England’s Engagement Problem

So, another World Cup and another lackluster performance from England (1st half against Italy aside).

After a half decent qualification period from England and Roy Hodgeon’s promise to blood the younger players and the English media seemingly setting expectations decidedly lower, where did it all go wrong?

England players don’t appear engaged

I don’t think this has much to do with the World Cup, although, surprisingly you would expect all players to be keen to play and ‘leave everything on the pitch’ at the tournament.

This is, for me, an endemic ‘engagement’ issue and more to do with football in Western Europe.

Playing for your country should be the highest honour.  Take a look at Costa Rica who will have players in the US, Romanian or Swiss leagues.  They are players earning £,000 ‘s a week if that for whom playing in a World Cup, to a 60,000 stadium, in front of millions at home, against the likes of  Suarez, Rooney and Pirlo, is an absolute dream.  Costa Rica are playing above and beyond their standard both individually and collectively.

Now look at England.

What players do we ever have that perform above and beyond for England?

One can argue that during the course of a 38 game season, there is more opportunities to stand out and deliver exceptional performances, compared with the group stages of the World Cup but when was the last time that we saw a truly great or outstanding performance from an England player, taking a game by the scruff of the neck?

Does the novelty of playing for England tail off?  Is it now considered an inconvenience?

What can be done?

Going forward – the FA needs to look at how it can re-engage both the players, management and fans to start instilling a genuine desire to not just represent England but to go above and beyond for England.

Looking at the Engage for Success enablers would be a good starting point for the FA.

Strategic Narrative

This is all about visible and empowering leadership, is there a clear, consistent strategy from the FA that ‘everyone’ can both work towards and get behind?  How does this work with the domestic clubs – the appearance is that international football is a nuisance to Clubs who are more interested in domestic and European success – there isn’t a feeling of all pulling together to achieve success as a nation.

Engaging managers

Roy and the coaching team need to ensure they focus on their people collectively as a team and also individually.  Do we play to our strengths?  We went to the World Cup knowing we didn’t have the best defence, against Italy we saw attacking verve and skill, yet against Uruguay we played within ourselves and looked shackled.  We had good young attacking players and yet didn’t play to those strengths against Uruguay.


I believe this has improved under Roy Hodgson, the sense while Capello was manager was that the communication between and with players was very limited.  Players not having an opportunity to have their say or input into strategy, tactics and matches.  The impression under Roy is vastly different and much more positive.


We’ve seen Harry Redknapp in the press this week suggesting that players try to get out of playing for England.  Yet, outwardly players say they are proud to pull on the shirt and talk about the honour of playing for England.  But is there a ‘say do’ gap?  Can every England player say that not only did they give their all but gave their best at this World Cup?  One of my abiding memories of English international football is Terry Butcher’s head/ face after a World Cup Qualifier for England against Sweden.

It’s time English football took back the importance of International football, do you think it will?  Me, I’m not so sure.

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