Early Doors

Summer of discontent leaves England true champions of talking rot

Early Doors

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"If I strip it down, the burning ambition inside me is to win it. I'm looking forward to sitting down with the FA in two weeks' time. When we start our journey every two years, we sit our players down and we talk about winning the tournament. We are here to win the tournament. That is the only message I ever send out to the squad." Stuart Pearce before England's Euro Under-21 campaign begins in early June.

Outcome: Out in first round after losing 1-0 to Italy, 3-1 to Norway and 1-0 to Israel. Pearce wanted a new contract, but departed his job after pointless finals.

"You get the feeling here that it's going to be a really big, important tournament. I think this summer's going to provide us with a lot of good attacking football. We'll be working hard on scoring goals and hopefully making ourselves tough for our opponents. We're really keen to get off to a good start and if we manage that, we could go a long way." Peter Taylor before England's opening match in the U-20 World Cup in late June.

Outcome: Out in the first round after draws with Iraq (2-2) and Chile (1-1) is followed by a 2-0 defeat to Egypt.

"I think physically the guys are obviously a lot stronger than the women, but if we took it on technical ability, we're as good as the men. We'd give it a good go. It's important to recognise we have our own culture and our own DNA, it's important to work with that, but we will continue to strive to become the leading nation in women's football."

National coach Hope Powell before England's opening match at the women's Euro 2013 finals in Sweden earlier this month.

Outcome: Out in the first round. A 3-2 loss to Spain is followed by a 1-1 draw with Russia, but the frailties of Powell's side are laid bare by the manner of a crushing 3-0 loss to France.

That was the week that was. For England women's football side, it has been the week that wasn't. For England's national football teams, it has been a summer that never really could be. Certainly not at the obviously ridiculous level of expectation that their respective coaches foisted upon some fairly mediocre players before the European Under-21 Championship, the Under-20 World Cup and the women's European Championship finals began.

Pearce, Powell and Taylor, in no particular order, talk a much better game than their elite men and women play. After England's women went the way of the Under 21s and Under 20s, this has been the long, hot summer of discontent for English football in foreign climes. Forget the monied Premier League, this represents the real decaying state of the national sport.

Some of you will argue that the England women's football team should not be clamped to the men's continuing and ongoing failures, but anybody who witnessed the French cut open England with all the ease of a Bunsen burner connecting with wet toilet paper last night will testify that France are more than a team of lookers. Bolstered by women's Champions League finalists Lyon, they are a terrific side to watch.

Louisa Necib won her 100th cap for France. She is a gorgeous footballer with her ability to prompt and probe in pockets helping to dismantle dishevelled opponents such as England.

The central defender Wendie Renard seemed to win every ball in the air as if her head was guided by radar. England's defence looked as if they had only been introduced to each other seconds before the match. There is less space in the Channel Tunnel to drive a train through than the type of yards granted to France in the middle of the park.

Eugénie Le Sommer and Elodie Thomise benefited with Le Sommer's opening goal on nine minutes an item of real beauty before lovely efforts from Necib and Renard provided the scoreline with a truer reflection of what went on.

If it were not for Karen Bardsley in the England goal and their own profligacy, France could have attained double figures.

We had already been subjected to the poverty of Pearce's side, many of whom are aspiring Premier League players, blotted out because they could not keep the ball for any length of time.

Then came Peter Taylor's side failing to register a win in Turkey. It really is astounding to think the birthplace of football can provide players so technically inefficient. A 2-2 draw with Iraq says enough. It would be embarrassing if anyone truly cared. Indifference is all around us, and the national sport has been scarred by years of neglect.

People seem content to sit at home behind computer screens. We are in the day and age of Facebook friends, Twitter and text message, anti-social networking medium that have killed the art of true conversation between real people. Real debate has been tossed into the wind. We are in the day and age where the health service is creaking under the weight of an obesity epidemic, and all sorts of terrific illnesses which it brings.

We are in the day and age where public sporting fields have been soiled by the need to make money by erecting houses for short-term gain. Money lenders such as Wonga thrive because this type of company has been encouraged to flourish in this type of society. Football has been sold short by this country over the past three decades. There are no plans in place to address such issues because people in high places continue to act out of self-interest.

The state of English football is a national disgrace. Much like the lardy sorts who can be found on mobility scooters up and down the country, football is in a critical condition.

Nobody really cares, otherwise happenings like this summer would not occur. The malady lingers on. Much of it driven by a Football Association who seem to lack the foresight to make the required alterations. As long as they are getting their fix at some jolly abroad, that is all that matters.

England are technically superior only at spouting balderdash. The coaches talk utter rubbish because there was never a prospect of anything else happening this summer other than this complete breakdown.

When you lack the basic tenets of ball control, ball retention, the physical fitness and flexibility in altering formations, there is no chance you can outstay your welcome at such tournaments.

Hope Powell should be thanked for work after 15 years as England coach, and moved on. There is no other choice to reward her with after such a resounding triumph for mediocrity. Sweden 2013 has been a chastening experience.

Her England side's performance was almost comparable to Serena Williams alighting Wimbledon with a badminton racket. "It hasn't been good enough," said the country's record goalscorer Kelly Smith. "The quality is not there at the minute. Everyone has got to go away and think about our individual performances and learn from it."

Failure to prepare, prepare to fail. There was no justifiable reason why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Jack Rodwell were nowhere to be seen while Pearce's England were losing three matches in the heat of Israel.

We should be thankful for small mercies that Roy Hodgson's senior side were not involved in a tournament this summer. That really would have been too much hot air to take. Unlike the Premier League, England's national sides are broke.

Desmond Kane

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