England Can Win The Next World Cup … But Will They Win The Next World Cup? No Way

Ollie Irish

12th, October 2010


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 encouraged to win at all costs, and physical power and “passion” are prized above all else.  We fail because they receive virtually no technical coaching. We fail because this country has a tiny fraction of the number of qualified coaches you find in Spain and other top football nations.

To this I would add: we keep thinking we fail because we don’t keep the ball and lack organisation, but the problem is much deeper. We fail because our players can’t control a ball under pressure in tight areas and then beat players, creating space and confusion among the opposition. We fail because when a team like Spain does this to us, we lack the flexibility and intelligence to anticipate the problem and deal with it. We fail because we get excited when we have one good player in a particular position, instead of realising that the top nations have two or three.

We fail because, just as our universities have to give students catch-up lessons in basic English and maths, our professional football clubs have to teach teenagers skills that foreigners learn as juniors.

We fail because nobody learns from mistakes, so we keep making them. We fail because the Prince William is president of the FA (a self-proclaimed “world-class organisation with a winning mentality”) and its Council still has seats for the Army, the Royal Navy, the RAF, the public schools, and Oxford and Cambridge Universities. We fail because of laziness, arrogance and incompetence, from the bloated top right down to the mythical “grass roots”, which are either paved over or covered in dog shit.

So can we win the next World Cup? Course we can! It’s about BELIEF and PASSION and NEVER-SAY-DIE SPIRIT, and for me, we’ve got massive hearts and tons of guts and when they pull on those Three Lions they feel ten foot tall and our Premier League is the best league in the world and everyone wants to play at Wembley and our national health service is the best in the world and…

Posted in Featured, International football

Share this article: Email


  1. Ollie Irish says:

    Great stuff Ed, couldn’t agree more if I tried.

  2. Chris says:


  3. Patrick says:

    my thoughts exactly…..its out in the open now

  4. Meji says:

    Unless I play – we ain’t winning. End.

  5. The 100% Greek says:

    As always,”spot on” article

  6. RedSkywalker says:

    Yeah all, true.

    But how long will it take to implement these changes?

    I remember watching the England/Algeria WC game on a channel that had John Barnes on as a pundit. After the game he commented on the way England would, at times, try short passing to penetrate through the Algerian defence. Then they would revert back to the old long ball tactics. His point was that England couldn’t play the short ball game and that they should just stick to the long ball game, the only game they knew.

    England haven’t won anything for 44 years playing this way, yet this is still the way english kids are groomed to play.

    Theres alot worse though, you’d cringe at they way some countrys run their national teams…

  7. Neil Welton says:

    Excellent article, Ed. We fail as talent is bought at a price, rather than developed. We fail because there are not enough scouts visiting schools looking for talent. We fail because we have the relatives of former players and managers in League teams, rather than any talent. We fail because football is run by an Old Boy Network which, though it has no talent, stays in its jobs and is paid handsomely. We fail as there isn’t any talented leadership to bring about change. Funnily enough, I think the key is talent. Prince William is thus the perfect representative. There by his birth, because of who he is related to, because of what school he went to, and who he knows. But can he play?

  8. Temjin says:

    As a foreigner I must say I wondered how much time it would take until someone in England would realize pretty much everything that you said in this article. It’s not about the commitment, it’s about organization. And that means long term (and possibly very unpopular) measures. I just don’t see that happening in a country that lets the media call their national manager “Jackass”.
    The spanish example is a very good one. The story behind transforming a team nicknamed “La Furia Roja” (which btw is a pun on their red shirts and the spanish expression for “seeing red”) that had tons of heart but no intelligence into one of the best national teams of the last 10 years is something that the english FA should really pay some attention to.
    And England does have the talent and the infrastructures for it.
    Right now 3 lions don’t make you look foot tall, actually they make you look 3 inches tall. Unlike other national teams that even when they are at a low point they just have to turn up with their black eagle inside a circle (It’s gold these days innit?) for everybody (us down south too) to start feeling a bit uneasy.
    And with that amount of hard work they put in their league and federative organization they deserve to be respected.

  9. jamjam says:

    Well If england Start with ,,adam jhonsson and ashley young and jack wilsher ..micah richards , then they will win the WOrld cup for Sure .. rooney will be unstopable by then .. he wil have more experience And will be more stable.. and england wont have to rely on him soley For goals !!

  10. supaphil says:

    Just get some big, strong committed lads with the bravery to dig in some good, old fashioned English tackles. That’ll straighten out those pesky Spanish dribblers. Just have to want it more, if you ask me.

  11. […] Can England Win The Next World Cup? Yes. Will They Win The Next World Cup? No Way. – Ed Barrett’s wonderful carcass-scraping of the England team […]

Leave a Reply