So, England bow out of a major tournament in the group phase for the first time since (coincidently) the 1958 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. Here are some brief thoughts on England’s demise.
The Premier League
a.) It’s clear to me that an individualist mindset is pervasive throughout the Premier League. This is demonstrable through the way the league is run, the way many of the clubs are run, the media coverage of the competition, as well the attitude of some of the fans.
b.) This leads to huge emphasis being put on individual performances, leading to the adoration, exaltation (positive) and the berating (negative) of individuals over teams. This in turn leads to the creation and promotion of so called ‘superstars.’
The England team
c.) The dominance of the Premier League and it’s prevailing culture has obvious relevance to how the England team is viewed. We tend to think of the England squad as a collection of individuals, (including a few ‘superstars’) rather than thinking about the squad as a collective team unit.
d.) This way of thinking manifests itself in the fallout after matches at major tournaments. For as long as I can remember, the media/fans have zoomed in on individual players/managers as the focus of their adulation/frustration. Take this tournament as an example. I’ve heard people blame Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Roy Hogdson all individually, almost as if removing any one of these individuals will suddenly cure the ills of the England team! The point here isn’t that culpability should necessarily be taken away from these individuals, but that in endlessly focussing on individual factors, we risk missing the bigger picture.
e.) Perhaps the England team’s fortunes would start to improve if the FA, media, fans etc. promoted a ‘cohesive team ethic’ way of thinking rather than a ‘collection of superstar individual players’ one. It seems to me that the teams that do well at major tournaments have this ‘team’ mindset (despite having ‘superstar’ players). This is reflected in the cohesiveness of their team tactics, their relations with each other, media relations etc.
f.) How refreshing is it to see teams like Costa Rica with no so called ‘superstars’ sacrifice for their fellow team mates, playing as a team with seemingly no egos and qualify for the last 16? ‘Cohesive team unit’ in action methinks.
g.) Personally, I’m now quite looking forward to enjoying the World Cup without all the pressure surrounding England! Saying that, I found it refreshing that media and fan expectations this time round seemed to be more realistic than on previous occasions.