Despite the fact I owe several people a reply (yes, I mean you Boffy), I can't help but be distracted by the lefty blogosphere's attempt to shoehorn the cautionary tale of the Great South African Football disaster into any available political narrative they'd care to spin.
Exhibit A is provided by Cde Mason from Newsnight:
"Maybe in this World Cup we've seen the first real triumph of the economics of modern football over skill and organisation: the triumph of a club-first, nation-last mentality and individualism over teamwork.....Exhibit B is provided by the ever prolific Chris Dillow:
England's outstanding badness in World Cup 2010 must be a symptom of something bigger: the fact that we've got the most expensive, highest leveraged club system - and that none of our players play outside it - must have contributed to the weakening of commitment to the national colours, the evisceration of upcoming talent, the creation of an unmanageable team of frightened individuals...
Like failed bankers they will pay no penalty for failure other than public opprobrium and, as everybody in high finance knows, you can live with that as long as you own a Lamborghini.
Basically, we've just seen the Lehman Brothers of football and it was not pretty."
"I blame Taylor. Not Graham Taylor, but Frederick Winslow Taylor.So Paul's saying the problem is that English football is a bit too like how the City operates - and that's bad for the country, even if it's good for the big clubs/city firms - and Chris is saying, no, it goes deeper than that: it's the very idea of 'modern' management which is at the root of the problem. But I can't get the faint image of men with hammers defining the problem as a nail out of my mind when I read these thoughts. Because, after all, England has had several people at least as good as Fabregas or Ozil over the years - most especially this pocket genius . It really ain't skill that's the problem - and Capello is clearly a proven manager.
He invented scientific management. The effect of this was to break down traditional craft work - where manual and physical labour combined - and give us workplaces in which management did the thinking and labourers did the grunt work. This created an iron curtain between intelligence and physical labour not just in the workplace, but in our culture.
The problem is, though, that football needs both brains and physical work.
It’s no accident that the European nation in which craft traditions declined most sharply is also the team that is weakest in those areas where intelligence is most needed.
I mean this is in two senses. First, we are tactically inflexible; Fabio Capello has been criticised for sticking rigidly with 4-4-2, but could this be because he didn’t trust his players to change things?
Secondly, we are under-supplied in positions where intelligence is needed: ... the players capable of changing the tempo of the match; and the ones who can find space and pick out a pass - England has no-one who even vaguely resembles Cesc Fabregas or Mesut Ozil."
Exhibit C, however, from Jamie K gets closer to the nub of it I think:
"The whole In-ger-lund setup, with all its orchestrated hysteria and commercial hoo-haa is a kind of consolation prize from the EPL to the FA after it seized control over the game: OK, we’ll lend you some of our assets, go whoop up the punters with a load of flag wagging and make a bundle for a few weeks.But this is still not quite right - because, with the exception of the Germans perhaps, this is a condition which affects all modern footballers and all national teams. I think the problem is not with the globalisation per se, but with the particular national sentiment it is in tension with. England is a nation without a state, but one used to assuming that the trappings of a former grand imperial state - Britain - naturally fit it. Hence the chorus of 'Rule Britannia' from the crowd, not 'Jerusalem'. But those old imperial clothes don't fit Britain any more, much less England. So we get this weird and utterly self destructive hysterical neurosis at every big sporting tournament England qualifies for and it affects not just the media and the fans but the team as well.
..... The EPL is a globalised institution and its major players live within its boundaries. True, they spend more of their actual time in the tax boundary known as the UK, but I bet the life of your average England player has a lot of the same weird affectlessness of life in a gated compound for foreigners in Shanghai, only with added celebrity status to cope with and profit from. ....
So the World Cup is an occasion that brings about a particularly sharp collision between globalisation and national sentiment, both financially driven. ... I think it ... has significant downstream consequences (such as: how do you make a team from an assemblage of players who work in various supporting roles in multinational teams, often with players better than they are). At any rate, it’s a weird atmosphere in which to try and play football."
So my recipe for an England victory at the next World Cup? Let Alex Salmond win his referendum on independence. Cut England down to size in reality, and perhaps the psychic expectation that they deserve to rule the world will die away.
Oh: and pray for a new Paul Scholes to emerge. He scores goals y'know.