With Euro 2012 rapidly approaching, England fans are hoping to avoid another scathing post-mortem come the end of the summer: why are we not as technically good as Holland? Why can’t we beat the Germans? Why can’t we pass it like Spain? The very same questions appear year after year, tournament after tournament.
As a footballing nation, England prides itself upon its colossal tradition and the gratification of being football’s founding institution. Yet for all the legends and myths attached to the English psyche, as a collective footballing entity England is in danger of slipping into the realms of mediocrity, as failure to evolve in the same manner as our contemporaries leaves English football susceptible to deterioration.
For some time now, nations in Europe and beyond have been developing new systems, innovative training regimes and unique tactical philosophies which though not entirely revolutionising the game, have notably reshaped and reinvigorated the way in which we think about football. On the other hand, England in contemporary times have brought Kevin Davies and Michael Ricketts into the international fold.
As well as the national team struggling to adapt to modern football’s progressive ways, our club sides have also thrown a stubborn fist in the face of transformation. Despite the rapid spread of globalized forces into the English game, domestic clubs still remain largely antiquated institutions as traditional hierarchical structures persist. There is an owner; he owns. There is a manager; he manages.
Only on very rare occasions has this arrangement been compromised, with generally blundering consequences. A list of various Directors of Football at English clubs reads like a Crimewatch episode for those wanted for crimes against the customary norms of English football. Damien Comolli at Spurs and Liverpool, Avram Grant’s ill-fated time in the job at Chelsea and Sir Clive Woodward’s groundbreaking appointment at Southampton all ended in prevailing misery for those involved. The idea of a manager having anything less that total control over his playing squad is an alien one to English football – time to change?
One Englishman leading the charge for greater evolvement is Lee Congerton at Hamburg in the Bundesliga. Formerly Chief Scout at Chelsea, Congerton moved with Frank Arnesen to the German club last summer and has excelled in his new role as Technical Director. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Congerton outlines his desires for the role to be more widely recognised in England: “I would love to see this role grow in England because I think it can offer so much to clubs. Here in Germany every club has it and it’s very much about the medium to long-term development. And that’s maybe a problem with the English game – the coach goes, big pay out and off we go again.”
Congerton’s words strike a resonating chord in regards to the psychological oversight which is adversely affecting football in England. The English disposition does not allow for this kind of progressive, enterprising form of football governance. The manager is in charge and he must get it right; if he does not, simply sack him and get another in. It’s a cyclical disaster and one which much change if English football on whole wants to achieve growth and betterment.
The introduction of such a role for English club would no doubt aid the development of the academies, as well as laying the foundations for a more expansive way of thinking in the English game. Young players find exceeding benefit with the presence of similar positions at German clubs – outlined by the striking rise in prominence of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Muller. Germany are widely insisted to be great favourites for Euro 2012 playing a enviously attractive brand of football, and with club and international football inextricably linked, this has been aided to no end by the developmental structure of the German game.
Why can’t the English do this? Because we’re too resistant to change. Too stubborn, too proud. Congerton states that his “dream in years to come would be to help a manager be successful at a big Premier League club and put some footprints in the sand for the role to grow for others.” Unless the English attitude alters significantly in order to accommodate this change, we may find ourselves languishing further behind our counterparts for many years to come.
Can you explain why we as a nation cannot find it within ourselves to accept change? Tweet me @acherrie1