Sport

The Big Question: What can get the ‘Three Lions’ roaring?


A schoolboy’s dream – to step out onto the hallowed Wembley turf with the Three Lions sitting proudly on your chest as you represent your country on the biggest stage.

However, it would seem the current group of England stars see it as more of a burden – the weight of a whole country’s expectation on their shoulders.

While watching the pre-match warm-up prior to Tuesday’s Euro 2012 qualifier, Fabio Capello claimed he knew his players would find the match against Wales difficult.

When asked why he was unable to lift the players in the dressing room prior to kick-off, he laid the blame at the door of his players’ mentality.

“I tried to do that, I tried. I spoke with the players, said things, but it is impossible, with the things that I saw, to change,” said Capello.

This apparent failure to motivate his players surely poses the question – is it because a manager cannot motivate his players or do the players themselves lack motivation?

A highly-respected football manager – with honours collected at clubs like Real Madrid and Juventus in his trophy cabinet – should be able to rouse the players and raise their spirits to make pulling on the England shirt the proudest moment and fill them with the determination to succeed.

But there can be comparisons drawn with the current European and World champions Spain where great care is taken in grass-roots football.

The national team is comprised of players who want to compete in major tournaments and who primarily come from the top two teams in the country – Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Hand-in-hand, these attributes give Spain the attitude and ability they need to be successful.

Chelsea’s Juan Mata – a £24m summer recruit – is a perfect example of this.
Despite being part of Spain’s World Cup squad in 2010, he was included in the Under-21 European Championship squad and added another trophy to an impressive collection.

Former Manchester City manager and current England U21 coach Stuart Pearce would agree with this sentiment.

Talking to national radio station Talksport, he admitted: “We must start taking our strongest squad to major finals.

“Me progressing lads up to the seniors is all part of the job, and a lot of players have done that, but when we reach major finals it’s important the Under-21s win.”

However, club managers do not share this belief, illustrated by Arsene Wenger’s action in prohibiting  Jack Wilshere from competing in this summer’s tournament in Denmark – despite Wilshere declaring his wish to play.

Ultimately, key players such as Wilshere and Andy Carroll were not permitted to travel to Denmark for the tournament – this could have made all the difference to England’s campaign.

If it is in the senior team’s best interests to include more experienced players in the Under-21 squad, it should be done.

If a player wants to play, it can only be seen as a good thing eventually for the national team and could put an end to Capello’s – or more likely his successors’ – motivation, selection and tournament headaches.

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