The conjecture that England aren’t currently good enough to win a major championship is primarily borne out of Spain’s recent emergence as the new purveyors of Total Football. Technical, quick, sharp and clinical, Spain’s approach in fact the ‘Spanish approach’, to football has reborn and renergised the notion that football can be a beautiful game. My observations in this assessment, in short, aren’t based on any startling statistics that Spain have devoted more money and resources into coaching and talent identification and development. In fact I would hazard a guess that in England far more money is spent on attempting to develop the English national team than it is in Spain.
The beautiful game is synonymous of countries with flair. Brazil, Holland, and now Spain have all ticked the numerous boxes to be considered a great footballing side. In the last two decades Italy with players like Baggio, Del Piero and Totti could be considered to enter that bracket. So too could France; Zidane Henry and Ribery to name a few examples. Both these sides have won world cups and whilst neither would be considered beautiful in their approach nor could be classed in Spain’s current fluent bracket, their robust style was intertwined with players who a) performed on the big stage and b) could create a moment of genius. Maradonna and the Argentinian sides of ’86 and ’90 fall into this catergory too. The Dutch team that were a Robben one on one away from glory had an abundance of Van der playmakers and the German side that ripped England apart, did so with guile and Ozil orchestarated class. Even England’s bogey side Portugal had Ronaldo and Deco et al.
The point is there is more than one way to skin the Jules Rimet cat however a player or players of creative flair and even genius are often the heartbeat of their success. Think back through England’s catalogue of misery…The names that spring to mind are obviously Gazza probably Beardsley and maybe more recently Rooney. My contention is that the absence of personnel coupled with an overinflated opinion of the impact the English players have in their club’s successes is a major contributing factor to our lack of even a sniff of major honours since 1990 and beyond. Put in simple terms; this season Juan Mata and David Silva have been two of the most impressive players in the premiership, certainly the most technically gifted, and they can’t get in their national teams, such is the strength in quality of Spain’s first eleven, how are England placed to combat this. My argument is they are at least 10 years too late and counting.
Paul Hayward of the Guradian concurs that Mata and Silva are among the most exciting talents in the premiership, tweeting “Mata, Modric, Silva and Aguero (plus Wilshere) could make this the year of the little wizard – good news for small, skillful English boys. He is right, it is exciting however if parents, teachers and coaches can’t get the self obsessed indulgence of winning out of their psyche we will continue to breed players that can’t cut it technically at the top level. In schools the obsession of some teachers to play a winning style as oppose to a developmental one is an easy trap to fall into. The quick 11 year old who is almost six foot is ideal! Pump the long balls and get him to chase. He scores 5 a game and the school are all conquering, until they turn 15 or 16 when the rest have caught up physically. Curtis is no longer the best player and is let go by the local club because his reliable attributes of strength speed and power are possessed by 90% of the talented youngsters in the academy. Had he focussed more on his technical development in year 7 things may have been different. When I played county football the selection programmes relied upon physical size, length of throw and speed. Everything else seemed inconsequential. Mind you, in a half an hour trial what else can they look for? We hear that in Holland and Spain they play small sided games and the focus isn’t on winning but development. I’m sure this is true and it is the mindset that is key. The mentality of “winning is everything” is not just prevalent it is overpowering in England which causes regression not progression in our nations game.
Parents are worse than teachers and coaches and carry more responsibility in my opinion. Their influence on their offspring is critical in their development both physically and mentally. It is the mental side which is all important; instilling values that will ensure a drive or desire to achieve. Quite frankly the attitude and behaviour of some parents at football matches is infantile at best and an embarrassment to their children. Role models start at home and the it isn’t the responsibility of premiership footballers to be the moral compass of a teenager.
We have to be careful what we wish for as Chelsea showed at Old Trafford on Sunday; a free flowing, technically sound and open style that was great to watch, but yielded a resounding beating against the best side in the country. There has to be a balance and on the weekend when Arsenal again fielded a side with no English players in it, it is my belief that just because our domestic clubs are successful, what good does that do the national team. How influential are the English players in their club’s success? The first picture a lot of people will get is of Steven Gerrard heroically leading Liverpool to many memorable European nights. Gerrard is without doubt a crucial cog in Liverpool’s wheel as Lampard has been for Chelsea. But remember this article focuses on depth; The Silva and Mata paradigm.
Below is a list of statistics (courtesy of www.statbunker.com) that illustrates England’s inability to establish strength in depth into European and ultimately world football. The stats show the amount of players that have played in the Champions league from respective world countries.
