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You cannot fake quality
by Asa Butcher
2007-11-24 10:31:47
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"You cannot fake quality,” were the words of one Croatian journalist as he summed up England’s pitiful performance against his country and their resulting failure to qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships. It isn’t the first time that England have failed to qualify for a major tournament, but this time the national team’s overall performance in all of their group games have left the country numb with anger and disappointment.

The very fact that England had to get a draw or a win in their final group game against Croatia, and then rely on Andorra drawing against Russia, was an embarrassment in itself. Wednesday night’s game was indicative of all 12 of England’s Group E games – gutless and bereft of quality. If England had managed to hold on to that draw and Steve McClaren had managed to qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships it would have a been akin to applying a plaster to a gaping wound.

England had been giving an unexpected lifeline last Saturday when Israel managed to beat Russia 2-1, so the Croatia game changed from a run-of-the-mill outing to all or nothing. During the BBC’s pre-match build-up they reminded us of another occasion that meant all or nothing for England when they had to beat Poland, but ended with a 1-1 draw.

My dad, who was sat behind the goal at Wembley that day, has witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of matches, including many England performances both good and bad, was his usual hopeful yet pessimistic self concerning the outcome of the Croatia game. In the post-match analysis Alan Shearer declared he had never seen an England team perform so lacklustrely, but Dad quickly remembered a dozen more.

England has always underperformed, at least in my living memory, and their failure last night wasn’t a surprise, just another disappointment. As the England XI ran on to the field wearing the white shirt I couldn’t help to notice the single gold star above the badge. For those unfamiliar with the gold star it means that a team has won the World Cup, so both Brazil and Germany have a number.

England teams have lived under the shadow of that 1966 victory for decades and it has given us the belief we are perhaps better than we are. There is no god-given right for England to qualify for every championship, but the fact that football fans around the world are surprised when we don’t proves that it is expected. Yeah, England is the home of football, so why were the keys to this valuable property given to Steve McClaren?

When McClaren took over the job in August 2006 he dropped many older players like Sol Campbell, David James and former captain David Beckham, saying he was planning for “a different direction”… well, Wednesday’s game had Sol Campbell and David Beckham, while James also made a return over the course of the group games. McClaren didn’t have a clue, both tactically and professionally, and he was never the right man for the biggest job in England, which was demonstrated over his woeful choices, such as last night’s catastrophic 5-3-1 defensive formation at Wembley.

England now have yet another chance to lay a solid foundation for qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by carefully choosing any interested managers for the unenviable position now vacated by McClaren. Once again you have to ask who would really want this job, who is prepared to risk such scrutiny and who is actually out there? Three questions that have been asked repeatedly, yet answers have never been forthcoming.

McClaren has now joined a growing list of causalities killed in action at the helm of England. After Sir Alf Ramsey, Don Revie, Ron Greenwood, Sir Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor, Terry Venables, Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and Sven-Göran Eriksson have all failed to even get England to a final, let alone lift a trophy and that is how success is measured by English fans.

McClaren refused to resign after this footballing fiasco, which forced the English Football Association to sack him – not bad for McClaren who walks away with a £2m compensation package for the three years left on his four-year contract. The FA estimates that £8m will be lost through our failure to qualify and who knows how much more it has cost England in their almighty task in finding a new manager.
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Thanos2007-11-23 18:25:45
Might be for the best, perhaps if England had managed to qualify nobody would want to see the problems, now it is a good chance to create a new team. However and I know you might not agree but I still think that England will miss Sven. He might didn't take any trophy but at least he didn't embarrass england.

Coming to McClaren, he did leave in the end but I don't think that he is the only to blame for that embarrassment, in the end there 11 players in the field, experience and professionals who should have done their job as well.

At least now I hope you will support Greece on the way for a ...second trophy!!! ;)

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