I’m not a morning person. Quite the opposite in fact. Much to the annoyance of my family, each morning sees me doing a passable impression of a large and unhappy bear coming out of hibernation. It’s not a pretty sight. Yesterday was different though. I was up and out of bed like a shot with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, for this was no ordinary day. This was World Cup day.
It will have been a feeling shared by millions of football supporters throughout the world, and when Brazil kicked off against Croatia last night I could barely contain myself. We’re underway and it feels great.
Away from the World Cup, there was one other piece of big footballing news, with Chelsea confirming the signing of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona. The move didn’t come as a surprise, but it still sent a section of Arsenal supporters into a deep funk. The Gunners had the option to sign Fabregas, but chose not to bring him “home” and this left many Arsenal supporters confused and annoyed. As a neutral and an England fan though, I was more enthused by the move.
In not re-signing Fabregas Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are showing a great deal of faith in their current midfield options, which of course include England’s Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. This decision indicates that Arsenal plan to continue to develop these players instead of bringing in replacements and this can only benefit England.
The pre-World Cup news was dominated by the FA chairman’s England Commission report, a main focus of which was ensuring that English players get as much experience as possible with a view to creating a strong national team. Some of the ideas within the report were fairly radical, with many of them roundly condemned. The plan for Premier League teams to have ‘B’ teams operating in competitive leagues was one of the most unpopular proposals and in appearing to put his faith in young English talent, Wenger is making the complicated plans look rather redundant.
I think that the answer may be self-perpetuating. If the England national team is successful, managers at top clubs are going to be more comfortable picking and utilising English players. An increase in English players featuring in the top end of the game will see them improve as players, in turn improving the quality of the national squad.
As it stands, there seems to be an impasse. England have failed to impress for some time, stuck in stasis where a quarter-final place is the peak of our ambition and as a result, the stock of English players is low. This cycle needs to be broken and the stance Wenger has taken in not signing Fabregas could yet prove to be a significant one.
If the players he’s shown faith in can respond by helping England turn in a good performance in Brazil, the greater the chance the negative cycle that necessitated Greg Dyke’s report will be broken. Arsenal fans may not see it this way just yet, but it’s possible their club has begun to pave the way towards fixing one of the English games biggest failures.
Mike Parkin is a lifelong football fan, a season-ticket holder at Watford FC and a fervent supporter of the national team. Mike presents the popular Watford podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ and will be documenting his trip to the World Cup on the website: www.fromtherookeryend.com. You can also see Mike’s images on Instagram (RookeryEnd) whilst you can interact with Mike directly on Twitter by following @RookeryMike.