Are England friendly internationals just money making vehicles? Or tools to help develop and nurture future talent?
This weekend’s Premier League action was yet again entertaining fair. There were goals aplenty, talking points, drama and of course questionable refereeing decisions to pour over on Match of the Day.
Over the past few months fans of the domestic game have been treated to many weeks of double and even triple headers, as games have been crammed into a crowded fixture schedule. This has been lamented by frustrated managers, but has been a delight for fans, who have been able to indulgently binge on their passion for their team.
This week though Premier League fans will have to take a break from spending yet another Wednesday night happily slumped in front of Sky Sports, as it’s that time of year to squeeze in an international friendly, and much to my continued confusion this is often greeted with angry scowls by many friends and fans.
I could understand if this was just an aversion to having to sit through an England game while Clive Tyldsely and Andy Townsend read the book of football clichés cover to cover, but it’s not.
It’s not just that fans are disinterested in friendly internationals, as this is understandable because they rarely turn into edge of your seat humdingers, but this lack of interest has somehow turned into anger.
Pointless, futile and other more graphic and less socially acceptable words have been used to describe the upcoming friendly against Denmark on Twitter. Perhaps an inclusion in the rebranded Home Nations Cup would be a happy compromise, but unfortunately that decision isn’t available this year.
Seemingly there is a frustration with international football at the moment in this country, especially considering the performance of Fabio Capello’s aging team in South Africa last summer.
This frustration has dampened the enthusiasm for the national game, perhaps typified by seeing the same old problems reveal themselves over and over again at major tournaments.
The fact though that these problems are repeatedly encountered is surely an argument for the inclusion of friendly internationals in football isn’t it? In the wake of another disappointing performance on the world stage, it’s quite clear that things need to be corrected, amended and tweaked ahead of the European Championships in 2012.
To do this only in competitive competitions would certainly be a brave move to put it mildly. Perhaps more importantly though it would be a baptism of fire for young players making their international debut in an important competitive match.
A memorable example of this for me was Scott Carson’s debut against Croatia at a rain soaked Wembley when the visitors took the spoils and the qualification spot for Euro 2008, having been gifted the initiative by the keepers mistake.
Now I’m sure there are players who have made the progression from club to competitive international football with ease, but increasingly English players of this calibre seem to be few and far between.
The opportunity then to bed them in gently to international football is surely a welcome opportunity. Games such Wednesday’s will give the manager the chance to see new players train, asses their skills and temperament first hand and see how they adapt to life in a new and very competitive environment.
The more times these players are allowed to develop then it will theoretically be better for the future of international football in this country.
As with any England squad though there will undoubtedly be disagreements regarding selection amongst fans and I sympathise, as I’m not always in agreement with the squad and team selection either.
It may be an aversion to the continued pairing of Lampard and Gerrard in midfield or something else entirely and unfortunately for armchairs managers like me this I think will be an eternal annoyance.
If though, new players are given a run on the green of international football, tactics are tinkered with and ultimately one little thing is learned for the benefit of the national game then it will have been worthwhile exercise, even if the game turns out to be a snooze fest that rarely matches the excitement of the Premier League.Tags: England, Premier League
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