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After England were unceremoniously dumped out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, with Germany going on to win it all…

Many casual football fans were vocal in their desire for the FA to implement a similar footballing revolution to their continental counterparts.

England cannot simply copy and paste to solve their football woesHowever, the fact of the matter is that unique situations demand unique solutions, and copying change enforced under extraordinary circumstances will never result in the change that is, clearly, drastically needed to return England to the international elite.

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? Germany had just reached the conclusion of a 14 year project aimed at returning Die Nationalmannschaft to the pinnacle of international football. Over the past five or so years, Joachim Löw and his men have earned plaudits for their beautiful and tactically astute football, driven forward by young players of exceptional talent and footballing intelligence who continue to emerge at an extraordinary rate from youth systems the country over. There is a clear blueprint for sustained success, a pathway already trodden down by the DFB, ready for the FA to follow suit. Unfortunately, that is not the case, despite how it might appear. Yes, after the doldrums of the early 2000’s, Germany did undertake clear steps to bring them to where they are now, but the fact of the matter is that an unique set of circumstances, which could not possibly occur in England, forced some of these changes for the lack of any other viable choice.

In the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, Germany were ancient in terms of their playing staff and tactics. The disastrous Euro 2000 campaign served as illustration of this, and the Bundesliga was full of older players still employed in positions as outdated as sweeper. Bringing a young player into the first-team picture was seen as a huge risk, because there quite simply was no stand-out talents emerging from the production line. This could also be attributed to the lack of in-depth scouting, with Miroslav Klose, for example, playing lower-league football until the age of 21 before finally being ‘discovered’. The 2002 FIFA World Cup was an unexpected surprise, with Germany making it all the way to the final thanks to a favorable draw, determination, Michael Ballack and the indomitable Oliver Kahn. Euro 2004 was another low point, but the seeds of growth had already started to take hold as the likes of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger started to emerge. The rest, as they say, is history, with Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw bringing us to the present day. The key to this process was the introduction of centrally run academies, which each and every Bundesliga club had to invest in heavily, which can be done in England as well, with finances not being a problem at all. Yet it was a completely unforeseen occurrence that truly began the revolution.

In 2001, the Bundesliga’s television broadcasting partner went bankrupt, plunging German domestic football into financial ruin. Apart from the notoriously cash-smart Bayern Munich, clubs simply could not afford their older, established players any longer, and the fact that foreign imports had to be shipped out as soon as possible goes without saying. The only direction that the Bundesliga could go in was youth, and players were drafted out of their respective youth academies to fill squads. This could never happen in England, because the monetary power of the Barclays Premier League is so immense that there is no possible way that the league can go bankrupt, with broadcasting companies virtually foaming at the mouths to get in on some of the action. This directly leads to the lack of complete trust in youth, because there is no need to play an untested 18-year-old when you can sign a seasoned 25-year-old Spaniard who has seen and done it all. Another major stumbling block is that English clubs are not bound by regulations such as the 50+1 rule which is enforced in the Bundesliga, which makes it impossible for one entity or businessman to own a club in its entirety. This means that there is always the possibility of a bail-out from outside sources to save a club from bankruptcy, or simply inject vast amounts of capital for the club to perform at the highest level and buy the best players available, as we have seen over the past decade with Chelsea and Manchester City.

This, many will point out, is why the Premier League is the root of all evil when it comes to the lack of ability coming through the English system. Calls for a minimum number of English players to be in Premier League starting line-ups have been around for quite a few years now, but the fact is that it would not help at all to have a number of mediocre local players in the Premier League just to fill a quota. The FA needs to start from the ground up, and force clubs to invest in grassroots football. The best way to get more talent is to encourage more players and improve coaching at the most basic level. As an avid user of social media, it is alarming to see the number of pleas from grassroots football institutions for even the most basic footballing equipment and willing coaches. It is an old cliche, but you cannot build a house without any foundation, and even though it will not solve all their problems, the FA will at least set a platform for change by encouraging the development of the most basic levels of football.

Recently, the FA proposed an idea for a so-called ‘reserves’ league, in which they seemingly look to copy the likes of Germany and Spain in allowing reserve teams to enter the English club football hierarchy. However, this only is a good idea in theory, with Germany, for one, considering removing the reserve teams from club competition because it simply does not work as well as the FA clearly thinks. Also, it hurts traditional clubs who find themselves in the lower leagues, facing financial crisis every season, and historic hotbeds of young talent run the risk of being wiped off the competitive landscape. Simply put, if you allow reserve teams to progress up to League 1, for example, the jump in quality for many of those youngsters to the Premier League will still be too vast, making one wonder whether it would really be different from the current situation regarding bigger clubs loaning players to smaller clubs.

There is no easy solutions for the FA, and it would not pay dividends trying to copy solutions implemented by other countries under different circumstances. The onus is on the custodians of English football to find a viable and implementable solution which other countries will crave in the future, just as English football fans are at the moment when looking across the channel to Germany.

Originally published at inthestandsport.com

Post written by Marco Conradie, Twitter: @MarcoConradie10
for InTheStandSport, Blog: inthestandsport.com, Twitter: @InTheStandSport

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

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