By Ed Barrett
“I just hope we’re not having the same debate in twenty years’ time.”
So declared the insufferably smug John Inverdale on BBC television back in October 1993. The rugby-mad presenter – rightly detested by all true football fans and probably his own mother too – had for some reason been chosen as host of forum to discuss the question: “What’s wrong with English football?” This query was prompted by Graham Taylor’s disastrous reign as national manager, which had just reached its nadir with defeats against Norway and the USA. It was already clear that his side would not qualify for the following year’s Soccer World Cup (as Inverdale would probably call it, to avoid confusion with the infinitely more important rugger version).
What has changed since then? Sod all really – even Inverdale himself looks exactly the same only smugger. And this week the BBC screened another soul-searching programme, drolly entitled “Can England win the next World Cup?”
The answer to this question is, of course, “yes”. The problem being that when you ask the other question implied within it – Will England win the next World Cup? – the answer is obviously “no”. And the question the programme really sought to answer was: why not?
This week’s conclusions were pretty much the same as they were in 1993 – and they were the same as they were back in 1973, after England’s failure to qualify for the ’74 World Cup.
In short, we fail because our young players are technically poor and lack tactical awareness. We fail because little kids play competitive football, often 11-a-side, instead of games where they can touch the ball frequently and develop a feel for the game. We fail because they are