Sometimes you read an article or a newspaper column and nod along, agreeing with the good points being made. Sometimes you don’t agree with the arguments, but understand the point of view.
And sometimes you read a column and wonder how on earth such moronic opinions could ever earn someone a pay packet for writing them. Come on down, Paul Parker.
I’ve long since disagreed with most of his columns, which are generally written to provoke, in the same way that so much of NewsNow is taken up with dramatic and misleading headlines. But this article takes the proverbial biscuit, coming up with ‘solutions’ to the England debacle.
Here are his genius ideas:
1. Pick the right man for the job
Couldn’t agree more. We all know McLaren wasn’t the right man, the next choice must be a wise one. So Parker, in his infinite knowledge, makes his choice:
“Alan Shearer may be a 16-1 outsider, but he certainly gets my vote. I appreciate that he is inexperienced in terms of managing a team, but the players he will be working with do not need any more coaching – they are already good enough.”
England need a strong manager, someone who makes tough decisions and says things as he sees them. Shearer, judging from his punditry, has a backside full of splinters from all the fences he sits on. He is dull, uninspiring, and would pander to the media.
As for the notion that the players are ‘already good enough’, Parker must be living in the same deluded world as some of these so-called ‘superstars’. Was he not watching on Wednesday night?
2. Limit the number of foreigners in the game
Ah, here we go again. Never mind the fact that these foreigners have added so much to the English game, taught the homegrown players skill and craft, and changed the style with which football in this country is played, Parker and his band of Little Englanders insist on blaming them for the shortcomings of the national team.
This argument is so transparent that it is incredible it is given any credence, yet it is repeated ad nauseatum as if nothing could be more obvious.
There are 355 English players registered with the twenty Premiership clubs. Granted, most of these are reserves, but there are still plenty in and around the respective first teams. It is a much misrepresented fact that foreigners have pushed Englishmen out of our top teams, when in reality, they have mostly replaced the Welsh, Scottish and Irish. When you begin to examine the figures, they show quite clearly that there are still plenty of homegrown players available at the top, not the sharp decline the press would have you believe.
And so what if it is more difficult for a journeyman player to make it in the Premiership? They are not the sort of player England looks to. If the number of English regulars reduces from 100 to 50, how does that matter? Those that miss out are those not good enough, and the top talents still make it, benefiting from playing with the best players from overseas, rather than the inadequate also-rans.
The only way a top club can harm the English national team is by buying the top talent and not playing them. Yet Chelsea, for their treatment of Shaun Wright-Phillips, are vilified far less than Arsenal, whose lack of English players therefore does not affect the national side one iota.
Steven Gerrard’s comments about reducing the number of foreign players in the league are ludicrous when you look at the Liverpool squad, complete with average players from overseas, while xenophobic and lazy opinions such as Parker’s are borne simply of a desperation to blame anyone but our own.
I thought Britain was proud of being multicultural and open?
3. Address the silly money in today’s game
Good luck with that one – football is a massive business. Television companies make extraordinary sums from their coverage, and thus pay top dollar for the privilege. With that money flowing through the game, the players are right to feel, as the product, that they deserve a large cut of it. It is the simple law of supply and demand.
Besides, there is a myth in the country that footballers are the richest sportsmen on the planet. Have you seen the salaries of top baseball and American football players recently?
“Money changes everything and when huge rewards are laid on a plate for players, it is all too easy to become idle”
The gap between the salaries of the top players, and those behind them, is astronomical. So conversely, the financial reward of being at the top is surely a great motivation for getting there?
4. Scrap academies
For his final point, Paul Parker finally and completely loses the plot.
“Scrapping academies can only have a beneficial effect in the future. Kids of 10 or 11 do not want to be forced into playing or training three times a week; they love the game because they love winning and playing with their mates”
Does this not say everything about the character of footballers in this country? His argument that players should not actually be trained to play football, but should lark about with friends and learn next to nothing, is ludicrous. Players from abroad are honing their skills at this crucial early age, learning technique and precision. Ours are running around like headless chickens, being taught to ‘give it 110%’.
If ‘kids of 10 or 11’ want to make it as top class footballers, they have to be willing to train or play three times a week. And if they truly love the game, surely they’ll love getting better at it?
“By forcing them to train at academies in a regimented atmosphere, all the fun is taken out of the game; how then are they supposed to develop into top players?”
How exactly will they turn into top players if the don’t train? And surely a down to earth young footballer wouldn’t lose interest in the game simply because someone was teaching them how to pass the ball along the ground instead of hoofing it up to their tallest friend?
And then, as a coup de grace, Parker concluded as follows:
“I used to train once a week when I was a kid – the likes of Matt Le Tissier did the same, and he turned out alright”
Holding Matt Le Tissier up as an example of a footballer with the right attitude, who reached the peak of his abilities because he never lost enthusiasm for the game?
As I remember it, Le Tissier was one of the most naturally gifted footballers to grace these shores in decades, but never fulfilled his massive potential because, quite honestly, he couldn’t be bothered.
If his is the attitude we want to instill in our young players, we’d better get used to the mediocrity we saw this week.