Wonder of Wiggins offers hope for English football

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OUR CYLISTS have done it, so have our rowers, sailors, shooters and most spectacularly, Jessica Ennis.

Even our cricketers - after a blip this weekend - have done it.

They’ve become the best in the world.

After years of planning, new structures, talent spotting networks, better individual development and a decent chunk of lottery money, our sports men and women are at the top of their event in many disciplines.

All great news and seeing Bradley Wiggins cross the line on the Champs Elysee just after Mark Cavendish on Sunday to become the first Englishman to win the Tour de France tells us anything is possible.

Well, almost anything.

Our top footballers get more money in wages and more cash spent on their development and wellbeing in their short careers than many other, more successful sports people do, so cash isn’t necessarily the problem.

The problems of the English game are well documented and boring by now but we get the gist, though all is not lost. Far from it.

Who would have thought our cricketers would ever be the best team in the world again?

But the sport’s governers, the counties and the ECB, got their heads together and changed the way they did things. Sky put TV money in and player development was targeted as a priority.

From laughing stock to top of the tree - via three famous Ashes wins - in ten years.

So let’s do that with football like the French and the Spanish did and like the Germans and Italians always do.

What Bradley Wiggins, Alastair Cooke and and Jessica Ennis have in common is talent and their talent was spotted and nurtured in the right way.

The structures in their sport allowed their abilities to flourish and while there will always be the genius who comes through in spite of coaching systems rather than because of them, there’s no doubt that better training makes better athletes.

The football equivalent of Bradley Wiggins with arms aloft on the Champs Elysees would be Jack Wilshire or Phil Jones lifting the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

The right systems, attitudes and determination can make that happen, but boy do we need to change.

England’s football structure needs to piggy-back some Olympic gusto, ride the wave of enthusiasm for sport and get on track for the future. That would be a real legacy.

Sheffield United seem to be heaping a lot of hope onto the shoulders of young John Cofie. The lad has only just joined on a year’s loan and already he’s touted as the key to their promotion hopes.

He’s no doubt a real talent with high hopes but it’s a big ask for a 19-year old.

So far his career at Manchester United will have been all about his personal development within a team of other developing players.

While there is always pressure to win at big clubs it won’t be the same kind of pressure he’s going to face at Bramall Lane where it’s less about him and more about the team and most importantly, their results.

If he gets off to a flier he might be a revelation but, as all football fans know, players at that age are inconsistent and even Manchester United youngsters are not guaranteed to make the grade.

Anyone remember Michael Twiss from the same source and John Newby from Liverpool?