With the international matches firmly behind us we can look forward to a return to the Premier league fixtures. This apathy for low budget international matches is really hurting the national squad, however, I am at a loss as to how they can improve things.
As a fan I am not that interested in watching England labour against low ranking opposition such as San Mario, even the Switzerland game was not one to write home about. But it is not just the fans who are feeling apathetic to the national teams fixtures, so are the players. Furthermore, we watch the national team dominate their qualifying group and then stumble against mediocre opposition at a major tournament. Why do we do this to ourselves?
The United players who are in the national squad must be feeling it as well, I know their manager will. Why risk high value players I international matches that championship players could win. I say that with no disrespect to the likes of San Marino but a team of good championship players could win against them.
Van Gaal is a former national coach and so he should be sympathetic to the national coach’s position on call ups. However, even Van Gaal will get frustrated watching some of his players turn out against a low skilled opposition who defend and kick lumps out of you much like a Sunday league side.
So what is the solution? How can the FA stir interest for both the players and fans alike? It has been well reported in recent years that club football has taken precedent over international football. Players are even being encouraged to prioritise club over country when negotiating contracts. In the old days playing for your country was the pinnacle of your playing career but now caps are thrown out so often players can afford to step out of friendlies and other meaningless games. Ryan Giggs should have had many more caps that he did for Wales but Sir Alex Ferguson kept him out of friendlies and low level international matches. This is yet another example of a high profile player being coerced into putting club before country.
Such is the importance of club competitions such as the Champions League that international matches are taking a back seat. Fans are often heard complaing that foreign players are restricting the progression of young English players into top teams. However, I would say that when they do arrive they are not as motivated to play for their country as they are to play in the Champions League.