Monday, 28 February 2011

Cole and Rooney expose the flaw at the heart of English football

Are England soccer stars at best more ill-disciplined and at worst more brutish than their foreign-born counterparts playing in the Premier League? If the headline reads Football ace in hotel sex scandal or Soccer star in bar brawl the chances are that he will have been UK born.
OK, this is an impression; I don’t make a habit of collating players’ misdemeanours. But even allowing for the greater number of home grown team members, a proportionately larger number of bad-boys seem to be British.
Tomorrow sees one of the biggest club games of the English season – Chelsea v. Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Turning out for the Blues will be defender Ashley Cole, who, in unexplained circumstances, recently accidentally shot a work experience student with an air rifle at the team’s Cobham training ground.
Facing him will be Red Devils’ striker Wayne Rooney, who today escaped a three match-ban after appearing to elbow Wigan’s James McCarthy in the face in an off-ball incident during Saturday’s match. The case for tightening up the FA’s violent conduct rules is worth a post in its own right.
Both play for England and both are magnets for bad publicity. Some of the rest of the national side are hardly paragons of virtue either.
Winning is everything. There is so much money in the game that player- power has weakened the ability of managers to control their troops. No misconduct is gross enough to leave the culprit on the bench if it risks dropping points.
It is a lot to expect of any young man at his physical peak lavished by fame, fabulous wealth, and the attentions of beautiful women to behave like an angel. But foreign players plying their trade in England seem blessed by a sense of discretion lacking in the domestic crop.
By definition a foreign born player is likely to have more experience of the world than his English colleague. Likely as not he’ll speak a few languages and have knowledge of other cultures. If he comes from outside Europe, he may well have experienced real poverty growing up. He’ll be able to appreciate the gift that has transformed his life and those he cares about.
Future England stars are scouted so early that inevitably their education is disrupted. Clubs should give as much attention to the development of the brains of the youngsters in their care as they do their football skills. Fans have a role too - they should be less forgiving when their heroes disgrace themselves.

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