In recent years, there has been a degree of animosity from domestic managers around Europe towards International Football, especially from the English Premier League. Harry Redknapp once stated that while managing Tottenham, players would go to him and ask if he could get them out of playing for England, by lying about injuries/fitness.
Similarly, players often prefer their club team over the national team, and some vice-versa. I am of the belief that playing for your country should be an honour, but the fact that come every break for Qualifiers or Friendlies – there are always ‘Niggles’ that miraculously get a club’s best players out of games. This leads to players who are not good enough getting the chance, and often embarrasing themselves (just look at some of the players who are in the program “England’s Worst World Cup 11” that broadcasts before every World Cup or European Championships).
The most recent/current battle is between England and Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge was injured while playing for England against Norway/Switzerland, and was ruled out for a month. Now, one month on, when the injury should have been healed, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers sent a dossier about his fitness, claiming he is not fit enough to play. Roy Hodgson stated in an interview several days ago that England have the right to investigate and asses a players fitness, but would not want to as this would put more strain upon the relationship between the two entities.
A club cannot withdraw a player from a squad simply because they have an important game coming up, and can be sanctioned by FIFA, I believe, if they are guilty of this. However, every time a player returns with an injury, it makes the relationship between club and country more sour. England do pay towards a players’ wage while on International duty, but because clubs pay wages the majority of the time, there is certainly an air of ‘We pay for him, he’s ours’, with a cheeky middle finger to the national team.
Is there a way to keep everyone happy? Probably not – the vast majority of players will want to play International football, but feel the glaring eyes of their manager burning into the back of their head when away with their country. It’s a bit like choosing between your mum and dad, as to which is your favourite – you really can’t pick, and even if you did have a favourite, you wouldn’t say as it would upset one or the other.
The England national cricket team have a central contract system, where they receive a 12 month deal if they are a main player. Essentially it puts the England team ahead of their county. I feel if this were implemented, it would solve a lot of the arguing – basically if they are fit and centrally contracted, clubs cannot try and withhold them.
It could be a reason why then national team is struggling – most other nations take pride at the standard of their national team, with the full backing of clubs. In England, because each place in the league could mean millions more, there is a greed – that the club is more important than country. Liverpool players often say they are Scouse, not English – Jamie Carragher retired from England duty very early to concentrate on his career – maybe it is this sort of attitude that is holding England back…Now at the moment, Rodgers is playing on the anti-England stance of a lot of Liverpool fans. They are struggling at the moment, and with Lambert, Henderson, Lallana and Sterling away this week, he does not want to risk Sturridge too, but if he is fit – he should be playing.
Wayne Rooney may have his limitations, and has taken flack from all corners, but he has made in abundantly clear that playing for England is important to him. We could do with a team full of people like him, in a way. In a big game, if a player is thinking more about the game when going into a tackle rather than what happens if he misses it, could cost us games.
Anyway – what do you think of the whole situation – is there a middle ground, where everyone is happy?
Let us know!