The Michael Wood Column

Thursday 13 Febuary, 2003

Aussies show England what is going wrong

I woke up from a bad dream: The country that had given the world football, that lead the world in football in many ways still, were humbled 3-1 at home to Australia.

Let's not wring hands though. Let's not wonder how we have come from the heights of the World Cup to this debacle. Back in October 2000 and again in June 2002 here at BfB we said that the problem with the England team is that on Wednesday night it is the end of the world but by Saturday afternoon no one will care. To be frank aside from the black eye we have taken in the face of world football no one should care.

The likes of David Beckham and Michael Owen were strolling. There was no commitment because there was no reason for commitment. In the end do we really want our guys diving in to tackles and risking injury in a game like this? Would anyone care about the result of this game if we were going into the qualifiers for Euro 2004 with a broken leg on Paul Scholes cause he snapped at Paul Okon and came off second best?

To be frank the usefulness of International friendlies has been on the slide for sometime. Back in days of the Mighty Magyars Hungary turned up and blew England, Bobby Charlton and all, off the field by dropping one of the five strikers back to midfield.

Sir Alf Ramsey's side were world beaters but very few of them had any experience in playing against South American sides like the Argentines who we faced in the 1966 quarter-finals.

Take a look at the current England side. The majority of them are playing Champions League football with or against guys who have been gathered from all over the world. Send off '66 Argentine skipper Antonio Rattin probably never set foot on English soil again or played against any of the England eleven. Compare that to the all too frequent meetings between Beckham and his nemesis Deigo Simeone.

We do not need this kind of meaningless international friendlies because our players do not need educating in the ways of world football.

Perhaps it is a better idea that the likes of Beckham stroll thorugh a night like 3-1 to Australia and then run themselves ragged in the Champions League. They will learn more about the game and themselves doing that than they will in an international practise game and a watching Sven will learn more too. He does not need to call Rio Ferdinand into a squad to see if he could play in a continental back four. He sees him play along side Silvestre, Blanc et al.

There are many things that could be done to raise the importance of this sort of game but we are not going to do them and in a way we should not. Even the England captain, Mr Beckham, does not feel that anywhere in his 80,000 a week contract talks he should tell Heir Ferguson at Old Trafford that one of the stipulations of his new deal is that he will be allowed to play 90 minutes of every England game should Sven want him.

The desire is not there because during the season we are focused on club football. Is this a bad thing? Ask yourself this question: If Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Paul Okon can play like that for their nation why is their play for Leeds so average?

There is is the future that Australia show us. Turn up for your country, tread water in the league. Is that what we want?

Jermain Jenas looked good though.

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