2011/12 – England 10th ( 34 behind Brazil)
2010/11 – England 8th (46 behind Brazil)
2006/07 - 7th (49 behind Brazil)
2000/01 – 7th (1 behind Brazil)
In the past 10 seasons England has never been in the top 5 most represented countries in the Champions League. France, Spain, Italy and Brazil are in almost every top 5 and regularly have 40 more players than England competing at Club football’s elite level. It is therefore no surprise that excluding Greece all the major tournaments since 1998 have been won by these 4 nations. 10 years ago Brazil had just one more player involved in the champions league than England. Since then England have only improved on this figure by 3 players (maxing at 43 in 02/03). England have always had big clubs, paid good wages and this may ironically be the reason for a lack of English talent (too many foreigners), however it seems inexcusable that we have plateaued for 10 years whilst the likes of Brazil have doubled the amount of players performing in the Champions League. England, their FA and the Premier League have been lying asleep in their beds of money for too long and it is going to be a long road to redress the balance.
This season Barcelona are again the pacesetters destroying Osasuna 8-0 at the weekend. Manchester United as I have commented on previous posts look set to try and combat them in a more open way this year illustrated by their destruction of Arsenal. Barring Rooney and possibly Young neither side possesses any English attacking threats. Chelsea have Mata, Drogba, Torres, Meireles, Lukaku and Anelka with only Lampard and Sturridge flying the flag for England and Man City have no English influence bar Adam Johnson’s bench warming as Aguero, Dzeko and Silva take top billing. It is in my opinion a crucial time for English clubs and the FA regarding the national team and its longevity. There are lots of youngsters with potential, but regularly they are shipped off on loan and never seen again, never getting a go at the highest level to prove themselves. More Englishman should be brave, like Joe Cole, and take a wage cut to play Champions League football in a different country and I commend Cole for this. He has put his England ambitions first. Josh Mceachran looked a great talent for Chelsea and now he doesn’t make the squad. The list of good English players on loan is too long and clubs should take more responsibility for the national teams development. But then again with only 5 English managers in the premier league why would they!
9-1 shot Qushchi in the hands of Tom Queally cruised home today in the 4.05 at Newmarket. The winner tipped up at best priced 9-1 in the morning was steadily supported and ended up almost halving in price, going off 5-1 favourite. It rounded off a good day at the office for Sports Leviathan after Sea of Heartbreak ran into a place at 16-1 providing a very solid 9 point profit for the day ( £90 off a £10 level stake).
The days most impressive performances came from two horses previously tipped up on Sports Leviathan. Firstly the ever improving Deacon Blues, tipped up at 12-1 to win the Wokingham won very cosily over his first go at the minimum trip. He now goes straight to Ascot for the Qipco Sprint Cup to take on stable mate Society Rock. Both horses love Ascot, particularly Society Rock who is still 12-1 for the Group 1 despite his impressive victory in the Golden Jubilee. A reverse forecast of the the two Fanshawe horses may need to be on the agenda with Dream Ahead making up the combination tricast. The Champions day is a new event and is the most eagerly awaited race meeting of the flat season.
Green Destiny the Sports Leviathan stolwort again turned in a big performance winning the group 3 Arc trial at Newbury. There is no hope of him racing in the Arc but he does have a bright future and has plenty more prizes left in him, even if his price is becoming inhibitive.
My Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe (the arc) preview will be up shortly and despite being unoriginal the selection is confident one in what looks a high class field.
What tomorrow’s horse racing lacks in class it makes up for it in with the realistic chance of several big priced winners. Granted picking the winner in a 27 runner handicap isn’t ‘candy from a baby’ territory but I like the odds on offer about a few horses.
First up is the feature race, the Ayr Gold Cup. Today the Bronze trophy as well as another 22 runner handicap yielded low drawn winners with both horses breaking from stall 3. This may indicate a low draw bias but according to Richard Fahey, who saddles 7 in the Silver cup and 5 in the Gold, there is no draw bias high or low. Fahey stresses the key is not to be drawn in the middle and this seems sensible advice looking at today’s results. It is Fahey’s first string Mayson (drawn 5) that interests me in the gold cup. As a 2 year old he ran in the Group 2 Mill Reef and was clearly highly regarded in the stable. Now at 3 he has had one spin and he ran a cracker in the Great St. Wilfred at Ripon last time out beating many of the horses he re-opposes in this race. The big negative is obviously his age. No 3 year old has won this since Funfair Wane in 2002 and this statistic is represented in his price, however the vibes coming from his jockey Hannagan are too big a pointer to ignore. Hannagan was mightily impressed with his run at Ripon and believes that he is on a ‘class act’ in Mayson who looks set to improve. Hannagan relayed very positive vibes when putting him through his paces earlier in the week and is reported to have said he is in top order and a “completely different horses to the one who ran a blinder in the Great St. Wilfred”. As always luck in running is compulsory for a horse to win this but 20-1 seems a great each way price and I will be cheering home Mayson to do the business.
