Published on Saturday, 15 June 2013 14:59
It was almost inevitable that the UEFA Under 21 tournament should have once again focussed English discussion on the perennial problem in English football: why is the national team so bad? More so, when the Premier League is so powerful and rules the world, at least in terms of the spectacle it provides week after week, and in its reach, exposure and ability to make money?
This is a problem that seems to be always with us like death and taxes. And, as ever, there are any number of suggestions on what should be done. So Harry Redknapp has chipped in with his comments that the problem is players are told to hoof the ball, not keep possession. You cannot, says Harry, do that in international football. Redknapp makes a valid point except this is not a particular problem of grown up football. This is a problem that goes right down to the grass roots of the game.
When back in the 1970s I first started reporting football it was common to go to first division grounds and hear crowds bellow out when one of their defenders had the ball, 'boot it out' or 'loft the ball'. And woe betide any defender who dawdled with the ball on the edge of his penalty box. He was immediately condemned as 'a fancy Dan' who had no place on the park.