The desire to 'fix' England is illogical and boring

Alex Livesey

The repeated desire to 'fix' the England national team seems to be without basis and involves going through the same discredited theories over and over again. It's time people just learned to accept the status quo.

In recent years, we've had many theories getting to the bottom of England's repeated failures: England fail because they don't get the ball down and play it, England fail because we need to have B teams in the lower leagues, England fail because they exclude middle-class people from playing, England fail because they simply don't believe in themselves and need to think bigger, England fail because they're arrogant and need to stop thinking so big, England fail because they appoint foreign coaches and England fail because they appoint domestic coaches. There's very much an "England fail" theme running throughout.

Few other countries seem to be having such a prolonged crisis, although England's appears mostly invented. It remains a point of debate about what can be done about the actual raw base of talent coming into the nation. Manchester United and Arsenal seem to produce an extraordinary amount of mid to upper-tier professional footballers with the talent that comes through their door, which is a better sign of academies doing their job than relying on unearthing prodigies.

England seem to have entirely forgotten that international tournaments are, well, tournaments. And they don't come around very often. The lifetime of a good side can be a short one, and there are a long list of teams that had the capability to win a trophy and didn't. England had, in the 90s, a candidate for their best ever team, yet failed to do much through a combination of poor luck and mismanagement. They enjoyed the best squad and the home advantage in Euro '96, but failed. This is fairly common in the limited sample size of European Championships and World Cups.

That side also came at a strange period which doesn't appear to sit well with the theory that old-fashioned football has stunted England's development. It came in one of the many golden ages of 4-4-2, but also when almost every team in the Premier League had a number 10 that was anathema to the system - the age of Eric Cantona, Juninho, Gianfranco Zola, and in England's case, Paul Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham.

When looking at the England squads of that period, in fact, the main positional weakness was nothing to do with technically-gifted, creative or ball-playing midfielders. Instead, somewhere around the turn of the Millenium, all of England's wingers disappeared, and that was all she wrote.

The idea that including B teams in the Championship is the latest wheeze, which is so unlikely to happen that it's barely worth discussing, but it does illustrate a separate point. The result of this, and the reason it would never be implemented, is that it hugely stunts the lower leagues and therefore the pool of teams outside of the elite few. In the mid-to-early 2000s, when most of the current England squad were coming through the ranks, this was the state of affairs by accident. People overlook how dull the Premier League was then, when Collins John was a solid striker for the top division, and appallingly negative 4-5-1s were the order of the day.

Now, in contrast, the mid-table sides of the Premier League are far stronger. Rickie Lambert may be a heartwarming, feel-good story, but more important for the national team is that Southampton's growth has allowed them to give a platform for the likes of Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse. More clubs in solid positions will give them the freedom to develop youngsters - an alternative to having a few elite clubs running the show.

England have more than enough youth talent in them right now to produce a very good side within the next generation. It'll be interesting to see how they inevitably ruin it, but at central midfield alone, they have: Jack Wilshere, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Barkley, Tom Carroll, Will Hughes, Ravel Morrison, Josh McEachran, and Adnan Januzaj. Enough to try again, at least. While most come from the upper echelons of the league, they've also profited well from loans, and in any case, smaller clubs have been able to produce plenty of talent to complement them: Wilfried Zaha, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jack Butland, Nathan Redmond, and Saido Berahino are all capable of reaching that level.

There's clearly nothing wrong with England producing talented players - national teams fall in and out of form at creating talent all the time, as any Scot or Hungarian would be able to attest. England have not suffered a fall from grace as dramatic as that, or suffered a period where their quota is so far beneath them that it is cause to suggest something is seriously wrong.

England's team used to be a source of enjoyment and, even when unsuccessful, glory and drama. Instead, it's become a free-for-all which anyone of English birth can use to attach or back up their own narrow-minded nationalist myths. It serves for football a continual source of debate which never ends, changes, or becomes remotely interesting. In that sense at least, with the fallout of the last generation, you get the team you deserve.

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