Gareth Southgate has named a relatively inexperienced England squad for this year’s World Cup in Russia; one that will not contain the likes of Jack Wilshere or Joe Hart. It’s fair to say, England travel to Russia for the tournament with low expectations. Not qualifying from a group that contains Tunisia and Panama will be seen as a huge disappointment, but the expectancy to win the competition or get to the later knock-out stages is not apparent and even the media are not hyping the national team’s chances this time.
However, it wasn’t always like this, especially during the 2000’s when the national team was made up of the likes of Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand – the so-called ‘golden generation’.
Tournament after tournament, the player’s, widely regarded as some of the best in Europe, if not the world, would offer so much promise, only to fail every time. A combination of bad luck and losing on penalties often cost England their chance – but there was something else that was preventing England from ruling the world, an underlying problem amongst player’s and the FA that was getting in the way of England adding a World Cup or Euro Championship to the success of 1966.
It certainly wasn’t a lack of talent or skill. No, it was a pathetic club rivalry between Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea players that was stopping a country be proud of their national team.
In an interview given recently, Rio Ferdinand admitted that he thought club rivalries had “killed” England’s chances at major tournaments as the player’s put their ego’s ahead of their country. This group of player’s who were helping English clubs dominate European club football couldn’t get beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup or European Championship because they refused to put their country ahead of their club.
In claims that should anger every England fan, not only of that generation, but also today, Ferdinand said that his main focus and that of many of the players was not the pride of wearing the three lions and representing their country and millions of English supporters, but a drive to win trophies with their clubs, which prevented these highly paid players from bonding with players from rival clubs while on international duty.
He said that rivalries between clubs overshadowed things, destroying that England team and that generation. One season Man United would be challenging Liverpool for the league, then another year it would be Chelsea, so Ferdinand refused to walk into the England dressing room and connect with the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry or Joe Cole at Chelsea, or Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher at Liverpool. No doubt behaviour encouraged by Sir Alex Ferguson, who would often do what he could to prevent Man United players from representing their country.
Ferdinand said he wouldn’t form bonds from fear that his club rivals would take something back to their club and use it against Man United. What an insult this is to the fans, management and FA and made them who they were.
Although Ferdinand did show some regret that he hadn’t realised the harm that his actions and those of other players were doing to England at the time, he was so engrossed with winning things for his club that nothing else mattered to him.
Unfortunately, it goes to show the power of the Premier League and the lack of any sort of cohesive relationship between the FA and the clubs of the Premier League. Lessons need to be learnt otherwise and grassroots money and initiatives from the FA will be worthless.