No Pride, No Passion, No Glory.

11th June. 7:29pm (local time). The whole country is positive, upbeat and looking forward to an amazing World Cup. The team was being heralded as the best England side since that magical year of ’66. Wayne Rooney has had the best season of his career for Manchester United, while players such as Aston Villa’s James Milner, West Ham United’s Matthew Upson and Tottenham Hotspur’s Aaron Lennon came into their own during the 2009/2010 Premier League season. To go along with the quality of the players, England had a manager who holds one of the best records in football. Fabio Capello has managed great teams such as AC Milan, Real Madrid and Juventus and, after England’s phenomenal qualifying results, the nation expected great things from the South African World Cup of 2010.
   In fact, a great disappointment is what we actually got. After a poor performance against USA and an even worse performance against Algeria, England needed to beat Slovenia in their final group game to progress into the next round. How a team that were strong favourites before the tournament struggled to beat teams like USA and Algeria is beyond belief. No disrespect to those sides, of course.
England did come through the do-or-die match against the Slovenians, filling the country with hope once again. The fact that they now faced the brutal force of Germany in the next round was not of importance; we’d made it. Strangely, the whole country seemed to think that we would beat Germany. That was never going to happen.
England lacked passion in all four of their World Cup games. They also lacked quality. As much as it pains me to say it, the players used in this World Cup were a disgrace. They didn’t look as if they wanted to be there at all. Some may argue that the players were burnt out; top stars such as Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and John Terry will have played close to fifty games this season with the Premier League season, the Champions League or Europa League, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Should the players be allowed to play that many games and then go on to a World Cup? Well yes, actually, they should. Every player in the England squad earns at least £50,000 a week; that’s more than most of the people in England get in one year. If you asked anyone in the country to pull on an England shirt, or even a club shirt, and play, they would. Not only that, but they’d run their hearts out. They’d have passion, they’d have drive, they’d have teamwork. Sounds better already, doesn’t it?
At the beginning of this World Cup I never thought that I would be slating Rooney. He’s the one player that gives his all every single game. Throughout the whole season for his club, Rooney has never looked anything but amazing. For some reason, when he put on an England shirt, this all changed. When Rooney loses the ball for Manchester United, he runs back. He terrorises the opposition until they give him the ball back. He wants the ball; he wants to be involved. On countless occasions at this World Cup, however, the forward lost the ball and didn’t chase back. His first touch was nothing short of appalling and his passion was nothing to be desired.
Rooney did suffer an injury at the end of March, as I am sure you are aware. The ankle ligament damage was sustained in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich. The return leg, just eight days later, saw Rooney back in the starting eleven; Rooney looked sharp to begin with but, as the match wore on, he clearly wasn’t fit. The game saw United crash out of the Champions League and saw Rooney’s fitness deteriorate rapidly. The striker suffered a groin injury later on in the season and issues with his temperament were again brought up in a warm-up match before South Africa began. Rooney, though, declared himself fit. He was “ready to go” in his own words. He may have been fit, but he certainly wasn’t match fit.
Rooney hasn’t scored in a competitive match, for club or country, since the game on the 30th of March against Bayern Munich. That’s almost three months ago. Rooney may have had the season of a life time, but he wasn’t on form going into this World Cup. Rooney’s sluggish performances showed this; his usual passion wasn’t there and his sharpness and eye for goal had been left back in Manchester.
Some will blame Sir Alex Ferguson for Rooney’s poor showing. Rooney played 44 games in the 2009/10 season and some will say that Rooney was exhausted by the time the World Cup came around. Fergie, though, cannot be blamed for that. His one and only focus is Manchester United Football Club; and why would it be any different? I’m not saying Rooney is to blame, far from it, but he wasn’t good enough in this World Cup, a statement which, I’m sure, the forward himself would agree with.
If you actually look at the squad, there is no one player who can be said of being on top form going into the World Cup. Players like Gerrard and Terry, both of whom are massively important for England, haven’t had great seasons by their own high standards. Gerrard has suffered a torrid season at woeful Liverpool, only managing to score nine goals in thirty-one games. In the previous season, he scored sixteen goals in thirty-one matches. The midfielder only managed seven assists last season, although that figure could be so low because the strikers at Liverpool were not exactly firing on all cylinders.
Terry has had torrid season, both on and off the field. And, although in the majority of the season the defender has looked alert and committed, he has the tendency to lapse in concentration.
Glen Johnson was also a massive disappointment. He didn’t look sure of himself at all, especially in the final game against the Germans. Truth-be-told, no-one out of the 23-man squad played anywhere near their capabilities.
The England team were not helped by off-the-field antics and crises that occurred before the World Cup. The well-documented scandals of John Terry and Ashley Cole, the former resulting in the stripping of the captaincy from the Chelsea centre-back, can only have dented England’s World Cup hopes. If that wasn’t bad enough, the injury to replacement captain Rio Ferdinand, sustained just days before the start of the competition, further dented the hopes of a nation. Although Gerrard was a more than capable replacement, the sudden change of leadership can unsteady the minds of some players. There were, though, enough leaders on that pitch to take England forward.
Fabio Capello; once the messiah, now just a mess in the eyes of many. His decision to take Emile Heskey, who rarely gets a game for Aston Villa, to South Africa instead of the top English scorer in the league this season, Darren Bent, was always going to pick up some criticism. Unjust criticism, possibly, because the Italian is the manager and he may see things in training that we don’t. The fact still remains, however, that Heskey did not perform.
The final game against Germany saw some strange decisions. The inflexible Capello chose to stick with his trusted 4-4-2 formation, with Gerrard out on the left. In my view, this is a waste of talent. Gerrard should be played down the middle, behind his mate Rooney. In the Slovenia game, Rooney and Gerrard linked up well and chances were created. While I’m sure that Gerrard is quite happy to play out wide, this is not his best position. With players such as Joe Cole and Milner, England do not need to put the Liverpool skipper on the left wing. Even more bemusing was Capello’s decision making in the final game. England were 4-1 down to Germany with twenty minutes to go and Capello decides to bring Heskey on for Defoe. The latter is the only England striker to score at the tournament, whereas Heskey hasn’t scored for England since the 6th June 2009, in a World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan. Peter Crouch was sat on the bench; a scarcely-used substitute in all of England’s games. This is the same player that, since Capello took over as England manager, has scored seven goals. Surely his presence would have created a stir in the German ranks?
The decision to bring Shaun Wright-Phillips was also a strange one. The Manchester City winger hadn’t really impressed during the group stages and was never really going to change the game.
Despite all this, however, Capello is the best manager England have had in a very long time. There is an argument that maybe an English manager is what the country needs. But who? Harry Redknapp seems to be the most mentioned name, but could he manage a country? The Tottenham manager’s main strength lies in the wheeling-and-dealing of the transfer market and so the big question is whether Redknapp could actually do a good job with a set team of players. For now, Capello is the man for England.
So where did it all go wrong for England? It was a mixture of points and problems. The uncertainty of leadership in the camp, the stubbornness of Capello, the fact that none of the players were really on form going into the tournament and the usual pressure put on the England side by both fans and the media. One thing’s for certain though; next time has to be better.


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