Individual Focus on Rooney, Hodgson Hides Real Reasons for England World Cup Woe

Guillem Balague@@GuillemBalagueFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

England national soccer team coach Roy Hodgson, left, and Wayne Rooney walk away from each other after talking during a squad training session for the 2014 soccer World Cup at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

I’m not sure Lewis Carroll knew a lot about football, but when he wrote in Through the Looking-Glass: "The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today," he could have been describing England's attitude to the national game.

Never has a team embarked on a campaign for the biggest prize in football with less expected of it than this England side.

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  England manager Roy Hodgson and FA Chairman Greg Dyke attend the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/
Clive Mason/Getty Images

From the moment Football Association chairman Greg Dyke drew an imaginary knife across his throat as the draw for the World Cup was made, you felt the writing was on the wall.

From the start, the fans, the media and even the FA itself seemed to give the impression that this World Cup was little more than a learning curve; a stepping stone for the youngsters that would lead England into the jam-filled promised land that will be Euro 2016.

The notion is unthinkable.

Thankfully, however, one of the by-products of this philosophy is that the FA has decided against a knee-jerk reaction and will be sticking with Roy Hodgson. They are right to do so.

Hodgson has started a job and is a long way from finishing it. He should be judged at the end of the job, not halfway through it. Additionally, he is also very involved with the system that the FA is looking to put in place.

What I fail to understand, however, is why there is so much emphasis placed on the national coach, when the real concern should be making sure that the whole system is in place, from top to bottom.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The view that everything can be sorted outor screwed upby one man with the title of England manager is puerile and simplistic.

For me, the main problems with English football at the moment are the same as ever: There isn't good enough coaching at the lower level, there is a lack of coaches and there is precious little methodology, by which I mean a reluctance to train to your philosophy, whatever that might be, and then use it in matches.

A lack of coaching leads to a lack of game knowledge, and as a result, what you get is what happened against Uruguay. Namely, an inability to bring something new to the table when required. Control of the game. Pausing. Thinking.

When what was called for was a need to keep the ball better and stick closer together, what we got was the "headless-chicken" attacking approach. What we saw was a naivety that is worrying, not least because what was on display was the best England had to offer.

Mind you, I still don't understand why Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry especially were not there. The intelligence of Barry would have provided another option, and we've seen with Andrea Pirlo in Brazil and Xavi Hernandez previously that you don't have to be the quickest in the world to run the show.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Once again there has been too much emphasis on individuals—originally Wayne Rooney, now Steven Gerrard and also possibly Hodgson.

Individual focus has sidelined what the real debate should be: the overall team performances rather than just those of certain players.

For this, the English media must take a large portion of the blame. From the outset, there was a concerted campaign for a young England side with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14: Daniel Sturridge of England (C) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Wayne Rooney (L), Raheem Sterling (2nd L), Jordan Henderson (2nd R) and Danny Welbeck (R) during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between E
Elsa/Getty Images

In truth, however, it's worth noting that the average age of the side that started against Uruguay was 27. Still, it was the XI most people wanted.

The media culture of constantly searching for a villain or hero has to stop. Thankfully, some of the new kids on the journalistic block are gradually realising this.

The truth is that there are many positives to be found when looking at the state of English football.

This great and sceptred isle is, without question, home to the richest league in the world, bar none. It has the best facilities, and the world’' best coaches want to work here.

I firmly believe that English football is on the way up, and within a decade and with a generation of new coaches, it will be up there with the best in the world.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08:  Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley of England arrive into Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Remember that youngsters such as Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, Sterling, John Stones and many more are going to be fine-tuning their game under the watchful eyes of people such as Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Roberto Martinez, Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgersall of whom are world-class coaches.

Things can only get better.

While touring the country talking about my books on Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, I have noticed a gradual but distinct change in the footballing culture in the UK.

Players and coaches in their 20s and early 30s are learning a huge amount from foreign coaches and foreign football, and they think about how they can adapt it in England. They travel and they listen.

There's more emphasis on individual quality and technical nous, and both coaches and players seem to want to be better prepared.

I still believe that there's a need for a bit more hunger to learn more, to be more open to new ideas and philosophies, but it's happening, albeit slowly, on what I think is just phase one of a long road.

For now, it's another defeat—another disaster. But it will be much less of a disaster if the debate as to what is to be done with English football starts now, and the people who should be consulted and listened to are the likes of Van Gaal, Fabio Capello, Rafael Benitez, Mourinho, Martinez, Pep Segura and Arsene Wenger.

Listen to them and you will get a better England.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03:  Manager Rafael Benitez of Napoli talks to manager Arsene Wenger of Arsenal during the match between Arsenal and Napoli at Emirates Stadium on August 3, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

There is too much talk of passion, or rather the lack of it. Sections of the media say that you only have to look at Uruguay to see that they were players who would kill for their country, the inference being that this attitude was lacking in the England side.

Stuff and nonsense. Uruguay had exactly the same passion against Costa Rica and lost. The media needs to move on from that kind of fatuous analysis and focus on the things that really matter.

It's not about passion or kissing the badge. It's about those rather more mundane things, like tactics, balance, concentration, discipline and an unwillingness to accept anything other than the best and not rejoice in yet another "brave" 1-2 reversal, such as that suffered against Italy.

Now, finally, with the public clamour for youth, exuberance and that "up and at 'em" philosophy satisfied and discredited, we can start to look forward.

Then, and only then, will we be able to have jam today.