Funny how what goes around comes around. Take the way we play our football. Well, how do we play our football?
There’s the Premier League, highly successful. And then there’s England, highly not. The prevailing view is that “our” trailblazing league is the “product” of foreign talent - and that there’s too much of it for the good of the national side.
I agree with that but an evening in the company of Gary Megson and Carlton Palmer has made me think.
Fact is, the top imported talent has adapted itself to the hurry and scurry of the English style, not the other way around. Also, as those two gentlemen both maintain, WE (England) have tried to adapt OUR style to THEIRS. Or at least the approach of their home countries.
And, as former Sheffield Wednesday player and manager Megson points out, THEY (as in the more successful countries at the World Cup) have switched to more direct methods while WE have been failing at copying THEIRS.
Neither Gary nor Carlton, another Owls legend who actually played for England, is disputing that improved skill and technique is also the fundamental way forward. They’re simply arguing that we can be more effective with what we have by using it in a different way; our way.
Okay, we could all be accused of going back to the dinosaurs and so called “long ball football.” Except that an ultimately humiliated Brazil, semi-finalists for all that, scored some very English type goals with balls played from deep.
Germany were the best of everything, often passing from the back but always with pace and purpose. Palmer and Megson reckon we are playing our way down a cul-de-sac while everyone else seems to have “moved on” down the highway.
Carlton, now an engaging pundit, argues: “All these countries are doing what we’ve done while we’re going backwards at it.”
Megson echoes: “We should be taking the best out of the way we play in the Premier League but we don’t do that. Meanwhile, other countries are doing exactly that.
“I don’t want to see two centre halves passing the ball to each other.”
Have to add I’m not about to leap aboard the bandwagon of Roy Hodgson’s critics as history shows the immensity of his task.
But football always keeps you talking and thinking.
Takes me back to hearing Dave Bassett’s impassioned defence of a style that hoisted Wimbledon and Sheffield United up by their bootstraps in the 80s and 90s.
And also Howard Wilkinson’s Wednesday of a similar era. Ultimately, within the laws, there isn’t a right or a wrong way to play. It needs to be effective. And if it’s winning football then it’s usually entertaining.