Amidst a time of yet more crisis for the English national football team Dan Shoesmith hurls the crammed suggestions box into the nearest bin and goes left-field.
And so it has come to pass that England, brimming with confidence in a squad full of young and exciting talent, have once again conspired to embarrass themselves at a major tournament. Their festering shitwreck of a performance against Iceland leaves the kind of bitter taste usually reserved for Benylin, and Uncle Roy has gamely fallen on his sword, playing the innocent old geezer who didn’t like being asked to repeat himself. Yes, England have fallen to the might of Iceland (their population is akin to that of a well-known Midlands city, don’cha know) and have taken their usual dead-weight cannonball off the high dive of international tournament play. With the kind of insipid kickabout-down-the-park effort they showed two nights ago, the inquest has already begun in earnest. Who will replace Roy? Is the English game rotten to the core? Where are all the coaches? Who the fuck is Jack Wilshere again? Well, I’m one for thinking outside the box at the best of times, and at a time when the suggestions are ranging from Eddie Howe to dropping Rooney via scrapping the whole thing and starting again, I’ve come up with a few ideas that the FA probably (hopefully, since I’m something of a madman) haven’t even considered. Let’s not fuck about, shall we?
England’s players are perceived as money-grubbing mercenaries, more interested in their role in the Premier League cash machine than in any national pride.
THE OUTLANDISH SOLUTION
Render all English Premier League players over the age of 21 ineligible for the national team.
You heard. They don’t give a toss anyway, why even allow them the privilege of being considered for our beloved England? There’s a whole crop of youngsters coming through who’d give their back teeth to be in the England reckoning, and an even bigger army of Championship players who’d run all day and not dink yet another nothing cross into the area when there’s no-one there to actually win it. If there’s one thing lower-league players understand better than their celebrated Premier League counterparts, it is graft. Work your arse off, do the job you’re given for 90+ minutes and nobody can criticise you once it’s all said and done. Plus, you’ll note that this also gives more scope for the selection of players based outside England – Kenny Pavey and Bradley Wright-Phillips can salivate, and top foreign teams can enjoy the prospect of great English players finally being affordable to someone other than Scrooge McFuckingDuck.
On the other hand, the Championship lacks a lot in terms of quality. You wouldn’t expect Sheffield Wednesday’s left winger to successfully turn Matteo Darmian inside out, and woe betide you if a keeper from Burton Albion comes flying off his line to flap at air just in front of Robert Lewandowski. Plus, any sort of strategy that puts Joey Barton a step closer to the England setup is probably worth sticking a pin in for now.
The England squad isn’t picked on merit anymore, too many bench warmers from ‘big clubs’ are getting the nod over promising players from smaller teams.
THE OUTLANDISH SOLUTION
At least 12 different clubs must be represented in every England squad.
I’m a West Ham supporter, so I know a bit about this. Carroll, Cresswell, Noble and Antonio did enough this season to get at least a look from Hodgson in his numerous friendlies. The same goes for players like Danny Drinkwater (cruelly overlooked for the Euros in favour of Jack Injuredshire), Jermain Defoe (getting on a bit but outscored Daniel Sturridge this season) and James Ward-Prowse (insert pithy comment about Fabian Delph), and countless other players down the years. Why not share it about a bit? It’s the ENGLAND team, not the Man Utd/Spurs/Liverpool team. And who knows? Maybe the little money-grubbing bastards would give a second thought to staying with their clubs rather than accepting the big-money contracts at the so-called Big However-Many-It-Is-Now if they knew they’d still get a look-in at international level. I mean of course, it blows the whole idea of England as a meritocracy out of the water, and yeah it’d probably result in some lazy selections designed to make up the numbers rather than play a significant role, but it’s got to be better than the virtual part-timers we’ve got now, right?
Coaching in England is appalling – there are too few coaches paying too much money to learn, and those that do don’t get their chance at the top level
THE OUTLANDISH SOLUTION
Make it free.
Three representatives from the FA just fainted. Why is it prohibitively expensive to get your badges in this country? Are they printed on gold leaf? Are they airlifted to you by the Royal Marines? Do they come with Nectar points? Only the FA would have the temerity to jack up coaching costs and then moan about how few people are applying for the courses. If they’re that worried, they can try demanding a subsidy from the Premier League clubs, but I think we all know how that would turn out. At some point the FA is just going to have to absorb the costs; that is unless they want the England team’s quite unprecedented descent to end once their world ranking is in three digits. But say by some miracle the Premier League or the clubs therein decide to do the right thing and agree to subsidise the training of coaches. Watch then as they cherry pick the very best ones and leave the dross for everyone else, all the while talking about how the FA fall for this shit every time and lighting a Cuban cigar with the deed to St George’s Park.
England’s tactics and style of play don’t represent the fast-paced attacking game we see every week in the Premier League. The Italians have their catenaccio, the Spanish are the kings of tiki-taka, the Germans are ruthlessly efficient. Why can’t we do that?
THE OUTLANDISH SOLUTION
Give the England job to the duo of Ryan Giggs and Gareth Southgate
Let’s start with a con this time; that dugout isn’t exactly brimming with personality. But come on, who in the world is better placed to help a team play the Premier League way than Ryan Giggs, a player so synonymous with the league that Jose Mourinho has had to bin him off lest he be considered a threat. Southgate is doing great things with the U21s at the moment, so he’s surely earned the opportunity to apply his methods on a bigger scale. They both lack a bit of managerial experience; Southgate did some time with Boro but ultimately they’re not exactly Dario Gradi. But then, neither was the late Gary Speed and he worked some minor miracles with the squad he had at his disposal. Purists will scream bloody murder that a Welshman might be given the reins, but ultimately the FA have already promised the best man for the job, not the best Englishman. Why not go with a pair that has an intriguing combination of experience within the England setup and unrivalled Premier League knowledge? Gareth has some TV experience too, which will doubtless help Giggsy since Sir Alex made sure he didn’t even know what a post-match interview was until he was in his thirties. Give ‘em a crack at it, they literally cannot be any worse than what preceded them.
So then, there’s four utterly deranged yet oddly sensible ideas to get your head around. Obviously the FA isn’t going to consider a single one, and they’re probably right to do so. But I’d wager that if they give the job to Pardew you’ll not think any of these options was actually that bad. This England team has been an outlandish failure, maybe it’s time for an outlandish solution?