Manchester United's Paul Scholes And The Cowardice Of English Footballers

The ex-Manchester United star and England ladies manager have both had a pop, but is shooting from the hip really the way to solve the problems with English football?
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The ex-Manchester United star and England ladies manager have both had a pop, but is shooting from the hip really the way to solve the problems with English football?

Manchester United's Paul Scholes And The Cowardice Of English Footballers

The ex-Manchester United star and England ladies manager Hope Powell have both had a pop, but is shooting from the hip really the way to solve the problems with English football?

Selfish and cowardly: just two of the criticisms thrown at England players of both genders over the weekend. While Paul Scholes took unnamed former international team-mates to task for hitting 80-yard passes in a bid to “get themselves noticed”, England’s women’s coach Hope Powell accused some members of her squad of “cowardice” for failing to step forward and take a penalty in Saturday’s World Cup shootout defeat to France.

Whatever the motives behind the outbursts – and his detractors have suggested Scholes is a fine one to talk about selfishness having successfully extended his club career by ending his international one, while Powell’s words have since been rebutted by some of her players – their comments raise further questions about the capacity of England teams to challenge for honours.

Coming from a player not known for his outspoken opinions, Scholes’ views amount to a scathing indictment of the priorities of modern-day players employed by the Premier League’s also-rans, who, to his mind, view international football as not so much an opportunity to represent their country as a chance to advertise their wares to bigger and richer clubs. In illustrating his point, Scholes singled out “players at clubs like your Aston Villas”, who “use England as a way to get to a top club”.

While his criticism might strike a chord with some England fans, especially in the wake of last year’s dismal showing in South Africa, Scholes is at fault in belittling a proud club that has provided more England internationals over the years than any other in the land. Currently sizing up the possibility of a move into coaching, the Ginger Prince can presumably be relied upon to select only players from the Big Five should he ever land the England job.

Shooting from the hip and scoring points are not going to solve it, practices as wasteful and as pointless as the spraying of those Hollywood passes Scholes was bemoaning

Secondly, might it not be the case that these players’ supposed propensity for hitting big passes is merely a desire to show they belong on the international stage or even to ape senior figures such as David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, neither of whom have earned a reputation for keeping it simple? Surely a player of Scholes’ standing in the game, a player lauded by some of Europe’s finest passers and technicians, could have used his influence to modify the wayward habits of his less gifted team-mates.

Powell also has some questions to answer following her broadside, which was delivered after she had initially praised her team for their gallantry in losing to the French. While centre-half Casey Stoney also expressed her disappointment that more senior players did not volunteer to take spot-kicks, Powell’s methods should be brought into question, particularly as her squad had been practising penalties religiously in training. She must have had a fair idea, then, who the five best penalty-takers were among the 11 players left on the pitch, all of whom would presumably have taken their kicks had they been nominated.

Perhaps they were scared of failing, scared of coming in for the same Twitter abuse directed at striker Eniola Aluko earlier in the competition. Whatever the case may be, Powell left the decision in her knackered players’ hands when she should have taken it for them. That, after all, is what she has been paid to do.

Both she and Scholes may have valid points to make, and it’s clear that England’s international ills are about more than a failure to recycle possession and an inability to convert penalties. Perhaps there is an attitude problem, a self-interest that needs to be addressed. Yet even if there is, shooting from the hip and scoring points are not going to solve it, practices as wasteful and as pointless as the spraying of those Hollywood passes Scholes was bemoaning.

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