August 9th, 2010
05:23 PM ET

Premier League feast equals international famine

Fabio Capello needs more help from national football chiefs to produce a good England team.
Fabio Capello needs more help from national football chiefs to produce a good England team.

Atlanta (CNN) - As the road to the 2012 European Championship begins with a ludicrously timed set of international friendlies that come too soon after the World Cup and too close to the start of the European club season, English football is in a quandary.

The English Premier League prides itself, rightly or wrongly, on being the best league in the world, yet the abject failure of the England team at the World Cup made it the laughing stock of the tournament. And it wasn’t just because Fabio Capello’s men underachieved, it was because so much of England’s failure was self-inflicted.

At club level, the physicality of the English game is unmatched. And, at the pace and intensity it demands, you just can’t play football for 11 months of the year and expect to stay fresh. But still, that’s what the England players are required to do, and will continue to do until the powerbrokers in the English game put aside their egos and mercenary mentalities.

Clubs can help by resisting the lure of the lucre and bringing an end to their increasingly expansive pre-season tour schedules. Manchester United, for example, played seven matches in 22 days in five different countries by way of preparation for their Premier League opener. Add to that the pointless midweek internationals and that’s an awful lot of low-stakes football being played even before the start of the “long hard season” so often blamed for the England team's failure.

And it's not just an English problem.  I mean, ask yourself, aside from Argentina's Carlos Tevez and Cesc Fabregas, who played a bit-part role for Spain, how many other English-based players shone in South Africa? Answer – none!

Personally, I share the view of the Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, who bemoaned the lack of time for pre-season training. After all, in terms of match play, how much of a tune-up do you need when you’ve hardly had to time to wind down?

The Premier League could do its part by following the example of countries like Germany, Spain and Italy by introducing a winter break. Or, at the very least, putting an end to the tradition of intensifying the English league program over the Christmas holidays. Presumably, the aim is to cash-in on the season of excess by playing as many games as possible over the festive period. But that idea was born during leaner times for English football.

According to the Annual Review of Football Finance from the Sport Business Group at Deloitte, Premier League clubs are defying the global recession with revenues tipped to rise to £2.2 billion in the upcoming season. Therefore, stuffing the schedule like a Christmas turkey is unnecessary. What’s more, football is ubiquitous in the 21st century so there’s no need to binge. Surely a couple of weeks off could have a rejuvenating effect on players and fans alike, with benefits at club and international level.

Finally, the powers that be in English football have to become more united and less self-serving. At present, the English game is governed by the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association. That’s three sets of suits, each with a vested interest, only one of which – the F.A. – has the success of the national team as a top priority.

That would be fine if the nation was ambivalent about international success, but the English are not. National pride comes not from the trophies lifted by the cosmopolitan ranks of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal, but from England doing well.

Yet the players and manager are expected to achieve at international level within a system that’s counterproductive to their success. It’s a club football feast and an international famine, and until they set the balance right or abandon all pretence of England being a title contender the sniggers will continue.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. kasonde

    the problem with england is not that they dont have a winter break but the have to much pride considering they havent done much in international football. Harry Rednapp before the world called Brazil overated, how can a guy like him even dare compare england to brazi?shocking

    two the media should stop overhypying england, it was an ok team untill 1998, they failed to even qualify for european cup in 2008 and somehow they expect them to win the world cup? no way they should stop saying the epl is the best league in the world or blame foriegners for englands demise.

    your argument that they didnt have time, how come players who played in the champions league final i;e robben, wesly etc still managed to do very well at the world cup despite them haveing little rest and some of them comming from injuries.

    lastly they do not produce quality players both young and old like spain,france, germany, brazil, argentina, netherlands etc. they lost 3-1 to spain at the under 19 championship and you wanna blame them long season no way most of the kids dont play there anyway. they should stop bragging that they are good at football and start working hard than blaming the league or the coaches for thier incompetence.

    August 10, 2010 at 8:53 am | Reply
  2. Roland

    Club football is where the players earn there living as such it will always be more important to the players then international games.
    I also don't quite agree that people were laughing at England or that it did such a bad job at the world cup.
    Look at France and Italy who didn't make it past the first round.
    England went out against Germany who came third in the tournament and partly due to a blind linesmen who didn't see the ball cross the goal line.
    You have a different game if that had went in.
    There are different mentalities in countries. In some countries like Spain there is less pure running sessions then for example in Germany.And so each country has a particular culture.
    I think the problem with England was they were playing a system the players didn't enjoy playing. I also think that the youth system in England has problems.
    Many suggest it is because there is too much emphasis on physical ability instead of technical ability.
    A short player that can pass and dribble is quickly buried into the ground by stronger players and this is in part encouraged because of a lack of strict rules. The English game has always been more tolerant to rough tackles and the woman and children first style of play.
    And then you also have problems of players not being allowed to learn and possible fail when they arrive at big clubs.
    It is quite difficult to build a player up and give him the confidence and trust and guidance he needs to succeed and in the Premier League the pressure and competition is enormous.
    You cannot change the football culture in a year or two years that takes a long time.
    England has performed well in international games even while playing more games then in other leagues.
    Also many international players play in the premier league who still perform in these tournaments.
    If there is no chemistry or the players just don't enjoy themselves or see that there is perspective in the team then it will always be difficult.
    Rooney is still too young to be the leader of England even though he was expected to play that role.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  3. loua joseph

    chelsea sera la meilleur equipe de l'angleterre parceque didier drogba est un grand joueur un talentueux donc pour ne pas que le nouveau coach fassent des erreurs il doit faire didier drogba titulaire dans son coaching

    August 13, 2010 at 12:10 am | Reply
  4. Mike

    I used to buy the whole winter break, English players tired thing.

    But England-based players like Dirk Kuyt, Javier Mascherano had very productive World Cups and didn't show any sign of fatigue. It's time England stopped hiding behind anything they can and started focusing on poor attitude and lack of technical ability.

    August 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Reply

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