Desmond Kane

Team GB will only expose great technical flaws

Desmond Kane

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Peter Taylor apparently does not care for pronouncing the surnames of overseas players during little slices of punditry. This suspicion appeared to be confirmed when Taylor - a former coach of the England U21 side among an endless list of unfashionable clubs  - could be discovered analysing the current crop of English prospects against Ukraine in the European Championship.

After watching reruns of the England goalkeeper Frank Fielding saving from Roman Zozulya in the second half of a 0-0 draw, Taylor turned to the host of Sky Sports' coverage of the tournament and commented: "I'll leave that one to you..." Or sentiments to similar effect, but I can't be bothered pronouncing them here.

Taylor should perhaps stick to one standard name for the lot of those pesky, slicker, more mobile models from overseas. Johnny or Jonathan Foreigner, to give him his full moniker, is a far easier handle to use when naming players who are much easier on the eye than some of the impostors circulating the British game. These men are sharp enough to earn professional contracts, but struggle to piece together 10 passes without opting to knock it long under pressure.

Jonathan Foreigner(s) encompassed most of the players England came across during a week in which Taylor's apparent ignorance was rivalled only by some of the bizarre outbursts emanating from the England U21 coach Stuart Pearce.

"To try to ask a different individual to play a Spanish style or an Italian style, or even an Italian player to play an English way, is not workable," muttered Pearce from the bowels of deepest Denmark. 

Why is this not workable? Ball retention is an asset that is only possible among nations with the correct foundations. In a week when there is some more furious discussion breaking out over the prospects of a British U23 team sprinkled with a few more seasoned faces at the London Olympics, it is hardly being provocative to ask: what is the point of such an exercise when British club football seems to be a breeding ground for great mediocrity?

No disrespect to Pearce, but he was not the most technically efficient player in days of yore. He looked like he was about to self-combust against Spain at Euro '96 in his most memorable outing in an England shirt.

He rammed home a penalty in a quarter-final match his country won in the shoot-out before erupting in scenes of raw emotion. He cannot seem to get a similar message across as a coach. Or perhaps his players are not equipped with the skills to respond.   

His England lot were thumped 1-1 by the Spaniards. It was an embarrassing
evening for the young England team that provided a sense of foreboding.
Technically more proficient countries in Ukraine and the Czech Republic
were nowhere near as impressive as Spain yet were sharp enough to bundle
England out before the semi-finals. The Czechs scored twice late on to complete a 2-1 win over Pearce's side. 

"I won't get washed away by the fact Spain had 59 percent of possession," commented Pearce. "That will happen when we play Spain at any level, from Under-17s to senior, and in 50 years we'll be sitting here having the same conversation."

It is a blight on the state of British football, not only the English one, if such a diagnosis is the longer term prognosis for these parts. Such sentiments are as depressing as how flaming June is working out within the (not so) Great British summer.

During a sojourn to a wet and windy Scotland during the week, it was difficult to detect anyone wearing an 'Anyone but England t-shirt' as Euro U21 gathered a gentle pace. The Scots have little to gloat about in analysing any technical deficiencies. 

Iceland lost to Belarus and Switzerland in departing the tournament at the first group stages, but were slick enough to prevent Scotland's U21 side from qualifying for the finals with a couple of 2-1 wins last October. 

Scotland have not reached a major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France at senior level. Wales, 114th in the Fifa rankings, and Northern Ireland, a place above Scotland in the latest standings at 65, are largely forgotten about in international climes.

The international game will be forgotten about when the Scottish Premier League season opens in late July followed by its filthy rich big brother of the Premier League a month later. Club football rules the day in Britain. The FA are already making noises stating that no England player will be available to do 'a double' at the Olympics if they turn out for England at Euro 2012. 

Team GB would already be weakened by such a policy. The only positive idea that should come out of the Olympics would be a commitment to improve youth football in Britain, but that sounds like a far-fetched notion.

Why is there such tension over the issue of Team GB when there are such frailties at youth level in the UK? Why is there the stomach for such a side when there is so much resistance to it from within these shores? As Taylor would say, I'll leave that one to you.  

Fearing for their independence in football, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales do not want to be part of a Team GB at the Olympics. Judging by their performances in Denmark, neither should England. 

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