« Duncan Smith's daft idea | Main | Incapacity benefit vs the banking crisis »

June 28, 2010


John Terry's Mum

Class might be the crucial in English footballing shiteness.

Continental European footballers come from all ends of the social spectrum, but the Football community in England hates and excludes English middle-class (educated) people, but tolerates foreign middle-class people (Wenger et al) - perhaps this is because it's harder to tell what class a foreign footballer is.

This hatred goes from top to bottom. From the pundits to Sunday League players.
Nothing has changed since le Saux was caught reading the Guardian and Fowler spread his arse cheeks.

Look at the way middle-class Arsenal fans deride Theo for being too middle-class (the posh way he talks, his politeness and manners).

Hodgson gets away with it, because people think he's from 1950 (the way he talks).

Upon arrival Capello was dismayed and amazed how thick the English players were.

James Shaddock

Good analysis, but I wouldn't purely focus on the misrule of bosses, and highlight more of the cultural problems within English football.

Namely, this is to do with the obession with the 'English' game, the 'English' way and the vaugely xenophobic attitude that comes with it. Just because we invented it does not mean we've a god given right to be the best at it or that our style of playing is better than everyone else.

You quite rightly point out Capello's reliance on 4-4-2 and how it might be due to him not trusting the players to be creative and play differently. Of course they won't, because the don't know different.

There's no-one playing in the Serie A, La Liga or the Bundesliga to name but a few. How can we expect the players to know different, if none of them have every really experienced it. And of course, the moment a player dares to go overseas, we belitte him and the league he chooses to play in because it's not the Premiership.

A good example is Lionel Messi. As someone put it, he's not an Argentinian who plays for Barcelona, he's a Barcelona player who plays for Argentina. Also take David Beckham. Yes, he may have already developed to his peak when he moved to Real Madrid, but it gave him a new perspective on the game and a better understanding of the different styles.

If we want a team that is intelligent, creative, and effective, then it's time to be different and let them spread there wings.

Luis Enrique

Paul Mason seems to think it was because they didn't obey the boss:



Your analysis may explain why, although nothing could have been more obvious than that "Call Me JT" was having a 'mare and we desperately needed more cover down the inside-right channel, England came out for the second half at 2-1 with exactly the same team, formation, and tactics. Taylorism locks in products, methods, and technology just as much as it does workplace relationships.


But there has been one English player of the last decade who does display outstanding footballing intelligence, comparable to the very best of his contemporaries from anywhere in the world, even if he's completely tongue tied: Paul Scholes. This has often been overlooked because of the hype surrounding his contemporary Beckham. Beckham, even in best seasons (which certainly occred before he went to Madrid)was only ever a journeyman in comparison. & the ridiculously over-estimated Lampard was allowed to push Scholes out of the team under successive managers.

& it was a British - tho' not English - manager who got the the best of out the Ginger Prince.


Might be something in this. I went to uni with a footballer's wife who said the boys in the Hibs dressing room called her husband 'the professor' simply because he read the Glasgow Herald rather than a tabloid. Definitely not just an English thing this. Maybe this, plus our relatively small population with the astonishingly bad diet explains Scotland's unparalleled record of being completely shite.

Luis Enrique

I can never figure out how much is down to randomness (the 'random draw' of player talent, luck on the day, the mysterious process of how individuals function as a team), and how much needs explaining by some specific hypothesis (playing wrong system, celebrity culture, class etc.)

On the one hand, I can't help feeling that you don't need to appeal to clever social/cultural theories to explain why one football team beats another, or why one nation may have a better football team than another. Is there anything that really needs explaining at all? On the other hand I can't help feeling that something(s) must explain why England's performances are so disappointing, and the answer: just how the randomness cookie crumbled, isn't good enough.

Tom Addison

Absolutely brilliant post, you've hit the nail square on the head there. My facebook page is full of status updates from people blaming, "a lack of passion". I know these people, and they know absolutely nothing about football. Some were even saying we'd have won with Beckham playing (perhaps the most overrated player in history) because he has the most passion. Anti-intellectualism isn't just rife in football, it's rife in the entire country. A team is definitely a reflection of the country it represents.

@ Luis Enrique: First of all, did you know you're the namesake of a superb Spanish footballer who played for Barcelona in the 1990's? You should be honoured. Secondly, the outcome definitely isn't down to randomness, at least not in this case. Randomness does play a part, but more in our retrospective analysis of the game. A team can be outplayed for 90 minutes, but thanks to one or two random events in a match that might win the game they will be remembered purely for that reason, with their overall performance being lauded as a result. As Alex Ferguson often points out to journalists (although for the wrong reason), he still has copies of their first edition reports for the '99 Champions League final.

