The Blog

Heads Must Roll For England's Worst-Ever World Cup

England's barren spell in top-level competition drags on even longer... If they are ever to climb out of the mire of mediocrity they currently find themselves drowning in, then it is high time for wholesale changes - from top to bottom.

It was all supposed to be so different this time around.

A brave new world. A fresh approach. Out with the old, in with the new.

But, although the faces of the pampered and preened Premier League personnel were different, England's frailties were all too familiar - and clear for the whole world to see, as they crashed out of the World Cup last week.

Once again, the Three Lions have found themselves tamed when it really matters, and this time, Roy Hodgson's young cubs went out with not so much a roar, as a whimper.

And barely a shot on target, to boot. Make no mistake - England is a side severely missing quality in key areas, and for that, it rightly found itself amongst the first nations consigned to a plane back home.

The St George's face paint washed away; the England flags and shirts packed away for another year.

It is finally beginning to hit home that, despite the hype, Hodgson's boys are nothing more than a second rate side, languishing in the crowded backwaters of international football.

Much has been made of the humidity and difficult conditions over in Brazil, but let's be honest, energy shouldn't have been a problem.

The additions of the likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, a new breed, in favour of the ageing legs of yesteryear, should have provided more than enough exuberance and enthusiasm to the squad.

Nothing personal against Luke Shaw, but his meteoric rises from up-and-coming full back to the most expensive teenager on the planet underlines just how desperately starved of homegrown talent English football is at the moment.

I could name several Luke Shaws playing in the likes of Spain and Italy who are nowhere near a record-breaking £31.5 million move - and it is that kind of pressure that is at the heart of England's woes.

With and without Shaw, England lacked in cutting edge, were short on creative impetus, and soft-centred - and it is a malaise that the Three Lions have struggled to shake off for decades.

In my opinion, the writing was on the wall for Hodgson and co as soon as the competition was dubbed the 'transition' tournament. Let's face it, every tournament in living memory, England has been in 'transition'.

The focus is always on two years, four years, or even eight years time. When was the last time that they actually stepped up to the plate and put in a sterling performance, when it mattered?

France 98? Euro 96? The 1990 World Cup in Germany? It is simply unforgivable that a nation still bafflingly considered by some to be amongst the superpowers of world football has offered so little, on such a regular basis - with no real come back.

Maybe it's an attitude borne from years of disappointment and underperformance. Perhaps it's just patriotic posturing, or worse - abject apathy. But I find the passive, laissez-faire response to the downfall of English football from the very people within it completely unbelievable.

The sad truth is that England have developed a reputation as a team of pretenders. A side with more holidays than honours, motivated by money rather than medals, and interested in Twitter over trophies.

It is a fall from grace which has been predicted for some time now - but as the Three Lions hit an all-time low ebb, there has been a muted response back home.

There is no dressing up this Brazilian breakdown; that was, officially, England's worst ever showing in World Cup history. The manner in which the players have skulked home, heads down, to their flash cars and five figure win bonuses with no repercussions, says everything about the state of the game in a once proud footballing nation.

The likes of Chile and Costa Rica have set the tournament alight this summer - small nations with big dreams. They are the nations who have made this the most magical tournament in living memory.

Pure passion and pride flowing through the stadiums before every fixture. To be frank, even their performances during the respective national anthems have been more inspiring than England this month.

As the players line up before kick-off, there is a real intensity about them; appetite and desire oozes out of their every pore. A genuine belief that they could win the tournament, and the battling, dogged determination to keep that optimism alive.

Tears in their eyes, pride in their hearts, and blisters on their feet. Wouldn't it be nice if the same could be said about England, just once?

Then again, it's hard to be hungry when you're on £250k a week.

Instead, England's barren spell in top-level competition drags on even longer. Credibility shot to pieces. If they are ever to climb out of the mire of mediocrity they currently find themselves drowning in, then it is high time for wholesale changes - from top to bottom.

I have spoken before about the Football Association, and I reiterate that, under Greg Dyke, it simply is not doing enough, quickly enough, to be taken seriously. Ludicrous and hair-brained notions such as the B team league only serve to damage their organisation's reputation further.

The truth is that, financially, the FA is dwarfed by the Premier League, and therefore it finds itself at the behest of top-tier bosses when it comes to tackling important issues such as implementing foreign player restrictions. Ultimately, money talks.

As such, the body should focus on getting it right at grass roots. I have lost count of the amount of ex-pros who have lamented the current system, the lack of technical skills and ball work being taught across English developmental systems - yet it appears that their calls are still falling on deaf ears at FA HQ.

Take Spain, for instance. Yes - the current world champions also found themselves dumped out of the competition early doors, but having cemented their position at the forefront of the global game over the last decade, and revolutionising the sport as they went, their star was always going to dim eventually.

Heavy legs and slowing reflexes - there is a sense that this is the end of an era here in Spain, and frankly, it's a little bit like watching a delicate loved one fade away.

The Spanish public, fires stoked by the likes of Marca and AS, are notoriously vociferous in their criticism, but have been respectfully subdued of late. After all, the tiki-taka style made famous by Vicente del Bosque's side produced herds of imitators, but none did it quite like La Roja in their pomp.

Unlike England though, the Spanish have a real identity and style to their play, and this is thanks to their consistently excellent youth systems from the ages of five, all the way up to late teens.

Indeed, it's testament to the wealth of emerging talent waiting in the wings that, if time truly has caught up with Xavi and co, then Spain can be confident of bouncing back. There is little doubt that the current crop of youngsters will lead La Selección to a bright future.

Until then, it's been a pleasure to watch - but as the old saying goes, 'all good things come to an end'.

Three Lions fans, meanwhile, must be wondering whether the good times will ever begin.

As the players dust themselves off and head into another season, leaving millions of heartbroken and angry fans in their wake, one thing is patently clear.

If England are ever to roar again, then English football must toughen up, and stop making empty excuses for failure.

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