Time for a change at the FA

ENGLAND'S dreadful performance last night marks the end of a uninspired reign by Steve McClaren as head coach - and means this country will be able to concentrate on cricket and tennis next summer.

ENGLAND'S dreadful performance last night marks the end of a uninspired reign by Steve McClaren as head coach - and means this country will be able to concentrate on cricket and tennis next summer.

McClaren's failure to inspire the team in a match where a draw would have been enough to go through was woeful - and for that alone he does not deserve to keep his job.

The conditions were bad - but that was true for both teams. England had its team ripped apart by injury - but there were enough experienced players available who should have done better.

Only two players really gave the impression that they cared about the match - Peter Crouch and David Beckham who was almost certainly winning his last England cap.

McClaren said this week he should be judged over his entire reign as England coach. That's only fair - but it is a reign which has seen England fail to qualify for the European championship finals for the first time in a generation.

But while McClaren and the players deserve all the brickbats they will be getting over the next few days, don't the soccer administrators in this country also have to look at the structure of the game?

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The FA Premier League was set up 15 years ago with the excuse that concentrating the wealth of the top clubs would allow England players to develop better.

That has clearly failed - the wealth of the Premier League sucks in the best players from around the world and denies English players their chances in the first team.

None of England's strikers last night was a first choice for their team - and two of the substitute strikers only have occasional games for a team struggling at the wrong end of the table.

The top clubs in this country now suck up so much of the wealth generated by the game and keep it for themselves that it is not trickling down to other lower clubs who have traditionally unearthed some of the greatest English talent.

You no longer have Premier League clubs scouring the lower leagues for talented English players - they are looking at leagues in Europe, South America or Africa where they think they can pick up bargains.

Of last night's England team, only Peter Crouch had any real experience of learning his trade in a lower league, although David Beckham and Jermaine Defoe did spend time on loan at Preston and Bournemouth respectively early in their careers.

Where are the Kevin Keegans, the Alan Balls, the Emlyn Hughes of this world? They may have learned their technique a Liverpool and Everton - but they found their passion for the game at Scunthorpe and Blackpool!

Today England fans travel the world to support their team, spending thousands of pounds of hard-earned money.

Meanwhile the pampered team of over-paid playboys run around apparently more concerned about getting an injury that will lose them a place in their club side than than they are about putting in a good performance for their country.

FA bosses also need to take a long hard look at the new Wembley stadium - and work out whose bright idea it was to stage an American football match on the surface shortly before such a crucial game.

The pitch was appalling - for both teams - and having spent so much on the new stadium, fans have the right to expect it to be fit for the finest possible football.

The pitch problem would not have affected the Millenium Stadium at Cardiff - the roof could be closed and a new pitch installed on special trays within a few hours.

Why was not similar technology employed at Wembley?

Bosses at the FA need to take a long hard look at the way the whole game is run if England - and make major changes to the leagues and their own structure, and their own positions, if England is ever to emerge from among the also-rans of the world, and European, game.

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