine mirrored the uninspiring nostalgia heavily plied at the week's annual party conference of the UK's second main political organisation, the left-leaning (and so-called) New Labour.

Labour delegates could buy memento tea mugs with "I Hate Thatcher" printed on them. They supped away merrily amid the 1970s and 80s ambiance, chattering earnestly about socialism and common ownership of the means of production, general strikes, Karl Marx and taxing the rich.

Meanwhile, keeping with the throwback theme their fellow dinosaurs - the Three Lions - were hoofing the ball in Kiev in neo-luddite fashion.

Manager Roy Hodgson freely admitted the long-ball game was his only tactic and his meek charges duly complied in a mind-numbing block vote.

The Olympic Stadium sighed heavily as the over-subsidised and loss-making industry that is English national football failed to make any real chances on goal.

Worse, as per their shop steward's instructions, they bypassed the midfield as if it did not exist.

An inability to keep the ball in the final third, all creativity stifled, a flapping goalkeeper, slow-turning defenders and laboured midfielders, a hopeful kick of the ball for the front man to nod down ... A dreadful evening of discontent.

What little talent the nation's academy conveyor belts have wheeled out in the last decade was laid to waste in the grinding, unionised struggle "to get the job done".

It wasn't so much the technical flaws, more the lack of any technicality whatsoever.

Creative football to compete with the world? "Sorry guv, that's not my job," was the apparent dogmatic answer. Just punch the time card, Jack, and head home to the WAG, kids and the mansion pile.

That was the mentality, or so it seemed on our TV screens.

Former England striker and pundit Gary Lineker summed it up in one word: awful. And he asked for us all: "What happens to some of these players when they put an England shirt on?" Glowing stars such as Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard were blacked out by the obsession with central planning by a bureaucratic back room stuffed with yesterday's men.

Only the defenders did what England does best, the only thing we do in fact, and even then ...

In forward-thinking footballing nations, individual creativity is encouraged to shine as part of the team effort. But not in olde worlde England, who have now slipped to a flattering 16th in Fifa rankings.

For long periods Hodgson's worried men looked scared of a moribund Ukraine. If more proof were needed that outdated ideologies still hold sway in the English mindset, Tuesday's game was it.

Yet Hodgson was surprised by the outcry after the final whistle. "A very good quality game," he called it, saying his squad got the job done "remarkably well".

Yes, they got the point, and yes, they maintain control of their destiny despite the absence of injured Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge and the suspended Danny Welbeck.

And they are a step nearer to Brazil 2014. Hodgson and his meek squad did complete the shop floor remit.

England top their group but they do so having only beaten Moldova and San Marino. That is not workmanship to take pride in.

Have 20 years of the EPL and all the inspiring international stars that have graced our pitches had no impact at all? Apparently not.

Despite the poverty of their game, England will likely make Brazil. But many fans would now rather offer their beach towels on Copacabana to a team that would rise to the occasion rather than subject the world to prehistoric England.

Last week new FA chairman Greg Dyke was sneered at for suggesting England stand not a chance of success next year.

Who is sneering now?

He called for radical change and after this week the clamour for a seismic shift off the field must start in earnest.

England are clearly a generation behind their rivals. If the nation's players are to punch through the dark age, the country's football needs a major reboot. It requires an enlightenment period starting on school playing fields with a new breed of coaches who can inspire and teach young stars to reject the old mentality that footballers are just well-paid labourers to be told what to do.

They need to be inspired to unleash their talent within a team, instead of being told to play out of position or in a style that just "gets the job done".

Qualifying for the World Cup is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but what England fan is celebrating?

We deserve better for our loyal support, yet we dread the thought of the England team facing Spain or Brazil or Uruguay, Germany or Argentina.

It would be akin to watching your dad get up at a wedding reception to dance the alphabet moves to Village People.

Embarrassingly old school and so last century, comrade.