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Winds Of Change

By: Alan Readman
Date: 25/06/2002

The boys are back home and as far as England is concerned it is all over now. So how have we done? And are there any links, however tenuous, with the situation at GTFC?

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It's fair to say that 18 months ago we would have settled for a Quarter-Final place so all credit to Mr.Eriksson for what he has achieved. Even so, for me there was something depressingly familiar in the manner of the second-half capitulation to 10-man Brazil.

Those 45 minutes encapsulated the basic deficiencies which for many years now have condemned England to the status of also-rans in world football.

As long as we fall so short in the fundamental skills of controlling, holding and passing the ball, as long as there is such a dearth of genuine creativity, we will never be able to compete successfully with the very best in the world.

Refreshing to hear Teddy Sheringham say as much after the match. Depressing, but hardly surprising, that so few others seemed to agree with him.

People say that the frantic nature of our domestic game by-passes the need for these skills. Maybe so. And Premiership clubs buying in foreign talent rather than developing the home-grown is hardly conducive to producing a world-class national side either.

Meanwhile the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider. Even more mind-numbing transfer fees and bloated salaries at the top. Cut-backs, redundancies, administration and, doubtless before long, insolvency at the bottom.

If we genuinely want to produce a World Cup winning national team and to sustain a viable league structure then the time has come to do some serious thinking and take some radical action.

There needs to be a more dynamic and effective national strategy for developing young players. A new system linked to professional clubs at local level but substantially state or lottery funded to free it from the vagaries that effect club finances.

There must be a statutory policy of the rich helping the poor. Through a levy on transfer fees or Sky-TV money. Or something similar. The survival of Nationwide league clubs is in the interests of the Premiership and football in general in this country. Traditionally it has been a breeding-ground for young talent to the benefit of both sides. And through the loan system it is a means of providing first team experience to youngsters at Premiership clubs.

For all this to happen requires a sea-change in attitude. But without it, I for one won't be betting on England winning the World Cup in 2006 nor, sadly, will I be banking on clubs like ours still being around either. There must be change. And it needs to be now.

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