The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 25 Jun 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

The England rant

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I’m English. And I don’t support England. Something inherent in writing about football for years knocked any team allegiance out of me, I hated John Terry for a range of reasons and they play hideously dull football. In addition, there’s just something about them that feels a bit… well, a bit UKIP. Not a place where I want to be.

And I’ve read a lot of soul-searching in recent hours, from an explicitly racist comment on a newspaper comment site that blamed black players to a more insightful analysis of the problems of the Premier League. But the problem is a more basic one, in my opinion. And it’s this.

Speed.

Back when I was writing about football, I became aware of a couple of players who had failed as sprinters and got passed on to football, where they had had no small success. The implication of this seemed to be clear. Ball skills seem to matter less than your ability to run at full pelt in a straight line very quickly. And so it proves in the Premier League.

The whole bloody thing is played at 100 miles an hour, which makes it great to watch but doesn’t do anything for the players’ skills. If you can dribble before you started, like the foreign players, then great. You’ll be more at home on the ball, your distribution will be better and the press will purr over your mesmeric talents.

If you’re English, however, you just need to run very, very fast. That this doesn’t work is borne out by the team’s performances and vast inability to do anything as soon as it becomes clear that they’re not going to be able to run around like headless chickens. So what’s the answer?

Faced with the task of buying a ball for a friend’s five year old, I did some research and then bought an appropriately sized ball. A small ball. For a small person. And if you’re punting a ball around the park that is the right size for you, chances are that you’ll learn to be a bit more skilful with it than if it feels like it’s the size of a beachball.

There’s no sadder sight than a pack of small children chasing an adult-sized ball around and adult-sized pitch with someone who is about two feet tall, lost and lonely, in the goal. Scale it all down, let them play and enjoy themselves and we’ll see where we are. My guess is that we’ll be in a much better place. And who knows – I might even start supporting them again.

 

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