England Under-21’s woes indicate wider problems
England's elimination from the European Championships shows lessons have not been learned
Predictably, England crashed out of yet another tournament last night – but this latest pitfall could have far-reaching consequences.
The European Under-21 Championships in Denmark should have been the moment that the nation’s future heroes finally emerged from the shadows of the bloated egos of the so-called ‘golden generation’, but old habits continued to die hard.
If hooliganism was the English disease in the 1980s, wasted potential through laboured tactics and trading on the past are its present day symptoms.
Stuart Pearce’s plan to spearhead attacks down the wings was abandoned after the first game against Spain, while the Ukraine and Czech Republic were on the receiving end of continual hit-and-hope long balls.
It was a classic English mentality to football on the international stage and one that must be changed if the national side is ever to progress competitively.
And dare the Football Association look South East of Dover, they could learn some valuable lessons from Germany.
The lesson Joachim Low’s side administered in Bloemfontein during last summer’s World Cup should have served as a springboard for future competitions and generations.
Their style of play is efficient and derived from a reliance on younger players; something England will not be able to afford if the wrongs of Pearce’s reign continue to be repeated.
By a similar token, the Spain side that were unfortunate not to leave Herning victorious last Sunday could also offer the Three Lions hierarchy some inspiration.
As the likes of Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere chose to laze around with Premier League cliques in sunnier climes, Spain were able to boast two World Cup winners in Juan Mata and Javi Martinez, who were proud to answer their nation’s call.
Sergio Busquets would have made a third had he not been placed under strict orders by Barcelona, underlining the pride and desire that players still have to play for La Rojita.
This is where England and their continental counterparts differ.
For the likes of Spain and Germany, triumphs are celebrated but immediately act as a fresh incentive in their relentless pursuit of perfection.
England remain football’s dinosaur; obsessed with a solitary victory 45 years ago and with an outdated “we’re number one!” arrogance to boot.
If the FA are ever to banish the continued talk of 1966 ‘and all that’, they must ignore the jingoists amidst the Wembley crowd and finally embrace the European ethos at all stages of the international set-up, from schoolboy to senior level.
If they persist with the current set-up, the dreaded ‘golden generation’ tag will continue to haunt countless generations of starlets as much as the albatross of that World Cup win.