Nice, isn't it? NOW GET RUNNING
An important moment in English football came and went this week. A day when the FA finally attempted to throw off the shackles of their abbreviation connoting ‘Fucking Arseholes’ and pushed forward into a brave new dawn of ‘Fingers out of Arses’. A day when incessant, ceaseless ranting on these fair pages – here, here, here, here and here… you get the picture – finally appears to have come to fruition. A day when the national game’s powers that be finally believe they have an answer to the age-old, 10-word conundrum, comprising in no particular order the words:
‘What, the, Fuck, happened, to, root, and, branch, review, the?’.
YOU’RE WELCOME, ENGLAND.
The long-awaited National Football Centre finally opened for business of sorts this week, housing the English under 17s and their Italian counterparts ahead of a four-team tournament. And never was the need for such a statement greater than today, when it was reported that the ageing, lumbering forebears of the exciting, technically gifted players the FA is now aiming to produce have again been included in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Jermain Defoe. Brilliant. You really couldn’t get more ‘new look’ if you actually went into the shop ‘New Look’ and bought some new clothes. Where the fuck is Gareth Barry? This is an England squad that’s had more new looks than Noel Gallagher, in that it hasn’t fucking had any at all in about 15 years and has done precisely sod all of note since the late ‘90s, bar some recent infighting.
Yes, World Cup qualifiers are important. And yes, a team of 20-year olds would be stupid. But the games are away in Moldova and at home to Ukraine. Oh actually, this England squad did a wonderful job of dealing with Ukraine in the Euros, so fair enough.
OH WAIT. IT WAS SHIT.
It’s been said many times (by us, admittedly), that you can tart an onion up in gaudy jewellery and fancy hats all you like, but you can’t turn it in to an apple. If it’s an apple you want, then at some point, you’re just going to have to get hold of a fucking apple, even if it means spending a bit of time out of the elite echelons of international grocers. They’re not scared of you anyway, so why not?
The National Football Centre must be an apple though, mustn’t it?* Quotes from Bobby Robson and images of past players adorn the walls. The facilities are cutting edge, state-of-the-art altitude chambers, sports science labs and gyms. There are 12 full-size pitches, a replica of the Wembley playing surface (presumably just another full-size pitch) and indoor facilities. Joe Peacock, the under 17s coach, says it is “conducive to learning and education” for both players and coaches.
The story, though, doesn’t end here. Not by a long chalk, because if it did, we’d have to pack in blogging and actually do some work in our real, paid jobs. That’s us. Never satisfied. Well done for finishing a building project about four years late, FA. We’d weenie like to see you do something with the idea now.
The focus on the players at the NFC is largely irrelevant, whereas what’s really important is the education of coaches and the way that the game filters down the age groups so that best practice, whatever the FA in their wisdom decides it should be, is being exercised religiously before young players are picked up by Premier League clubs and unwittingly entered into strength and conditioning contests to determine which of them can run around the longest and kick the ball the hardest.
A national football complex with 12 full-size pitches doesn’t exactly smack of a commitment to technique, but if this to be a home to the England squads in which habits – good or bad – are already entrenched (though this makes the Bobby Robson quote ‘Practice makes Permanent’ somewhat superfluous), then so be it.
With its launch, the FA has doubtless signalled its intent or bought itself some more time, depending on your level of cynicism. Whether or not it’s the huge step in the right direction it’s made out to be – having some nice shiny buildings and pristine pitches will no doubt be great for the players that use them, having come straight from clubs with nice shiny buildings and pristine pitches – the FA needs to follow it up with development work a touch more attentive than it has been in the past. They’ve built the most expensive fruit bowl in English football, but need to make sure they fill it with apples.
* Confusingly, the BBC referred to it as a ‘monument to the future of football’. Which, as a monument is meant to commemorate stuff, seems a bit of a basic fuck up. The Eiffel Tower is a monument. The National Football Centre is not. Maybe in later years, it’ll be a monument, though hopefully not one to wasting fuckloads of money on showing off.