Ex-Manchester United striker Andrew Cole has backed claims that England players duck out of international duty, insisting that international football is ‘just a bonus’.
England bowed out of the World Cup at the group stage for the first time since 1958 and the post-tournament inquest is underway as QPR boss Harry Redknapp revealed some of his Tottenham squad asked to be pulled out of England fixtures.
Cole, who earned 15 caps for England, also believes criticism of Roy Hodgson’s side has been excessive, that unrealistic expectations ruin England appearances and that number two Gary Neville is not ready to step up to the top job.
“I wasn’t surprised by what Harry said, not at all,” said Cole, on Redknapp’s allegations, speaking at a Vauxhall talkSPORT Fan Hub.
“I saw that happen a number of times – it’s not uncommon. It’s been around a long time and it could well be the same with other countries as well.
“Who pays your bills? Nine months of the year who do you play for? Your club. So how can you put your country first?
“If you ask any professional player, their bread and butter is their football club and to play for their country is just a bonus.”
England went to Brazil with low expectations but just two goals and one point from their three group games has been met with widespread disappointment.
Defeats to Italy and Uruguay and a goalless draw against Costa Rica saw Hodgson’s men crash out at the first hurdle.
Cole, who remains the Premier League’s second highest scorer with 189 goals behind Alan Shearer, insists the pressure on players to deliver is too much and the level of scrutiny takes the shine off pulling on the Three Lions shirt.
“People say playing for England is a great honour but you don’t expect to be under the intense pressure and scrutiny that you’re under,” Cole said.
“Ultimately, it’s a game of football. It’s not life or death. It’s a game, a game we all love but when England don’t get results it’s treated like a death in the family. It should never be like that.
“Everyone should want to play for their country but, when England lose, the depth the press go into everything is too much – the pressure is far too much.
“It definitely takes the shine off playing for England. It’s tough playing for England, no matter what anyone says, the expectations are far, far too high.”
Reasons for England’s major tournament mediocrity have been suggested by fans and pundits alike, ranging from a lack of identity on the pitch to an excessive number of administrators off it.
Cole believes criticism of Hodgson’s young side, however, has been blown out of proportion.
“I don’t think this World Cup is anything to get downbeat about,” said Cole, 42.
“It was a tough group and the English media being the English media thought England should get through because we’re England. In football that doesn’t happen.
“The team’s failure has been blown out of proportion. We’ve got a great advert in the Premier League but we’re where we’re at because we’re not as good as we think we are.
“There are better teams than England which has been proven and until we start working on things upwards from down to up, we won’t turn it around.”
Hodgson’s position as manager has come under the spotlight too despite FA chairman Greg Dyke backing him to take charge in France at Euro 2016.
Some have suggested assistant manager Neville could be a strong replacement for Hodgson but Cole, who played with the former full-back for six years at Old Trafford, disagrees.
“I’ll be honest, I like Gary but I don’t think he’s got the experience for that job,” said Cole, who also had a spell at Manchester City.
“There are other managers out there who could do the job but nobody has got a magic wand.
“England is an impossible job because the expectations are so high. Roy needs more time, of course he does.
“We played well against Italy and it was the best performance in however long and everyone was like ‘carry on Roy’, then they lose to Uruguay and everyone is saying, ‘Roy should go and we should start again’ – it’s a knee-jerk reaction.
“Brazil won their group by goal difference – who would have expected that at the start of the tournament? Who would have expected Spain to go out? It happens, it’s football.”
Image courtesy of bwin via YouTube with thanks