England may have qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia with ease – finishing their qualification campaign unbeaten with eight wins from 10 games – but their performances certainly have not been celebrated.
Uninspiring displays in 1-0 wins over Slovenia and Lithuania have led to plenty of criticism of Gareth Southgate’s team and former England winger Chris Waddle believes the dullness of the national side has deep roots.
Waddle, part of the England team who reached the 1990 World Cup semi-finals blames club academies and over-coaching for the lack of entertainment provided by the national team.
“Academies are crammed with coaches, it’s too organised, regimented, all bibs and cones and two-touch football. Let them dribble,” Waddle, a great dribbler himself, told the Daily Mail on Monday.
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Marseilles winger says it is not fitness that is the problem but the approach to the game.
“They all have immaculate physiques. There’s not a fat, lazy, luxury player in sight.
“And they are passing it 10 yards to someone who passes it 10 yards to someone who passes it 10 yards to someone who goes backwards. They’re over-coached and scared to give it away and you are screaming: ‘Where are you going?'”
Waddle, who made 62 appearances for England between 1985 and 1991, thinks Southgate is limited by the kind of players that English clubs are producing.
“You need all sorts for a successful team — you need dogs and water-carriers — but we’ve got 11 players who are basically similar.
“I don’t blame Gareth Southgate. Coaching has been taking us this way for years. Nothing is off the cuff. We need creativity and we’re not producing those players,” he said.
However, Waddle sees some hope in the attacking England players who are enjoying success at club level.
“Harry Kane, who was on the scoresheet again in Lithuania, is in such good form, thank goodness, and Dele Alli is a bright spark, although he needs to learn some manners judging by what we have seen in recent times.
“Marcus Rashford looks very confident, playing without fear or pressure and he’s our big hope. I hope he doesn’t find fear.
“We can play with more flair and take risks. We’ve never got the best out of flair players, never thrown the shackles off,” Waddle said.
England finished top of Group F with 26 points, eight clear of second-placed Slovakia.