St George's opens so England will win World Cup Er, think again
21:52 GMT, 9 October 2012
Some grand claims will be made for St George’s Park in the coming years. David Sheepshanks, who has overseen the project, gave a categorical affirmative when asked if the complex could help England win the World Cup. He set 2020 as the earliest date at which its effects could be felt.
Last month, Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association’s director of football development, was bemoaning the dearth of world class England strikers. Presumably one aids the production of the other. Not necessarily.
Green and pleasant land: It may be some time before the benefits of the 100m complex are felt at the top
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Among the motivating factors in the
building of the National Football Centre was France’s academy at
Clairefontaine, established in 1988. It was widely credited with victory
at the 1998 World Cup. So how many wonderful strikers did France have
that year None.
France’s squad forwards were
Christophe Dugarry, understudied by Stephane Guivarc’h, neither of whom
will go down among the greats.
There were two promising 20-year-olds
in Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, plus Youri Djorkaeff linking
attack and midfield, but France are best remembered under Aime Jacquet
for playing without a top-class front line, after Dugarry’s early
The architect of their success was Zinedine Zidane, who did not attend the academy at Clairefontaine.
So nothing is guaranteed. St George’s
Park helps, because good coaching helps, and choice helps and at the
moment there is a dearth of both in England. We need to produce more,
and better, coaches, and the England manager needs greater options when
selecting his squad.
Yet that, alone, will not ensure
triumph. English football had plenty of homegrown coaches and a league
stuffed with local players four decades ago and between 1970 and 1982
failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The investment of 104million still
needs a leg up from old fashioned luck. All of France’s fine intentions
would be without a crowning glory, were it not for one genius player,
schooled at AS Cannes.
Clairefontaine has enjoyed plenty of successes, not least the mighty Henry, and it is to be hoped St George’s will, too.
Yet do not think it will bring to an
end the days when we look out at the Wembley pitch and wonder where all
the strikers, or goalkeepers, or central defenders have gone.
All we can hope is that, like France, we produce enough players with the wit to work around our shortcomings.
French fancy: Les Bleus produced a World Cup-winning team from their world-famous Clairefontaine facility
Pick your moment
Plenty think the Football Association weak for not making an example
of Ashley Cole. Allowing him to remain in the England squad, while on a
disciplinary charge for referring to the FA in an abusive manner, has
placed them in an awkward position. It is, however, a crisis of their
The moment the FA took the issue of the England captaincy away from
manager Fabio Capello it set a precedent. Team affairs should always be
the preserve of the manager, with appropriate consultation if a matter
is exceptionally controversial.
Instead, FA chairman David Bernstein ploughed ahead in removing the
captaincy from John Terry, with Capello out of the loop. Now, every time
there is a storm around an England player, moralists will expect the FA
to take a hard line, and inaction will disappoint.
Who's call: Roy Hodgson was happy to see Ashley Cole link up with his England team-mates on Tuesday
Bernstein, desperate to persuade the FA had the upper hand, made a
big show of announcing Cole’s personal apology yesterday, but images of
the player laughing and joking in training and in light-hearted
conversation with Prince William, will have done little to appease
The FA, having wanted to play tough over Terry, now look feeble. Just once it would be nice if they thought this stuff through.
How much longer do we have to put up with the BBC football expert
Garth Crooks At the weekend, Crooks predicted England manager Roy
Hodgson would soon be taking an interest in West Bromwich Albion’s
attacking midfield player James Morrison. Indeed he might, were it not
for the fact that Morrison has already played 23 times for Scotland,
making his debut more than four years ago.
This means Crooks has failed to pay attention to all of those games,
plus the controversy surrounding Morrison’s switch in the first place –
he had previously represented England at every level.
Pundits make mistakes, but Crooks, who earlier this year announced
Brazil’s Olympic team were using a 4-2-1-3-1 formation, and said he had
not heard of Christian Benteke, a 7m signing for Aston Villa who had
played six times for Belgium, goes to that well more than most. And
never forget, you are subsidising his expertise.
It wouldn’t happen at Sky – but even if it did, that’s not your money going down the tubes.
Wonga, a political football
Much outrage about Wonga's proposed sponsorship of Newcastle United, not least from season ticket holder and Labour MP Ian Lavery who says he will not set foot in St James’ Park until the name is off the shirts.
Money where your mouth is: Wonga have announced a deal to join up with Newcastle
Wonga is a short-term, pay day loan
company with an APR of up to 4,214 per cent. The acceptable face of loan
sharking, in other words.
Yet, once again, politicians want
sport to take a lead they are incapable of themselves. Remember when
England’s cricketers were under pressure to boycott Zimbabwe, yet the
government was happy for British industry to remain Robert Mugabe’s
second biggest trading partner
If Wonga’s business is morally
bankrupt it is up to politicians to pressure the government to
legislate, rather than wait for ethical guidance from Mike Ashley.
The price is right
When Arsenal played Chelsea recently there was great controversy over the cheapest admission price: 62.
On these occasions it is traditional to make reference to the wonderful system in Spain where fans are club members — socios — and are treated with reverence.
So, what was the cheapest ticket at Barcelona’s match with Real Madrid on Sunday 75. And for non-members 236.50. And you may feel it would be worth every penny.