I have had a smaller bet on Regal Parade who is Drawn 27. He is a course and distance winner and has been running against some high class sprinters this year. He lost out to Deacon Blues and Dream Ahead (both at the top of the sprinting division) earlier this year and came within half a length of Delegator at York. Perhaps more impressive was when he chased home Goldikova earlier this year. Last year he was running in group 1 company and again this year he featured in the July cup. This is a drop in class but again I am interested by the 20/1 tag on his head.
Elsewhere Green Destiny runs again tomorrow but at his short price (9/4) I am looking to take him on with Sea of Heartbreak who I can’t believe is 16/1. He has an entry in a group 2 race at Ascot on Champions day and has some decent form in the book however his recent win hasn’t worked out formwise and this may contribute to his big price. Green Destiny’s York form is very solid but I think Sea of Heartbreak who has ran over distances as far as 12 furlongs may thrive in this 1 mile 3furlong contest on soft ground. The key form guide for me however is his 1/2 length defeat to Timepiece back in June. Timepiece has since gone on to win 1 and place in 2 group one races. This form is impressive and at nearly 6 times Green Destiny’s price I’m keen to hope Sea of Heartbreak can produce his best under the guidance of Richard Hughes.
At Newmarket, course and distance winner Quischi is my tip in the 4.05. His second to Brown Panther (subsequent St Leger 2nd) earlier in the year is impressive. Recently his form over 12 furlongs is also solid and with this field likely to open about 7/1 the field I think 9/1 about Quischi is a smart play, especially as no other horse leaps out as definite winner.
1pt e/w Mayson @ 20/1 Betfair
1pt e/w Regal Parade @ 20/1 Stan James
1pt e/w Sea of Heartbreak @ 16/1 VC bet
1 pt win Quischi @ 9/1 William Hill
Pastoral to be a major Player at Ascot and Kohli to star for India whilst the Premiership takes a break
Today’s action sees So You Think take centre stage. The Australian superstar after losing at Royal Ascot was mightily impressive when wearing down Workforce in the Coral Eclipse. He is 1-3 to win the the Irish Champion stakes and it would be a shock if Snow Fairy was able to turn the tables on this equine warrior. Misty for Me runs in the Matron Stakes at Leaoparsatown and is very popular. The horse tipped up as one to watch on this site when running in the 1000 guineas at the start of the season has made excellent progress and I expect her to make it a coolmore double over in Ireland.
In England my eyes are firmly on looking for horses better priced than 1-3 and 11/10 to have a bet on and my first port of call is Kempton. In the first race Modun runs for Sir Michael Stoute in the Ballymacoll Stud colours. He has been an incredibly consistent performer in big runner handicaps all season. This could be his chance today in the 2.15 at Kempton; Green Destiny notched as soon as he returned to a smaller field from big runner handicaps and I expect Modun to win today at 11/4. Harris Tweed is the main danger, however I expect the drop in distance (last raced over 2 miles) may be a bit on the sharp side against a bang in form Modun.
More value can be found in the London Handicap – the next race on the Kempton card. Chapter and Verse hasn’t won since his victory in this race last year but he looks to be getting back to his best and I expect a bold show at 12/1 . After winning this race last year he has been entered into some hot races including the Suffolk and the Royal Hunt Cup. This drop in class and the fact he is a course, distance and race winner is a real positive.
Pastoral Player is the final selection of the day. He has been heavily backed to reverse the form with Eton Rifles and is currently about a 10/1 shot. He certainly is good each way value on the basis of his Stewards cup run. He is due to wi one of these soon and today could very well be his day. the one I really fancied in the big sprint at Haydock was Deacon Blues and seeing as he has withdrawn I would probably side with either the consistent Society Rock or the fast finishing Bewitched. Bewitched price has shortened all week and although 10/1, it is a gamble and a touch short. Favourite for the Golden Jubilee after some impressive performances his flop is a concern. If back to his best he is twice the price of some of the others but it is an investment in potential rather than proven ability at the top level.
In the cricket today Cornerman’s nap of the day is to back over 4.5 sixes with Ladbrokes @ 8/13 and I like the prospects of Virat Kohli having a big series. He was left out of the test team and has looked hungry to perform since arriving in England. He is 7/1 to be the top Indian series batsmen and 16/1 to be MOM today. He bowled well in the 20/20 on Wednesday and a wicket or two as well as some runs may be enough to scoop this prize.
2 pt win Modun @ 11/4 – Stan James
1 pt e/w Chapter and Verse @ 11/1 – William Hill
2 pt e/w Pastoral Player @ 10/1 – William Hill
.25pt win patent all 3 horses
1pt Virat Kohli Top Indian Series batsmen @ 7/1 – Stan James
1 pt Virat Kohli MOM @ 16/1 – Stan James
3 pts win over 4.5 sixes @ 8/13 – Ladbrokes