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lil article i found about Your NT


England's leadership crisis
Les Murray

In a dinner conversation with Aimé Jacquet, in the midst of his recent lecture trip to Sydney, I engaged his coaching eminence on the question of who will be the big threats to wrest the World Cup title away from Brazil this year.

After the expected protocol of paying respect to the chances of France (he is, after all, French technical director) he mentioned England with some emphasis, raising his fork and suggesting that all should beware of England. Downing another gulp from a splendid red, he went on to claim that England, a team with a nice balance, many quality players, not to say a hunger born out of a 40-year drought, can add up to a lethal mix that should be respected and feared.

This was relief for me because I needed the corroboration of someone decidedly expert. I too fancy that England has the capacity to do something special in this World Cup, including winning it.

This is unusual at least for me. In my long and many years of World Cup watching I didn’t fancy England once, except in 1966 and even then only because they were at home.

Through those series of tries England were mostly pedestrian and suburban, falling short of the tactical wisdom and cunning, not to say skill, that give winners an edge in a global contest. Even in 1990 I was surprised they made the semis, but not shocked they fell to West Germany, albeit on the penalties and amid Gazza’s tears. The Germans were far too smart for them that night in Turin and, in any case, they had been lucky against a naïve Cameroon in the quarters to have made it that far.

But things now appear to be different.

In the midst of all the foreign influence and interference to which English football has been subjected in the past ten and more years, they, paradoxically, now have quite a splendid generation of internationals, a squad that can be favourably compared with anything they have had before.

It maybe that Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and others adorn their teams with a majority of non-Englishmen, and field line-ups that defy cultural gravity. But English football answers back and throws up a national squad that is of some class and is worth taking seriously.

Jacquet spoke, and others speak, of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and John Terry, mostly with envy. Coaches and experts, foreign to England, generally have been uttering words of admiration for these men, adding that they wished they had them as theirs.

And that’s half the England team.

Then what of Michael Owen and Ashley Cole (both nursing injuries) and the others of that tier, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and the young Shaun Wright-Phillips?

This is a formidable squad. And that is minus those who are certainly not yet ‘on the plane’ to Germany, like Jermaine Jenas, Sol Campbell, Glen Johnson, Wayne Bridge (also injured) and the rising Anton Ferdinand.

In terms of solo resources, the generation of players at his call, Sven Goran Eriksson is blessed and can have no complaints. That is already in place. It is how he stacks his bricks that will ultimately determine the outcome of the England effort.

On that issue there is some mystery. It was Eriksson who, using these bricks, sent out a team that lost a World Cup qualifier to Northern Ireland, with the immensely gifted and penetrative striker, Wayne Rooney, in some kind of satellite role on the left wing. For a start, the man is right footed.

The red question marks blinking about Sven’s genius arose in World Cup 2002 when, in the game against Brazil, no less a foe than Ronaldinho was sent off and Eriksson responded by not responding. He chose status quo, containment and surrender and England duly lost.

Now he is faced with a much bigger challenge, one of genuine and well warranted expectation. This, in the words of the old war horse Jack Charlton, is the best England team since 1970 and the excuses for likely failure are in short supply.

England’s, and Eriksson’s, biggest problem may be a ‘personality’ issue, the need to manage an ego conflict that has the potential to beset and eat away at the team collective.

According to István Görgényi the midfield triumvirate of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard is dysfunctional and, unless fixed, is the great source of England’s potential failure.

Görgényi is the former coach of Australia’s national women’s water polo team which won Olympic gold at Sydney 2000. Since retiring from that job after the 2004 Athens Games he has devoted his time to studying team environments, whether in sport or any other realm, what makes them tick, how they evolve and how and why they can self-destruct over time.

He now consults and advises large corporations on the subject. Not known to many, Görgényi submitted a report to the FFA’s technical governors on these issues following Australia’s performance at the Confederations Cup in Germany last year.

One common cause of self-destruction, according to Görgényi’s theory, is when members of a team assume to compete with one another for ownership of a certain role, or occupy the same ‘hunting territory’, as Görgényi puts it.

He diagnosed the conflict between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer at Newcastle United, which resulted in an on-field punch-up, as one of these. The two had been competing for the same space and the same role in the team with the manager oblivious to it until it came to a head. ‘The on-field body language told it all’, says Görgényi. ‘It was clear they saw each other as an intrusion into the same territory.’

Görgényi senses this same ‘hunting territory’ crisis in the England team with Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard. Each, he suspects, operates in the same mind zone. What position each plays in, on the right, on the left or in the middle, is not relevant. It is what role each man wants to play in, and should own according to his conviction, is the problem.

In the case of these three, each sees himself as the cog in the wheel, the leader critical to England’s success. And it is true, each of these fine players has the qualities to be just that. This self appraisal may be purely sub-conscious and instinctive, without malice and despite an otherwise thoroughly professional attitude by the players. This, says Görgényi, appears to be the case with the three England men.

There is no question that at Liverpool Gerrard is the leader and that at Chelsea it is Lampard. At Madrid Beckham is not the leader but only because, in the face of the quality around him, he cannot but succumb to a non-leadership role. But he would like that status with England, something he couldn’t attain at Manchester United, given the powerful presence of Roy Keane.

The problem is that the three men are in competition, according to Görgényi, and unless that is reined in and neutralised, the England mission as a collective aim is on a troubled course.

If Görgényi is right, how Eriksson deals with this, if he is aware of it at all, will govern England’s fate in Germany


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In reference to the article, its a good point. They do all want to play the same role, and none want to play the holding role. Sven needs to drop one (Beckham), and somehow work on a midfield that will accomodate two men who between them have nearly 40 goals this season.
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