Even so, not doing the fans any favours, are they
Don’t turn a blind eye to violence
Reacting to UEFA’s retrospective ban on Eduardo of Arsenal for diving in September 2009, what manager said this
‘The biggest mistake is not coming out at the start of the season and laying the ground, so that everybody understands what is going to happen if people dive. To do it part of the way through the season is ridiculous.’
Step forward, Tony Pulis, manager of Stoke City, who at the weekend called for retrospective action to be taken against Luis Suarez for diving.
So let’s just say there is a degree of self-interest in this. Pulis now wants Suarez banned, retrospectively, having previously opposed such a move. Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool, defends his player, although it is quite plain that he dived.
Rough ride: Luis Suarez bore the brunt of criticism this past weekend despite being stamped on
Pulis, meanwhile, is less forthcoming
on the subject of Robert Huth, who appeared to stamp on Suarez’s chest
when he could have easily avoided contact. If retrospective action was
permitted, it should not stop with Suarez in the dock.
Why do we have such a problem with
diving yet are relaxed about violent play Suarez’s actions were
reprehensible but no more than those of Huth, or Robin van Persie, who
treated Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle United to a taste of his forearm
during Manchester United’s match at St James’ Park.
Ultimately, Suarez does get punished
for diving because blatant penalty offences against him are being waved
away; indeed at the weekend it is quite possible that Marc Wilson of
Stoke caught his trailing leg and his belated and preposterous fall was
only a desperate attempt to get this noticed.
Referees seem to have shorter memories of violence, however, with repeat offenders often ignored.
That does not appear to trouble Pulis, or many in football, as much; but it should.
AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT
You can spot them a mile off. When Imraan Ladak’s consortium took charge of Kettering Town in 2005, his first move was to appoint Paul Gascoigne as caretaker manager. That lasted 39 days.
Limited success and 13 managerial changes later, including three caretakers, Kettering are in dire straits.
The club failed to pay its wages last November and in December Ladak was banned from all football duties by the FA after ignoring a disciplinary fine and costs.
He remained owner but was replaced as chairman by George Rolls, who announced debts of 1.2million in May.
Following relegation from the Conference, a Company Voluntary Agreement involving demotion to the Southern League was accepted, at which point Rolls was suspended from football for five years for breach of FA betting rules while on the board at Cambridge United. Ladak is back in charge.
Town the pan: Kettering have slumped to an all-time low and Imraan Ladak is now banned from football
On October 2, Kettering attracted a
crowd of 34 for a Northants Hillier Senior Cup game against Peterborough
Northern Star and at the weekend lost 7-0 to Bashley, fielding only 10
players. A reserve goalkeeper, Ben Gathercole, was supposed to play
outfield but declined to attend as he is owed money by the club.
Many team-mates are similarly out of pocket and disenchanted and caretaker manager Alan Doyle left in tears.
He says he was given his role via text
message and has had one conversation with Ladak, six weeks ago. The
latest development at Nene Park – former home of Rushden and Diamonds,
another extinct Northamptonshire club – is that the electricity has been
cut off and the club could not name a squad for last night’s game at
It is said all great journeys begin
with a single step. The day Ladak appointed the damaged Gascoigne in a
blaze of publicity it was plain the sort of owner he was going to be. It
has taken seven years but he has got there in the end.
Removing the issue
It does not matter whether David Collier, the ECB chief executive, is correct in his statement that the South Africans were trying to wind up Kevin Pietersen this summer. The fact remains that if England were not so keen to stuff their team with South Africans, this vulnerability would not exist.
Gay torchbearer It doesn't matter
Rupert Everett, the actor, wondered why the sexuality of Olympic torch bearers was not discussed during the relay around the British Isles.
‘It went on a long time,’ he said, ‘but they never announced, “This is an openly homosexual person”. Sport and showbiz are still very homophobic and it’s strange that no-one has noticed.’
Carrying the torch: The sexual orientation of any of the Olympic torch bearers was irrelevant
Yet it would be even stranger if we
brought sexuality into everything a person did. The public face of the
games was Clare Balding, who also carried the torch in Newbury. Is her
sexuality germane to either role No. Was she accepted for who she is,
without prejudice Yes.
What should the BBC do ‘And now we rejoin events at the London Aquatic Centre with noted lesbian Clare Balding…’
‘I’m here in Newbury with Clare Balding who has just carried the Olympic torch and prefers girls.’
When the St George’s Park facility
opened, Hope Powell was there, not as a lesbian, but as a
football coach. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it, Gay Pride
marchers would shout. So everyone got used to it. And now it scarcely
matters. So why the fuss
It's just not rugby
It is the inclusion of Ashton Gate that is the giveaway. Bristol City’s ground, capacity 21,800. If the RFU had rejected Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road home as a 2015 World Cup venue because its 24,000 capacity was too small, it would make sense.
Game of two halves: Leicester City's King Power Stadium has been proposed as a Rugby World Cup venue
Yet Ashton Gate is smaller, as is
Kingsholm in Gloucester (the only selected stadium used exclusively for
rugby) and stadium:mk in Milton Keynes (where no doubt a rugby fever is
just waiting to happen). The King Power Stadium, home to Leicester City
Football Club, which is included, is not much bigger either, at just
Clearly, the need to shift 2.9
million tickets from 48 matches means some football venues must be used.
Wembley, Old Trafford and St James’ Park all hold in excess of 50,000.
Yet, as much as possible, the Rugby
World Cup should take place where rugby feels loved. We cannot vouch for
the grounds, but the sport itself is certainly getting sold out.