I'd say Capello is slightly to blame, why he stuck with 4-4-2 still bemuses me, I was convinced he was just hiding his best formation (some modern variant of 4-3-3)for the knockout stages so opponents couldn't figure us out too early by analysing our group match performances, but it turns out that was not to be. I'm sure he had his reasons, and I'd love to find out what they are. Just imagine working with Baresi and Maldini and then having to work with Terry and Upson.


taylorism delivered your computer at a tenth or even a hundredth of the price that would have been paid if it was hand made by artisans!

And Capello comes from a business culture that favours artisans - the 'bonsai economy' as Italy is known due to is extremely disfavourable tax regime for big businesses.

So go figure....!

Luis Enrique


sí, y desde que me retiré, he participado en el blogosphere económico Britanico

I didn't just mean randomness, as might determined the outcome between two teams of equal ability, I meant also meant the randomness that may determine a team's ability


We have all to admit that we are a load of **** at football.
This is partly to do with the FA/Football League/Premiership structure; something that is inpenetrable to the football fan and toally incomprensible to the rest of us.
The demands of owners or premiership clubs (mainly foreign)is centered around success now so they plough in millions to buy that success from abroad because there isnt the home talent.
The result? The base of the international team is such that means half-fit, inexperienced and out of form players have to be picked. Men v Boys is one analogy that can be used. Say Lampard isn't fit/out of form, who is there to replace him? Erm, no-one. No competition for places, no team work let alone team spirit - sweet jack shit.
When Green loosed that howler on he world against the USA, no-one in the team went to him to have a word. A real confidence booster - not.
You may say I'm living in the old fashioned Corinthian world then so be it but if you hark back to 1966, were England all star players? Definitely not but they clicked because they were a team and played for the team. Why do you think Greaves never played? He wasn't a team player. End of.
Players rarely win cups...teams do!

Tom Addison

Luis Enrique,

True, there are numerous countries that have found a time when they've been "blessed", so to say, by a generation of exceptional players, having far more brilliant players in their team than they normally would given their limited population. Hence why numerous small countries that were highly successful in the past (such has Hungary and Uruguay) are less so now.

Tom Addison

But in terms of what randomly affects a teams ability, that's all that springs to mind really.

Tom Addison

@KWC, England won in '66 because Ramsey used a revoultionary new tactic at the time (i.e. no wingers). That, and we did have some world class players, such as Banks, Moore, Charlton and Ball.

Sorry for the spamming!


Even more revealingly, the public have little desire for intelligence. Just listen - if you can bear to - to callers to 6-0-6. How many ask for more "passion" and how many for more intelligence?

I listened, scoffing at regular intervals at the calls for 'passion' - the same failed strategy epitomised by Keegan's spell in the job (and one of the key reasons the FA went 'foreign'). For some fans, the ability to 'wear the shirt' is counted for more than what's done while wearing it.



ever read this? its quite good in places


A history of fascism seems to be a fairly major indicator of footy prowess. Brazil, Italy, Germany, Uruguay, Argentina (15 world cups between 'em,) Spain, Portugal.

I presume, given that they presumably regard their indigenous poor as lesser members of the master race rather than a political threat, they spend less time and furious effort belittling them from birth.


Surely it's got to be really risky to draw morals about the state of the nation from the results of a sporting tournament. England's cricketers are doing very well at the moment. Where does that data fit in?

The way English football is organised, on the other hand: might be something in that.


You offer an interesting analysis for the failure of English football. Obviosuly the malaise runs deeper.

Year in and year out we see so much hype built around the team's chances of success that it is impossible if not very difficult for the players to live up to their false reputations. The poor supporters firmly believe in their team's greatness or the virtuosity of the stars they adore- that they feel let down when the team does not perform as expected.

It is easy to blame others - foreigners especially- for their failings. Its time to wake up and recognise that there are other teams much better than those playing in the supposdely best league in the world. I cannot find a single report about yesterday's match explaining the tehcnical vistuosity displayed by the German players,their movement on and off the ball, the ease with which they were creating and finding space, crucial passes that were made from the back especially their no 7 and 8.

