English soccer at a low point | VailDaily.com
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English soccer at a low point

Rob Harris
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

LONDON ” Now that England has failed to clinch a spot in the European Championship, officials can be brutally honest about the team.

The celebrated squad ” including David Beckham, most of the time ” has failed to live up to its pedigree on the pitch.

“I’ve been brought up over the last few years believing that this was the golden generation,” said Lord Mawhinney, a member of the Football Association board which fired coach Steve McClaren on Thursday. “But I have to tell you, if this is the golden generation, the sooner we move away from the gold standard the better.”

The epitaph for England’s prolonged underachievement was Wednesday’s timid 3-2 loss to Croatia at Wembley Stadium, when a draw would have taken them to Euro 2008.

Some players departed the rain-drenched pitch in tears and it’s likely Beckham, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard may end their England careers having never lifted a trophy.

“The training of young kids needs to be addressed,” said Mawhinney, who is also chairman of professional soccer below the Premiership level. “Our under-16, 17, 18-year-olds are quite good, but then there seems to be a difficulty in translating that up into the senior team.”

Mawhinney, a former Conservative Party government minister, is concerned why the players’ nerves crack during the pressure of decisive matches.

“We have talked about the manager, but we haven’t talked about the players and the ability of the players to deliver under pressures,” he said. “And the results haven’t been very impressive and Wednesday night wasn’t very impressive.”

The FA is trying to reflect the national despondency.

“We have disappointed a heck of a lot of people,” chief executive Brian Barwick said. “They’re not all football fans, they’re general sports fans. They are just people who see major sports occasions as a coming together of a nation.”

“The England team is central to a lot of people’s lives,” Barwick said. “We know we are now in the situation where tens of millions of people won’t enjoy the kind of summer tournament that we have got used to.

“Yes, we have never made the ultimate position in those tournaments since 1966, but we’ve been there.”

FA board member David Richards ” also chairman of the Premier League ” blames the media for turning the richly rewarded job into a poison chalice.

“You guys are the hardest people in the world to work with,” Richards said at a media briefing during which FA officials were interrupted by journalists making barbed gibes at their failings. “You make the job really untenable part of the time. We worry about you.”

McClaren was forced out Thursday morning by a unanimous vote in an emergency FA board meeting, despite vowing to rebuild the team on the catastrophic night at Wembley.

He predicts a prosperous future for his former charges.

“Maybe you have to get a fall and go low before you bounce back,” he said. “Maybe this is an opportunity and a situation for that. Unfortunately I will not be taking it forwards.”

Striker Peter Crouch thought he had put England through to the Euros when he powered in a cross from David Beckham on Wednesday. But England’s hopes were crushed by a late Croatian goal and Crouch now feels watching the finals on TV may be too painful.

“I don’t think many of the lads will want to watch the tournament,” the Liverpool forward said. “We probably will do because we are all football mad as well, but it is frustrating and it will be difficult to watch.

“England are expected to qualify for every major tournament and we are a big enough nation to do that.”


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