World Cup 2022 seems like a long way off, but it provides a realistic opportunity for England to become a world power again. The sides of yesteryear are long gone. Perhaps for England, it could be said that opportunities were lost back in the 80s and 90s when they actually had a team full of players capable of winning something.
As the years have gone on, the Premier League has gone from strength to strength, while the England side has slowed its progress down and become at best a last 16 team. Something has to change to turn them back into a contending nation.
As a whole England are lucky to have a structured tiered football system and of course, one that is so well supported by the fans. This is the key to turning around the fortunes of the national side if the correct processes are put in place.
There are several camps with views on how to fix the problem and really the middle ground between them all is where the fix probably lies. Some would have a strict quota placed on teams in the top flight based on how many non-English players they can have. Others feel that allowing the influx of talent from around the world only makes it better for English players who get into the top sides as they are playing with the best each week.
Short term, there is no way a quota could be put in place. The league itself would be opposed to it; the amount of money coming in for TV rights would dictate that they have to put the best product on the field. Forcing sides to play English players would diminish the quality and thus impact the following around the world. The big boys would also have a major problem with having to go backwards with their squads and this would surely impact Champions League revenues.
Perhaps a rule for reducing the foreign players isn’t the best way forward, but a reward for playing English players might make more sense . If the FA put in place with the Football League and Premier League a financial rewards system for blooding English players it would make it easier for clubs to bring in the home grown talent. Sure it might not force the likes of Chelsea to do it but if 60% of the teams in the top flight and 100% of the teams in the other divisions benefit from it then it will create a large pool of English players.
Of course this does fix the problem, but it will at least push more players through the ranks and hopefully the next Frank Lampard or Ashley Cole will emerge. To ensure the talent coming through is capable of leading England to glory would then be the next major step. This is probably the most difficult, but it requires changes throughout the game. This is why the 2022 World Cup is a good bar to aim at, but it still may even be too soon.
Changes need to be made at all levels. More programmes need to be funded by the government to develop kids from the ages of 5 and up. Don’t have them playing 11-a-side, have them pass the ball. Learn to control the ball and teach them that a 5 foot pass is one of the most important things they will ever learn about the game. Keep the Sunday league teams we all had as kids going, but add an extra level above that where the kids showing promise can be cultivated into real players.
The programmes with the younger kids also need pushed all the way through to the late teens even beyond that. The key is to let the players learn and develop. The importance behind setting the 2022 date is so people understand this is a plan. If you have a U19 or U21 England player who is looking good, then keep him there. Don’t force him up to the top level yet. The reason why nations such as Spain have done so well over the last 10 years or so is primarily because they allowed the U21 side to stay together. They let them play in U19 and U21 competitions and because of this those players learn what it’s like to be in those sort of competitions and win them.
If the country is willing to put in the work, and understand that they may not win much for the next few major tournaments then there is no reason why England can’t go to the 2022 World Cup as a contender.
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