English football needs a Kevin Pietersen
England play Croatia on Wednesday and you know what? It won’t be a surprise, or a disgrace, if they lose.
Why? Because Croatia are a technically gifted, cleverly organised, highly motivated international team, who beat England twice to reach Euro 2008 and outplayed Germany when they got there.
I also half expect it to happen simply because England are so terrified of losing.
This fear of failure pervades the national team. It comes across in the insistence on tactical discipline and conservative team selection even against the weakest of opponents (think Joe Cole against Andorra) and the consistent failure of the team’s senior players to be their confident, inventive selves while on England duty.
“The recipe for success I’ve tried to use is to be confident and play without fear. To express yourself once you go over the white line and trust your instinct and your practice.
“That’s what I want my lads to do, to play without fear. International cricket can roll into a routine of train, play, train, play and I want the guys to get the passion back.
“I think fear has crept in a bit. The more you fear, the more you worry about stuff instead of being a clear-thinking person.”
How English football could do with someone like Pietersen — a player or coach who could inspire the team, help them shrug off their fear and let their talent shine through, accepting the fact that sometimes it’ s not going to come off and that, yes, you can lose to teams like Croatia, with no disgrace at all.
There’s a piece in the Guardian today suggesting that winning ugly might do Fabio Capello’s England a lot of good right now.
I’d suggest that playing well and losing might not be such a problem either.
PHOTO: Joe Cole (L) shoots and scores during England’s World Cup qualifier against Andorra in Barcelona September 6, 2008 REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh