A Letter to Fabio

18 Jun

Dear Fabio,

I would dearly love to wish you many happy returns today but I’m afraid the only presents you will be receiving are those wrapped up in torrents of vitriol from a nation that so celebrated you upon your arrival on these shores. Your successes at the pinnacle of the game will not protect you from the gnashing of teeth and howls of spite once the fourth estate flagellates your hard-won reputation onto the printing-presses in a few hours time. You are truly through the looking-glass now. How I wish you had heeded the forewarnings from the desolate graveyard of England managers past.

Men in your lofted profession are doomed to failure from the second they embark upon this fruitless crusade to restore England to some mythical, self-proclaimed pedestal at the game’s top table. Reputations that have taken years to foster and mature can be torn to tatters in a matter of moments after displays of such tepid ineffectualness such as tonight’s draw against spirited yet ultimately beatable opposition was saddening evidence of. Your every decision from now on will be laced with the seeds of doubt. The iron grip with which you took hold of this team will be questioned. And I fear that all your glorious achievements in the hardest leagues to master will be tarnished as the sartorial elegance for which you were once so acclaimed will be used to your detriment; your face distorted and pixellated and put up for ridicule for a country so rash in its need to label the perpetrator of its failure to produce a team of champions.

Please don’t take it personally; it’s just the way it’s done over here. But I know it’s not your fault. You could see it in the faces of your charges out there tonight. They played with terror in their eyes and a burden of weight on their troubled shoulders that no man, whether he is a Collusus or not, can ever be expected to emerge unscathed from with his dignity still in tact. You have been deceived into managing a nation that cannot come to terms with its true standing in the hyper-evolving, ever-changing world of of twenty-first century football. The game that they gifted the world has left them behind and when respected elder statesmen such as Franz Beckenbauer criticise the bubble of stasis that English football finds itself in, they are dismissed as being jingoistic and picking at the bitter scabs of deep-seated rivalries rather than acknowledged for making valid and truthful assessments of a style of panic-stricken play that the English resort to whenever the outcome to a match is in the balance.

The problems you now find yourself facing run far deeper than a goalkeeper’s fumble or your decision to announce your first eleven two hours before kick-off. How many games have you attended this season in your pursuit of the finest this country has to offer? You can see the grim reality for yourself. This country just does not produce players in sufficient numbers to be able to truly hold their own against the world’s elite. The hunger for instant success has led football clubs to cravenly acquire players from abroad without any consideration for the talent which is crying out to be nurtured at home. Success is counted with the ring of the cash register and anything less than complete dominance of the domestic game results in instant dismissal for managers and players who are deemed to be underperforming. Promising, young players are loaned out to clubs in lower leagues whose participants are less gifted and more likely to adhere to the ‘kick and rush’ tactics that Beckenbauer was making reference to. Where is the forward-planning? Such things as the development of young, hungry teams made up of locally raised boys who will perhaps fail to win the big prizes for a couple of years but then go on to dominate the game for years to come; a unit united. Trust me Fabio, that did used to happen in this country. A manager did win a Championship with kids once upon a time; a team of  boys who had been cultivated over a period of years. But then, Sir Alex’s socialist leanings have been well-documented over the years and socialists do love a five year plan. The turmoil of the world’s economies and the banker’s avarice seem to have gone unnoticed in the football world; that is until yet another Premiership Club suffers the indignities heaped upon Portsmouth’s long-suffering fans this year. Ferguson’s forethought seems a remnant of another age. And as a result, the best goalkeepers this country can put forward are a man whose side barely avoided relegation in Rob Green, a man whose side did not avoid relegation in David James and a young boy who is not considered good enough to be the number 1 for his club and is loaned out to a middle-ranking team in Joe Hart. This is hardly the stuff of World Champions. No Banks. No Shilton. No Seaman.

If you visit any number of Sunday league matches played by youngsters, you’ll still see them being screamed at by overgrown schoolboys with bulging veins, telling them to “hit it long’ or “get into him hard”. Children still play eleven-a-side matches and are indoctrinated with the idea that winning at all costs is everything. The future footballers of Brazil, Holland and Spain meanwhile, continue to play with smaller balls, smaller pitches and smaller teams. They are taught to love the football. And through this comes their mastery  and technical assurance whose fruits come to bear every four years and we at home marvel at. This is the world’s footballing culture and because of this you sense through your television screens the true enjoyment of such players as Messi and Xavi. They actually smile. But you already know this Fabio. You’ve seen it over and over. When was the last time you saw an Englishmen truly at ease with himself on the football pitch?

Even this country’s true world class performer, Wayne Rooney, couldn’t stop himself from bitterly addressing the cameras as he walked off the pitch tonight, sarcastically spewing, “Nice to have your own fans booing you. That’s football fans for you”. England is a footballing nation that has truly isolated itself from the evolution of the game and as a result has produced men who are so indulged by their own publicity that in turn, they end up misguidedly alienating the very people that actually invest themselves in the lifeblood of the game: the fans. For your captain, to rashly belittle Algeria’s performance as ‘their cup final’, does not befit a country that has produced such all-time greats of the game. Would such words have emanated from the lips of Stanley Matthews, Bobby Charlton or Bobby Moore? You surely know the answer.

Fabio, you have found yourself tonight deep in the belly of the game that ate itself. I truly have no advice to offer. I am merely an observer and I have seen this vicious four-year cycle revolve at every World Cup I can remember. Nothing good can ever come of this until the footballing philosophy of the country changes forever. And that’s as likely as an Italian wearing a bad suit.

Win the World Cup and prove me wrong. Happy Birthday.

Friday 18th June:

Group D: Germany 0 – Serbia 1

Group C: USA 2 – Slovenia 2

England 0 – Algeria 0

3 Responses to “A Letter to Fabio”

  1. jennifer June 19, 2010 at 12:01 #

    so so true. there is something rotten in the state of english football. i can’t understand how the nation fails to see that throwing up the number 1966 during a lucozade advert is not sufficient training for a winning side.

    having said that, even with the likes of casillas, torres, david villa, xavi and puyol, spain still lost their first match. the pressure to perform is ON!

    • Joel June 19, 2010 at 21:37 #

      good blog greg, good blog!

      i agree with every single word and i think you should send this into the nationals and see what they make of it.

      My views are as follows:

      1. Anyone over the age of 33 does not get to play for England. Tough shit if you still model for Gillette and Police etc. you’re past your peak and its time for someone else.

      2. Install Stuart Pearce as manager to give some f*cking passion. i don’t care if he hasn’t won anything or not give him a chance for 2 years (nothing to win or lose before the euros)

      3. Play the god damn youngsters!!!!! How in the hell was Adam Johnson not on that plane? he played in the friendlies, he took on players, he skinned them, he is quick, attacking and bugger me he has a left foot. Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Dawson, Hart etc. are all good enough to be playing and if we don’t start now we don’t get the players into the squad until they are too old to integrate themselves and develop over years as a team.

      4. Fine anyone who plays upfront who comes back over the half way line to pick up the ball.

      I could go one but these will do for now.

      It’s funny that people at work were having a go at me for being pessimistic before this World Cup started. We were 8-1 to win the world cup…8-1…hilarious.

      I merely realised that it will be years or take a massive wake up call for this team to achieve anything other than mediocrity.

      night night

  2. Mark Ellison June 20, 2010 at 18:54 #

    Nice post Greg!

    Do you think England is particularly isolated from the game, more so than other big spenders on the transfer market like Spain and Italy? As long as fans are obsessed with winning, and expect nothing short of it, team owners will just continue to buy buy buy their ways to the top.

    North American pro leagues — NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA — all have team-wide or per-player salary caps. The prevents your Abu Dhabi prince from waltzing in with sackfuls of gold bars and buying himself a dream team overnight. With some exceptions, the most successful teams in America are built over time through regional development programmes, minor leagues, and of course university-level sports, from which players are recruited, groomed, and introduced gradually to the “grown up” league. In this environment, a team’s rise to success (or tragic downfall) can take years, and perhaps because of this, both players and fans have more loyalty to their teams.

    I understand that EUFA, FIFA and national football associations face many difficulties when it comes to implementing salary caps or other financial restrictions which are meant in spirit to create a more just and competitive sport worldwide, but which might have the unintended consequences. But something has to change, right?

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