Back in 1995, surveying the young Manchester United side featuring Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Gary Neville, which had slumped to a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, pundit and former Liverpool footballer Alan Hansen coined a now infamous phrase. “You can’t win anything with kids”, declared the Scotsman confidently. A mantra that was dramatically proven to be false and misguided that very season by Sir Alex Ferguson‘s youthful charges, Hansen’s words also apply to the most exciting and unpredictable phenomena of the London 2012 Olympic Games – youth.
So far 15-year-old Ye Shiwen from China has won the 400m IM, American 17-year-old Missy Franklin has picked up three gold medals, and Kate Ledecky has well and truly outpaced Team GB favourite Rebecca Adlington in the 800m freestyle. These kids, eh? Always winning medals and showing up their elders. It’s a shame you can’t win anything with ki… Oh, wait. You can.
A familiar tale | England‘s penalty defeat cannot be allowed to mask the deficiencies in player development and technical ability. (Image | Yahoo)
Listening to BBC Radio 5 Live last night was rather masochistic on my part, as unlike the somewhat jingoistic commentators on television, callers in to the show seemed to accept England’s latent failings far more readily. The host, Alan Green, was typically honest about the nation’s footballing shortcomings, and once again called for root and branch reform. While many find the Ulsterman to be a deeply off-putting, often infuriating presence on the radio, he is right. We cannot carry on like this.
It has been said time and time again, but the FA operates not on a long-term basis, but the worst type of short-termism. Please the fans, reach the quarter finals, suffer a heroic exit on penalties and we can forget the dearth of young talent in the English game, the fact that we were entirely outplayed by a far from vintage Italy for 120 minutes, and our inability to keep the ball and dominate matches at the pinnacle of European football.
One of the finest managers of his generation, even Fabio Capello was not up to the challenge of leading England to glory (PA)
Now that Fabio Capello has done the only honourable thing and stuck by his beliefs in resigning from the England managerial post, our national pride and glory is left whistling in the wind as, once more, the nation reluctantly and unconfidently puts its hopes and dreams in the hands of the Football Association to find a suitable man to lead England to Euro 2012 glory. Nothing less will be enough – it never is in this bizarre, parallel universe the media deports us all to every time the cream of the nation’s talent takes the pitch in the service of the Three Lions.
I have very little faith in the FA’s ability to get this decision right. The last four managers they have selected have all had their failings. Kevin Keegan was, when all is said and done, an emotional choice rather than a logical one. Sven-Goran Eriksson, while mostly successful on the pitch, was hounded out by his inability to keep out of the tabloids (Ulrika Jonsson, fake sheikhs, repeated courting of club interest). Steve McClaren… well, let’s not. At least he stayed dry.
And then there’s Fabio.
It has been a tricky start to 2012 for Manchester United. The jaw-dropping, last-gasp defeat at home to bottom-feeders Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve – Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday, of all days – was followed up with a thoroughly disheartening loss at the hands of a more confident, more creative and more entertaining Newcastle United. On top of that, the club has had to publicly refute reports – again – that talismanic striker Wayne Rooney is on his way out of the club after more rumours of a breakdown in his relationship with Ferguson.
Paul Scholes’ return could be exactly what Fergie’s side need.
The response from United was not unusual – make a big-name signing to cover over some of the cracks. The team has lacked a central midfielder ever since legendary pass master Paul Scholes retired in the summer and was not replaced. So, finally, Ferguson and David Gill have made the move they needed to make and signed a central midfielder.