Our European guru educates and enlightens
His dream of playing for his hometown club in ruins, Matt Derbyshire has done a very brave thing, effectively engineering a move to Olympiakos.
Ignored in Blackburn, adored in Athens, the promising 22-year-old is setting an example many other English footballers should follow – for their own good and the good of the game.
The narrative of Britain’s football industry in the 20th century bears certain similarities to the story of British shipbuilding and steel.
Where once we led the world, exporting to all four corners of the globe, we now rely on imports.
And our frustration at this state of affairs leaves us, too often, xenophobic and insular, an attitude brilliantly caught by Simon Barnes in The Times, commenting on Big Phil’s demise:
“You may be good enough for Brazil, but if you think you’re good enough for Chelsea, you got another think coming.
"You come here with your fancy talk about winning the World Cup, but what about the Carling Cup, eh? How many times have you won that?”
Greek god: Matt Derbyshire
Buccaneers and pioneers...
It wasn’t always like this. British sailors introduced football to countries as diverse as Brazil, Iran and Spain.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, a buccaneering, hardy breed of British coaches like William Garbutt, Jimmy Hogan, Fred Pentland and James Richardson Spensley popularised British methods on the continent.
Garbutt, a right-winger for Arsenal, managed abroad (mostly in Italy) for 35 years. His Genoa players called him “Mister” and the title stuck – for Garbutt and every coach in Italy.
Rejected by the English game, Hogan collaborated with Hugo Meisl to create the glory that was Austria’s Wunderteam in the 1930s and influenced the football played by the Hungary side that beat England 6-3 and 7-1 in 1953 and 1954 respectively.
The next two generations of coaches – men like Vic Buckingham, Dave Mackay, Gordon Milne and, later, Terry Venables and Bobby Robson – were happy to make their mark abroad, winning honours in Egypt, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
Yet when Steve McClaren took on the Twente job, he was derided in the parochial British media, as if he had voluntarily gone into exile purely to escape the “wally with the brolly” jibes.
His move showed guts. Too many of McClaren’s contemporaries are content, after a setback, to scale down their ambitions to the pundit’s couch.
Hungary run riot in '53
British players have not traditionally been terrifically adventurous.
But with, according to Fabio Capello, only 35 percent of Premier League players born in England, that attitude must change.
If this percentage remains constant, there will be over 300 squad places unavailable to English players who will face a stark choice: resign themselves to the fact that the Championship is the best they can hope for or move abroad.
It’s not just about the players. Developing football nations and clubs usually adapt and adopt a strategy that has succeeded elsewhere.
Over the last 30 years, the most influential models have been:
Brazil (popular in Turkey, the Middle East, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Uzbekistan – and, briefly, Chelsea),
Germany (Greece, the Middle East, Kazakhstan and certain parts of Africa),
Holland (Austria, Barcelona, Germany, Russia, South Korea – and, briefly, Chelsea)
...and Italy (England, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland – and, now, Chelsea).
After les Bleus’ 1998 World Cup win, the French model was briefly in vogue, especially in England, but – apart from Arsene Wenger – the Gallic school remains only really influential in Africa.
Nobody follows the English model because there isn’t one anymore.
France batter the Samba Boys in '98
The rest of Europe respects the Premier League’s wealth, profile and passion – but doesn’t look to England for ideas that will shape the future of the game.
Does this matter? For British players and coaches, it certainly does because it will affect their livelihood.
Besides, the British game is not so perfect that it couldn’t be improved with a few clever ideas from abroad.
And the best English players and coaches may learn from that trade in ideas. The Premier League may even benefit because, as Florentino Perez is showing, it cannot count on wealth as its competitive edge forever.
Even if England do win the 2010 World Cup, it will, sadly, be regarded as a victory for the Italian school of football.
When Capello’s home country appoints an Englishman to coach a top-flight club, the country that invented the modern game will, once again, be able to claim that it is influential as well as rich.
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Jon nicholson on the website football365.com said more or less the same thing a month ago....
It was a critism i had of Sam Allardyce when he was sacked from Newcastle. He felt he had been unfairly treated in being passed over for the England job, but, with zero experience of the European game, how could he have been a serious contender in the first place? He had an opportunity to work aboard and never bothered, waiting for the next opportunity in England. As more and more educated and experienced polygot European players and coaches continue to master football, the English contribution will continue to fall away.
Excellent and so very true.
I find it astounding how little English football has adapted and evolved in comparison to other nations such as Spain or Italy.
I MUST be recognised by the FA that the English method and style of playing football has been inadequate for over 40 years. Since 1966 England has never got to another final and that means something is drastically wrong. The style of football we play here needs to change to focus more on technique and less on power and pace.
Look how Spain have progressed in leaps and bounds since 1966. Spain coach Del Bosque gave an interview last week where he said Spain used to 'play the English style' but that is long in the past and the gulf between the Spanish footballing philosophy and the English is plain to see whether in club football or International.
Spain have adapted, evolved, taken ideas from other nations and now have a way of playing football which is the new model for the world to envy.
Why can't more people realise English football - the way English players play not the imports - is in drastic need of evolution if we are to ever have any success?
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