We are now being told by some, especially managers who have failed in the past, that they saw it coming. Our pundits who were extolling and talking up the chances of our team only the other day, are using big word such as "abysmal" to in describe the performance.

We do indeed have very short memories.


What a load of utter crap. i guess you've never played, coached or managed football.

based on some of the nonsense i seriously doubt you've ever watched even. Cesc Fabragas, what the one who can't get in the Spanish side

Did anyone tell you that the current world champions and the current runners up both got knocked out in the first round?


How does this apply to Tennis?

Tom Addison

The French and Italian writing has been on the wall for a while, four years is a long time in football.


When English players play for theor clubs in the Premier League they are playing alongside world class teammates, the best that money can buy. So they play above themselves and can look pretty good. Then when they play for England, the players around them are much less good than their club colleagues, so they all revert to mediocrity. I can't think of other nations where club sides are better than the national side.


donpaskini has a set of practical proposals to improve the english football game ( and society )in his Blog.

You should all checkit out,



"tactical innovations have generally come as a surprise to England."

Does the name "Herbert Chapman" ring any bells?

2. How does your theory explain 1966? We were, if anything, more class divided then, yet won the World Cup.

3. If a top class manager is irrelevant, then how does that explain Wenger or Ferguson for instance?


"when faced with total football in the 70s"

But Total Football was invented by the Dutch. It came as a surprise to everyone but the Dutch, and so by definition it came as a surprise to England.


"Is it really a coincidence that the most class-divided society in Europe* also happens to have had for years - not just for one tournament as France and Italy have had - an under-performing team?"

(1) France has under-performed for years.

(2) While our team may under-perform (at least this decade), it is still a big team. The fact of the matter is that if you do a graph of "class division" on the x axis, and "performance" on the y axis, then there won't be a relation, since we perform better than the European average, yet you say we are the most class-divided in Europe.

6. Ever heard of division of labour?

7. Every other footballing country has this same division of managers and players. So that doesn't explain why England played poorly.


"Yes, I know south American nations are more unequal than the UK, but produce better football, but there are all sorts of cultural differences that might explain this"

In other words, evidence that points towards your theory is evidence for your theory, but evidence that points away from your theory can be just shrugged aside as mere "cultural differences".

Sounds like confirmation bias to me.

Personally, I find it bizarre that anyone can look at Terry, Lampard and Cole and see class warriors.


9. One more point I thought of: how does this theory explain why Lampard et al. play so well for their clubs? If class division is so pervasive that it is effecting their performance in some miraculous Marxist economic deterministic fashion, then wouldn't they play poorly for their clubs too?


Oh and btw, I find it a bit of a slur to say that calling for "passion" is something to be looked down upon. The idea that only a no-nothing would care about emotion.

Frankly, these are world class players. The idea that it is as simple (as some have suggested) as changing from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 is ridiculous. They are good enough to play in 4-4-2. Any player that isn't versatile isn't world class. These are world class players. Therefore they are versatile. We've seen them change about for their clubs. This is all very easily explained by some combination of stress from expectation, and sheer laziness from prima donnas (i.e. a lack of passion).


Everything England invented, from industrial production to cricket, today is better done elsewhere. Why must football be different?
I'd have a look a the education system, who seems destinated to preclude the mere idea of effort.

Tom Addison

@ Alex:

"The idea that it is as simple (as some have suggested) as changing from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 is ridiculous."

No, it's not ridiculous.


"Frankly, these are world class players."

No, they're not. The role played in our downfall by technical deficiency is excently reasoned here:


I'd also recommend this post that highlights the intellectual failings of English football:


And then there's this great post on football365, highlighting that there are two types of fan, "England" fans and "Ingerland" fans. Think you can see where that one is going:


"This is all very easily explained by some combination of stress from expectation, and sheer laziness from prima donnas (i.e. a lack of passion)."

I think you're correct in that. We English have a history of having irrationally high hopes for our football team based on completed unfounded expectations. But firstly, I don't think the England players suffered from a lack of passion, they suffered from nerves. Secondly, passion, although being a means to the ends, is one of the least significant means. I have a passion for music, but I have neither the technical nor theoretical knowledge to play guitar.

Simple question, Xavi Hernandez or Steven Gerrard? Exactly.


Tks Alex for the links. I liked the first and last links very much.


I'll only address a couple of your points since I don't have much time.

1. The gist of the zonal marking article seems to be that because of the formations, England were outnumbered in midfield, therefore they lost. But more German midfielders means less German forwards. There's no a priori reason why 4-4-2 is bad. And by that article's logic, 0-10-0 would be the greatest formation of them all.

