Is lack of intelligence the cause of England's woes?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

As England were sent crashing out of the World Cup, I am sure that everyone was queuing up to offer their reasons for England's demise. Unusually, though perhaps there didn't seem to be an obvious reason this time for England's failure to qualify for the Group Stages.  The team played ok but were not brilliant, the coach seemed to have prepared them well and we cannot even blame England's ludicrous record from penalties this time.

The usual excuses seem to have all run their course and since 1966 it seems like England have tried nearly everything without ever really looking like making a major imprint on the world stage.  We have tried English managers, foreign managers, youth, experience, pragmatism and also attacking football. We failed in hot countries, in cold countries, we have taken teams to isolated camps, we have taken teams to integrated areas.  So is there some underlying reason for England's failure that we are all missing out on? Is there a reason that we are just perhaps not very good?

If someone could answer that million pound question then I am sure it would have been done already and England would be World Cup Winners but personally think that one reason for England's failure to perform in big tournaments could be what I would deem to be lack of intelligence.

Footballers need many qualities and abilities for their profession.  Physical strength, skill, speed and perhaps an often ignored attribute...intelligence.  In all forms of life, intelligent people are generally good decision makers, find solutions and more often than not, remain calm under pressure.  As I sit watching the Germans play without a recognised striker and create chance after chance I can only be impressed with their ability and awareness on how to play their football.  Could anyone else imagine England playing tournament football without a recognised striker?

How often have we seen in major tournaments England's perceived lack of game management, naivety and in general, their lack of awareness on how to win games. How often have we bemoaned their lack of ability to maintain possession or to close a game out? Against Italy and Uruguay the team had done well to pull level but then did not seem to know how to get the result required.

I think my intelligence argument has been heightened by looking at some of the punditry on the TV this year. Maybe I am just a sucker for a foreign accent but don't all the foreign footballers just sound more intelligent than England's? A certain Carlton Palmer was blaming Hodgson, saying he hadn't taken sufficient risks, despite the fact he played with 4 attacking players in each game. This sort of crude analysis makes you wonder what on earth he had been watching.

On the other hand,  the likes of Seedorf, Henry, and Vieira all seem to speak with a certain wit, widsom and smartness which embarrasses the likes of Savage, Shearer and such like.  In fact, I would go as so far as to say that even their English is better than the British nationals themselves.

Could anyone else imagine a Rio Ferdinand, a John Terry, a David Beckham or a Wayne Rooney going onto Brazilian TV and getting involved with the banter with Fernanda Lima. I don't think so.   These guys can barely put three words together in their own language, let alone a foreign tongue.

Associated with this is the lack of English players going abroad to other countries. You can probably count on one hand the amount of English players who have gone abroad in the last thirty years. The challenge of integrating into another culture, learning a new language, embracing different styles and opinions is a challenge which has not been befitting of many of the current crop of English players and dare I say requires a certain level of intelligence and know how.

Whilst I know England as a whole struggles with languages, how wonderful is it to see other players from foreign countries quickly assimilating into other cultures and fitting into their lifestyle.  Patrick Vieria, Gus Poyet, and Gianluca Vialli for example,  when the first came to England could not speak a word of English but within a couple of years were speaking extremely fluently.  And what do we get from English footballers in their post match interviews? "At the end of the day it was a tough game....etc etc."  Hardly the most inspiring of words.

So how does this lack of intelligence and awareness possibly translate to the pitch?  I think game management would be the main area, as it appears that English players only appear to know how to play the English way.  Often it is derided.."Why can't we play like Spain, Germany etc?". But this is not something you can just switch on and off, it's something which can only be learnt by playing with these players in different countries, gaining a deeper understanding of what makes them tick, how they play their football.

I'm not suggest that all footballers must be contestants on Countdown every week but perhaps a bit more footballing "education" (that's a nine letter word btw) would not go amiss and may help England arise out of their irritable slumber.


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