The Future of England

Following on from England’s not-at-all-bad performance on Wednesday night, Arsene Wenger has reason to predict greater things coming Wembley-way as a result of the very youth training that’s come in for such criticism lately (here as much as anywhere else):

The best time to be England manager will be in the middle of the next decade,” he said. “But I will have a beard and a walking stick by then. (..) All the work has been done in the clubs’ academies now. Children under 12 are playing four or five times a week. After 12, they work five times a week up to 16. We have 16-year-old players now at Arsenal who are ready to compete. That is the first time I have seen that since I have been in England in terms of quality. If you look at English national teams under 17, they are starting to make results. The academy system is a success. It takes 10 years. When I arrived in England, there was no correct youth team development. You take the blood of any Englishman and it is no different from the blood of a Frenchman or Brazilian. They are not less gifted. It is education.

That’s then, but what about now? George Szirtes remembers his boy racer days, and wonders if England couldn’t learn a thing or two from “the rogue, the devil-may-care, the brilliantly transgressive” heroes of our streets.

Brian Clough would have agreed with George. Alan Durban remembers the dying days of Derby’s first Championship-winning season, and reflects on the different approaches shown by Clough and Revie:

Don Revie kept them in their hotel on the Saturday night after they’d won the FA Cup. He should’ve let them have a drink, let their hair down, relax. They were good pros, those guys, and with the Wolves game on the Monday night, they wouldn’t have abused their privilege. Revie tried to keep them psychologically screwed up for two major games for too long. Clough and Taylor would never have done that, they’d have had us around the table, swapping stories over a few beers or letting us see our wives or girlfriends. They were always spot on at distracting us and then switching the light on when they thought we were ready. That was the great thing with those two – there was never any real tension coming back to us. They’d leap on someone occasionally just to remind us who was in charge, but there were very few rucks. They got us all together, as team mates and friends. Cloughie saw us as his extended family.

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