Simon Reed

Brits are too soft and too spoilt

Simon Reed

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Last week I predicted a tough test for Great Britain against Lithuania in the Davis Cup. I thought Britain might just have snuck it, but they lost and it has created a flurry of criticism.

I'm not too surprised by the reaction: it makes a good story. The knives were already out before the match and there was always going to be a lot of flak coming if the cards did not fall our way.

I only saw bits of the tie, but from what I understand it was actually played at a fairly high standard.

However, at the end of the day, it was against a lowly ranked team like Lithuania and a fifth successive defeat - and that is just not good enough.

I have to lay my cards and the table and admit that I'm a friend of John Lloyd's. Still though, do we honestly think that anyone else could have done anything different as captain given the same set of circumstances? I'm not so sure.

I've heard a few names mentioned already as potential replacements, some good names too; one name that has cropped up is Greg Rusedski. I like Greg, I think he can be an inspiring guy, but I'm not sure he could have made a fundamental difference in Lithuania.

I suppose that David, in essence, is the tennis equivalent of a football manager, and with the results he has had, you might expect him to be held accountable.

However, the big difference is a football manager can buy in players from abroad; David can only use what is in front of him. Did he get the best out of them? To be honest, I think he might have.

What exactly could a new person do? I suppose the Lithuania result was a game of fine margins, and maybe somebody else could have squeezed an extra two per cent out of the players, but again I doubt it.

I'm not dismissing the idea of changing the captain either though. If we go back to the football analogy, some managers get fired even when they have done a good job. It can be a tough call, but you do arrive at periods in time when it is right to make a change.

However, I think there are bigger problems in British tennis than the captain of the Davis Cup team and one of the key issues is that there is just something in the British psyche that is a little soft.

I think it is interesting that we haven't won the football World Cup since 1966 either. Maybe the players, in football and tennis, need to start looking at themselves and not keep blaming the managers.

We have had people who have broken through that typical British caricature, people like the golfer Nick Faldo for example, but part of the problem is that when they do this they get pilloried for it.

I actually think Andy Murray has a touch of Faldo about him. He goes against the grain; Murray doesn't have the same softness about him that some of the other British sports stars have.

I know some people who comment on this blog think he is my boyfriend or something, but I do think Murray will win Grand Slams and it wouldn't surprise me if his popularity takes some hits along the way in a similar fashion as happened to Faldo.

Elsewhere though, there is something in our culture that makes us soft, and looking specifically at tennis, I do think one mistake the LTA has made is that they have thrown too much money at young players.

When people turn up to events, in their Cabriolet BMWs, and they are already earning £70,000-80,000 a year; subconsciously they are going to think that they have already made it.

Compare that to someone like Novak Djokovic, who growing up in Serbia struggled to even find a court. You can see in players like Djokovic a toughness and a need that is missing from the British players.

I mean why do so many players come from Russia? Nobody threw any money at those players.

And if our character is a little bit soft then that just fuels further softness. That, for me, is the major problem.

All the fingers are currently pointing at the LTA but what else should they do with their money? Maybe they could build some more indoor courts - the climate isn't great here after all. Maybe there should be changes at the top, the chief executive Roger Draper has been there for four years now after all, but I don't know if that is the answer. It is hard to know what the answer is.

I do think when it comes to making tennis more accessible for kids to play the situation is getting better. It is still not great, but in that regard, things are been done and the LTA is not missing too many tricks. But we are still burdened with this shocking record at senior level.

There has been some movement up the rankings from the women, and the LTA are to be congratulated on that too - but at the same time, sometimes they can be a bit too quick to congratulate themselves when things are going well.

They have to learn how to take the type of flak they have been getting these last few days since losing to Lithuania.

Maybe it is time for them to start keeping a lower profile then they have been doing in the last few years, until there is a clear sign that things are about to get better.

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