But my original point was not that England wouldn't improve with a different formation, but that such improvements would be second order effects. I don't see how anyone can look at the woeful performance against Germany and think that we'd suddenly have been great if only the formation had been different. Especially since the worst performances were in defence, yet Germany had 4 defenders just like England.


"Secondly, passion, although being a means to the ends, is one of the least significant means. I have a passion for music, but I have neither the technical nor theoretical knowledge to play guitar."

But it doesn't matter how good a technical ability you may or may not have, if you can't be bothered to strum more than few basic riffs. Yes technical ability matters, but we know that a player like Rooney has the technical ability, yet he didn't show it.

3. Well Xavi is one of the best players there is. The real comparison that for me sifts out the problem is comparing Gerrard to the Algerian midfielders.


Btw, that Run of Play post contains this paragraph, which goes against your first point:

"Sports fans have, and sports journalists have even more, an abiding belief that the outcome of certain vital games was utterly inevitable—but the belief comes only after the fact. If a manager sticks with a certain formation or lineup through hard times, that's proof that he knows what he's doing and his side is bound to prevail—if the team wins. If the team loses, then what would have been known as resolve is instead labeled pig-headedness, but is still seen as having sealed the team's fate."


I think you're over analysing this. Fifty years ago there were kids kicking a ball on every street corner. Where are they now? Locked up with a Wii.

To achieve excellence in any discipline, you have to do it lots, and you have to start young. We're failing on both counts.

Tom Addison

"But more German midfielders means less German forwards. There's no a priori reason why 4-4-2 is bad. And by that article's logic, 0-10-0 would be the greatest formation of them all."

There's no priori reason why any formation is bad, they're only shown to be inferior once a new formation arises to counteract it. Back in the 1920's, everyone played 2-3-5, Herbert Chapman brought in the WM (3-2-2-3) and suddenly 2-3-5 was redundant. The modern 4-3-3 has made 4-4-2 redundant, just as a lone striker made 3-5-2 redundant. But teams like Chile (playing a 3-3-1-3) have taken advantage of the fact that football formations are now primarily viewed in four lines (e.g. 4-1-2-3) rather than three as they were only 10 years ago (e.g. 4-4-2), which was brought about by changes in the offside rule forcing defensive lines to sit deeper and hence open up play in the middle of the park.

As the article says, the match was a perfect example of why the modern 4-3-3/4-5-1 will always defeat an old fashioned 4-4-2. Likewise, a 3-5-2 is superior to a 4-4-2, it's how Egypt won the African Cup of Nations. The logic of that article in no way advocates a 0-10-0 as the panacea of football formations, you're just being ridiculous.

I do generally agree with you regarding "passion", in that it is very important, Roy Keane points out in his autobiography that "winning the mental battle" is the most important thing. However, winning the mental battle is different to head-down, charge at the red cape passion. Winning the mental battle involves confidence and determination, and it's easier to be confident if you've got the ability to back it up.

But you also seem to be suggesting that the England players had no passion whatsoever. Of course they had some, even Upson (who had an absolute shocker) looked pretty fired up when he scored that header.

If a team has no passion at all, then yes, they will most likely lose (at least if it's two professional teams who aren't a million miles apart in terms of ability against one another), but England did have passion against Germany. However, the reason for our defeat is more technical and tactical then psychological.

A bit more passion would have helped a tiny bit, but 9 times out of 10, with that formation and those players, we'd have still lost.

But with the same level of passion but a more modern formation we might have lost on average, I dunno, only 6 times out of 10.


Read run of play again and found this comment.

“Every other player in the World Cup would have done exactly the same thing in his situation; and almost every fan would have done it for his or her team. You can’t expect moral heroism at moments like that; you really can’t ever expect moral heroism from mere human beings”.

The "I would have done the same" comment has been reverberating even in the TV studios where our pundits have sat. Suspect this would not have been the reaction had the team at the receiving end been not Ghana.

Not the beatufiul game any more?

Chris Williams

Did Taylor really break down work? It's just that in the 1860s, the UK Treasury were discussing job roles in terms of (say) 2/5 of a clerk for correspondence, 2/5 for registration, and 1/5 for copying. They had different rates for each of these tasks, and a clear idea about how many letters a week, or index registrations, could be done by a clerk devoting themself to it full time. Seems pretty Taylorist to me.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad