Mark Douglas: It's not foreign players who are to blame for England's demise, it's us

The World Cup has been such a high standard that you'd forget England had even been there if it wasn't for the adverts

Paul Gilham/Getty Images Daniel Sturridge of England
Daniel Sturridge of England

So it turns out all that stuff about England’s low World Cup expectations was just a load of old baloney. Or teriyaki with extra green peppers, to be precise.

While the rest of us might have taken one look at the squad and concluded this was going to be a rocky ride, Melissa Cain and McCann London presumably thought differently.

They are the brains behind Daniel Sturridge’s Subway advert – the same one which is still running during the ITV advert breaks in between the feast of football beamed back to us from Brazil.

There we all were, thoroughly absorbed by the stupendously riveting game between Germany and Algeria, and when the game cut to a commercial break there was the incongruous sight of Sturridge listening to Pele – anything for a fat cheque, eh? – telling him to eat right.

England had ceased to be relevant 10 days ago, any reminder of their presence feeling strangely like a crisp packet wafting across a Premier League pitch on match day.

Given England’s second-round match would only ever have been at the weekend, Subway and their ad men and women took a gamble on England making it to the last eight.

I wonder how much longer they’ll string it out – all the way to the final?

To be fair, the ads lasted longer than the inquest into what happened.

After a brief spike of incredulity that Roy Hodgson was trying to claim positives from the abortive World Cup campaign, it sort of hit a plateau.

Harry Engels/Getty Images England manager Roy Hodgson
England manager Roy Hodgson

Nobody had the appetite, if you’ll pardon the pun. We’re just not that good and the sooner we settle for it and go back to watching the rest of the globe show us how to do it the better.

I was sanguine in the days which followed England’s just-about deserved exit, but what has happened since merely shows how far we have to go.

The FA have gone to ground while the rest of the teams in the tournament have moved through the gears. Could anyone say with conviction England would have beaten any of the teams in the last 16?

If so, they’re probably as brave as McCann London and those peddlers of cheap sandwiches.

Algeria and the US were both in England’s group in the 2010 World Cup and the opposition was considered so lacking in ability the biggest selling newspaper in the country conjured up a front page which screamed “Easy!” by using the first letter of each country (America were Yanks to make it work).

Both were not quite good enough to make it through to the last eight, but their progress in four years was highlighted by superb performances against fine opposition.

They have moved on since South Africa but have we? Incrementally, perhaps, but the comparison is seriously alarming.

We are slowly, by stealth, being overtaken by nations who have traditionally belonged in the third or fourth pot of world football.

The FA are so determined to depress expectations – a modern obsession in English football where fans, media and even players are routinely patronised by those running our clubs – they would have us believe we’re moving in the right direction.

We’re just not. Fourteen of the 16 teams in the round of 16 played excellent football (Greece and a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay the exceptions) but most worked harder, looked fitter and had more conviction than us.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Steven Gerrard of England and Nicolas Lodeiro of Uruguay
Steven Gerrard of England and Nicolas Lodeiro of Uruguay

We are nowhere near and the meek acceptance of it is as troubling as the performances.

On a separate but related note, I ran into trouble on social media this week for drawing attention to pictures of Connor Wickham partying with a bottle of champagne he’d supposedly bought worth £17,500.

It just jarred with me given Wickham’s unfulfilled potential, but Sunderland fans, rightly, pointed out he was doing nothing wrong. Given how his goals saved the club he is entitled to party with the blessing of Wearside – and only one of the 40 or 50 replies I received on Twitter agreed with me it wasn’t what he should have been doing.

I suppose my problem is we have created a system where players are extravagantly paid for not a lot.

While England struggled to score, Wickham was one of a number of young English forwards on more than £20,000 a week in Marbella, Vegas and Los Angeles racking up huge bar bills.

I’ll stick Andy Carroll in that category too.

Nobody blames them for making the most of it but it might hold the key to why we’re underperforming.

Massive wages are doled out for potential without acknowledging or perhaps even doing the slightest background checks on these players and it dulls their hunger.

Too much talent has been wasted or allowed to coast and money plays it part.

It is not the foreigners who are the problem, it is us.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer