Every time I switch on the telly, I see adverts telling me to cut out the middle men – be they for car insurance, bookies or whatever.
Yet every time I watch England play all I hear is how we play too much ‘long-ball football’ rather than going through several ‘middle men’.
After the 0-0 draw with Montenegro, Fabio Capello’s men were again castigated for route-one tactics – the same criticism levelled at them by Franz Beckenbauer during the World Cup.
But we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up about the fact we do not play like Spain.
England’s main problem is that they do not play the long-ball game WELL ENOUGH.
Tactics are so tied in with the latest football fashion that it wouldn’t surprise me it Giorgio Armani had once been a coach.
When Alf Ramsey won the World Cup without wingers, we went back to pre-season training at Spurs about 10 days later and Bill Nicholson suddenly decided he wanted to play 4-3-3 as well.
The footballing fashionistas – most of whom have season tickets at the Emirates – will tell you that all the ills of our game are down to wanting to get the ball forward too early rather than tippy-tap around all day like Arsenal.
They look down their noses at so-called ‘long-ball football’ because they don’t understand what they are talking about.
Success is all about playing to your strengths, and in England that has always meant a more direct approach.
Sure, we could revamp our entire youth system to encourage a different style of play.
But Capello has to work with this current batch of players and all their limitations. I’m no great fan of Capello. In the summer I wrote of my dismay at his lack of basic man-management and communication skills and said he had a bare-faced cheek in not resigning after such a disastrous World Cup.
But can you honestly say that the Italian could or should have picked a drastically different team to the one which played at Wembley on Tuesday?
The problem is, in trying to find their target man, Peter Crouch, England simply did not have a good enough crosser of the ball. They didn’t have a David Beckham and they certainly didn’t have a Johnny Haynes.
Haynes was the greatest passer I ever saw.
They were masters of the long-ball game, always looking to play what Stan would call ‘the gully ball’ into the channel between the centre-half and full-back, making defenders turn on their heels and face their own goal.
The great Peter Broadbent, the footballer George Best admired most, would deliver many of these killer passes and was a master at unlocking defences – how England could have done with someone like him against Montenegro.
At Chelsea, we had a full-back, Peter Sillett, who could play a long pass on to a sixpence – a lost art these days. In the ’50s and ’60s, you had little choice but to hit it long because pitches were so poor.
Spurs were renowned for their attractive football, from the push-and-run team of the early ’50s through to the double winners of the ’60s. But they often had to resort to route-one because White Hart Lane was a quagmire.
Add to that the weight of the balls and the footwear we used to play in and it’s a wonder we ever earned a reputation as a passing side.
Did Rudolf Nureyev ever perform in hob-nail boots?