23 November, 2007

Silver Lining

Following Wednesday night’s abject failure, the STT editorial office was turned on its head. Glass was smashed, files were thrown, computers were dropped out of windows. Basically, it was like any regular Sunday morning in that maintenance cupboard the Daily Sport is produced in. Anyway, now that the dust has literally settled, the blood has dried, and we’ve found an undamaged PC to write on, it’s time to look at the positives and try to move forward.

It is clear that we need a serious regime change, both on and off the field. I don’t blame McClaren, I just feel a bit sorry for him because he so obviously only ever brought in as a patsy in the first place. We need a manager who wants to play football (remember that?) and is given the freedom to not only pick the squad himself, but to experiment without the constant fear of being fired. We need an almost completely new pool of young players who are talented enough to play however they’re asked to play, and also more importantly, are actually passionate enough about the game to play with the same level of pride felt by all the fans. Say what you want about guys like Alan Smith and even Joey Barton, but at least they’d be committed to the cause and not just going through the motions like so many of our current crop seem to.

The archetype to follow has been established by the Netherlands. Having failed to qualify for World Cup 2002, serious questions were asked of the team, and essentially they were all given one last chance to prove their pedigree. Despite then reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2004, Coach Dick Advocaat was criticized for his tactics and team selection, ultimately stepping down from the job after the tournament to make way for Dutch legend Marco van Basten. He made it clear what he wanted to achieve, and this meant looking not two years the future, but 4 or even 8 in advance. As such, many of the team's world-class veterans like the two de Boers, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars, Jaap Stam and Patrick Kluivert either chose to retire or were simply not selected for the upcoming World Cup 2006 squad by the new coach. Sure, the 2006 campaign wasn’t an overt success, losing 1 – 0 to Portugal in the tournament’s first knockout stage, but the important fact to focus on is that this young team has stayed together, and will do for at least another World Cup, when you can guarantee that they will be there or thereabouts when it matters. By establishing a team where the majority are under 25, van Basten knew that he could use the exact same squad for several tournaments to come and, given the vote of confidence by the Dutch FA, had plenty of time to get the best out of them, with the pressure off.

This has to be the approach of the British FA now that Mr McClaren has been officially let go. Take their time to find the right manager who will inspire confidence in the players, and show him the trust the Dutch FA have demonstrated in van Basten. Players need to be picked objectively, with the 2010 World Cup in mind as the first test. Over-rated stars who go missing in the big games need to be shown the door to make way for fresh blood who are prepared to bleed for the shirt if that’s what it takes. Monetary incentives should be removed, and anyone who is arrogant enough to not play for their country for free needs to be forgotten about. As such, here is what STT have come up with and we suggest that this group of players start getting together as soon as possible…

Proposed 2010 World Cup Team:

GK - Ben Foster

RB - Micah Richards

CB - John Terry

CB - Stuart Taylor

LB - Nedum Onuoha

RW - Gabriel Agbonlahor

CM - Mark Noble

CM - Michael Johnson

LW - David Bentley. That boy's got some moves.

CF - Wayne Rooney

CF – Dean Ashton

Other notables – Theo Woolcott, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Matt Derbyshire, Nigel Reo-Coker, Ashley Young, Luke Moore, Justin Hoyte, Gary O’Neill, Matt Taylor, Nicky Shorey,

As ever, praise, suggestions, abuse and erectile dysfunction related spam to the usual address – sniffingtt@hotmail.com