England v Spain: The Three Lions Lack A Football Identity

Whether they win or they lose, the Spanish have their Tiki Taka so why doesn't England have a footballing philosophy?
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England play Spain this week and however the game goes, within the ebbs and flows of the 90 minutes, whatever the outcome, the key point is that the Spanish will continue to play the same way, sticking to their principles, unflustered, with their own method.

The Spanish will continue to play the same way, sticking to their principles, unflustered, with their own method. This is the absolute key to their success and something we don't have.

It's a great feeling for a player and a team, knowing what they are doing, why they are doing it and how to do it. This gives a lot of reassurance. As players if they all share the same philosophy, know WHY that philosophy is there, HOW is best to implement it etc it gives a great feeling of comfort as you have something 'tangible' to hold on to.

On of my managers used to say "control the ball and give it to someone in the same colour shirt." This sounds ridiculously simple but really when you look at it, that is at the absolute basis of football and as players we all knew why we were doing this and if we did it consistently enough then we would stay in the team. Of course there a million aspects to football but a simple instruction like this gives an example of how a shared shared vision can help a team and its players.

Whatever happens in the game on Saturday Spain will NOT change the way they are playing because they believe in it, this gives us something to think about, not the players, not the manager, but about our football set-up in general.

On Saturday we will 'just' play football, this sounds daft but I mean aside from the obvious tactical plan, what to do in possession, out of possession, the system, the compactness of the system etc etc, it's not underpinned by a definite vision of how we want to see the game played.

So when things go a little wrong or the game gets 'sticky' the players don't have that 'cushion' to fall back on unlike the Spanish.
There two scenarios we will probably see after Saturday's game.

We win and all hell breaks loose, we're going to win the Euros, the World Cup and Strictly Come Dancing, this is a team to beat the world etc etc, all the usual over hype based on one game.

Lose the game, we need to look at everything we do, why can't we produce these players? These teams? We need a root and branch review (love that one) our players not good enough etc. Why can't we play like the French, Spanish, Germans, Dutch? Same old story, delete as appropriate to whoever has just beaten us. All of this will continue until the next round of Premier League games or Simon Cowell announces that he and Cheryl are in fact the same person which is why they can't appear together, our attention is distracted and we move on to something else.

In other words we will forget all about it until the next International game.We are well on our way to building a new national centre at Burton so all our worries should be over.

You can build 45,000 pitches with the best facilities, goalposts that glow in the dark and changing rooms arranged in Feng-shui friendly fashion but if you have no real, clear vision of what you want to do with your game then it doesn't matter.

Forget systems for now as that's irrelevant. The key questions are:

HOW do we want to play the game?

When we decide that, WHY do we want to play like that?

WHAT is needed to make it happen?

WHEN are we going to do it?

WHO is going to make it happen?

It's no good jumping from one thing to the next each time we are taught a football 'lesson' .

Who is powerful enough in English football to say "I am the Boss and this is what we are going to do. If you don't like it, tough."

"Let's play like the French," when after years of failure they put a 10-15 year plan and place and finally succeed.

"Let's play like the Germans," who plan years and years in advance and the whole country buys into a method of football that suits the nation and the characteristics of its footballers.

"I know, let's play like Barcelona." This is based on something that comes from the Dutch school of football, has been practised, honed, failed a few times but in the main adhered to over about a 30 year period and now that it seems to be footballing perfection, everybody wants to do it without thinking will it suit them. "So we can't do that then?" Be difficult.

"What about Spain? They were rubbish a few years ago, even worse than us, surely we can play like them?" Pretty much same story as Barcelona, long term plan, patience, belief etc.

"Oh, what are we going to do then? "

What about having your OWN 'vision' of football? Something that suits you, the country and it's players? "That's a good idea but hang on a minute, what IS our vision of football?

Now we are getting somewhere, now we are thinking about it.

What about getting the top, top minds in the game, sitting around the table, literally sitting around the table and thrashing out a way forward for the national team.

ACTUALLY doing it, ACTUALLY carrying it through?

Patience is the key word, if you believe in something you will carry it through. You may tweak it, change it along the way but the core belief remains the same.

A plan, a strategy, to call our own, it wouldn't be instant, it wouldn't be easy but at least it's ours,  you'll have to ignore the media when there is no instant results,  be ruthlessly bloody-minded, fists on the table! This is what we believe, this is what we want and this is how we are going to do it.

Writing this I foresee several problems:

1. We don't, as a nation, really know what we want. If you don't really know what you want how can to make a plan?

2. Who will do it? Who is powerful enough in English football to say "I am the Boss and this is what we are going to do. If you don't like it, tough."

A figurehead, with real executive power with the knowledge, record and the balls to actually implement it mmmmm? Let's think.

I see only two names big enough, tough enough and so bloody minded they wouldn't mind breaking a few eggs.

One is Scottish, the most successful manager of all time who, when he finishes at his current club in about 30 years time (!) may or may not fancy restructuring the organisation of the country that has given him, albeit the old enemy, such success.

The other is Dutch, recently left one of Europe's biggest clubs, a true football visionary, tough, stubborn, confidence bordering on arrogance (it's in a dutchmans contract) a man just waiting for a job that fits his status. Would reorganising the football of the country that took it to the world be something for him?

Something to think about?

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