England And The Meaningless Friendlies, (Part II)

Posted: November 14, 2015 in England, Football, International Football
Tags: , , , ,


Loyal followers of these chronicles will be aware that, in the very recent past, I wrote about the folly of meaningless international friendly matches, particularly at a time when the Premier League table is starting to take on a meaningful shape.

For any loyal followers who just happened to miss the first part, here it is.

I also wrote about it back in August of 2014, for Pundit Arena, if anyone is interested, here that is as well.

My doubt about these games is focused on what purpose they actually serve. Other than teaching uninformed coaches things about their team blatantly obvious to everybody else, and running the risk of injuring players who may be vital to their club’s title challenge, what is the aim?

At the time of writing this piece, England have just lost their first meaningless friendly against Spain and have yet to play their second, against France.

My predictions that they would only learn that they are not as good as the opposition and were just risking injury were, unfortunately, very accurate.

In a game they lost 2-0 in Alicante, England were totally outplayed by a Spanish team whose transition from World Cup failures to world’s best team is well underway. This was England’s first loss in ten games. An impressive statistic until you realise that this is the first decent team they have played in ten games!

So, back to my point. Everybody except Roy Hodgson was well aware that Spain are a much better team than England, a game between the two was only ever going to reinforce this message. The second part of my unheeded warning occurred in the second half when Michael Carrick was injured and carried off on a stretcher.

It seems he has damaged ankle ligaments and will be out for a few weeks. Yet again, a Premier league manager can rue the scheduling of these friendly games as his title challenge suffers a blow.

On Tuesday of next week England play France, another resurgent national team with better players than the opposition. The outcome is inevitable, England will lose the game unless France play badly, in which case they will draw. Again, Premier league managers will watch through their hands as their players risk injury in a game which will be forgotten as soon as it is over.

France have just beaten Germany, the world champions, 2-0 so the chances of England taking anything from this game, other than the fact that they are not as good as France, are virtually nil.

When will the powers-that-be learn? Firstly, postponing the entire Premier league fixture list for a weekend because England have a couple of friendly games is absolutely ludicrous. Michael Carrick now missing games for Manchester United because of one of these friendly games is absolutely ludicrous. Even scheduling friendly games at this stage of the season is absolutely ludicrous.

I may be suffering from amnesia, but I don’t remember the only successful England team playing these friendly games during the season. They probably did, but with a lot less fuss. I know for certain that the weekend’s football programme was never suspended in an attempt to “help” the national team, another ploy which doesn’t appear to be working. I also don’t remember as many injuries being suffered by players on international duty, but I accept that my memory may be a little cloudy on that one.

When all said and done, I take no pleasure in saying to the football authorities, “I told you so”, but I did tell them so and they went ahead against my advice anyway. When will they learn?

Seriously though, international friendlies can be a useful addition to the fixture list when they are scheduled at the right time and if the managers of the teams in question are genuinely going to learn something they didn’t already know. These present games are taking place at completely the wrong time of the season and are telling the coaches absolutely nothing they didn’t already know. It’s time for a rethink by UEFA, if they are capable of performing any exercise which involves thinking.

Stay tuned folks, there may be a part III to this!

  1. Paul Kulhavy says:

    Iain, as discussed over at ESPN, you are mistaken when you think that the English FA, or the English Premier League have complete say in the timing of this mandated international break.

    It wasn’t put in place solely for the benefit of the English team, it’s one of 6-7 defined international breaks to allow the confederations around the world to play their World Cup Qualifiers, and for UEFA to stage their final playoff games.

    All top leagues MUST pause, and the clubs MUST release players to be available to the international teams who are playing. Of course some sides in Europe will not have competitive games as they are already qualified or eliminated – and they can choose to play friendlies or be inactive.

    England took this break as an opportunity to play two top level sides (Spain and France) in friendlies – and given the stroll that England had in Euro2016 qualification (PL 10 – W 10) these games are NOT meaningless – they are the best way to test themselves before the finals.

    If England had NOT played a game, or had played and thrashed yet another minnow – then THAT would have been poor preparation and/or meaningless IMO … frankly the game against Spain and the manner of the 0-2 loss showed that England still have a long way to go to be top tier.


  2. Thanks for that Paul. I was confused over the original requests for the break. The International managers had been calling for one for ages and I thought, obviously wrongly, that the FA had agreed a break from Premier League football to help England originally. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to correct this.


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