Up until Saturday evenings results I was seriously hoping that England would not qualify for Euro 2008 simply for the reason that failure might actually give the whole game - from the top downwards - the kick up the backside it needs. Of course with Israel's late winner we were in with a chance again and my hopes turned to not just qualifying but winning the group.
But of course, this is England we are talking about. The team that has perfected the art of, just when you think they have got things right, failing to perform when it's really required.
So what's the answer to England's problem. I can't see my solution ever being accepted but it would be drastic - the FA to give notice that come the end of next season they will no longer recognise the Premier League and only recognise the Football League. Teams would have the choice to stick with the PL or rejoin the FL (those that rejoin forming the top division along with the top teams from the existing Championship)
Up to 15 years ago (when Division 1 meant Division 1) the national team was the pinnacle of any players career. Whilst the clubs of course had to look after their own interests first it was considered an honour for a club to have one of it's players picked for the national team.
Along came the PL and that all changed. The money poured in, and the clubs were interested in just one thing - themselves. England became an inconvenience - not only to the clubs but to players as well. Let's face it, with so many of the worlds top foreigners playing in the premier league, and the majority of the England team also playing regular Champions League quality opposition, being "forced" to play against the likes of Russia Israel and Croatia must seem like a comedown, not to mention the likes of Andorra and Macedonia. The PL and the CL is where the money is, and that's all the clubs - and it would seem the players are interested in.
The FA is the ruling body of the game in this country but they have been weak. Firstly they allowed the PL to happen, then they gave it so many concessions they allowed it to become more powerful than themselves. They have to be brave and stand up and be counted.
So what happens if they stop "recognising" the PL. Similar to cricket in the 70's when Kerry Packer came along (and also recently in India and Pakistan who also have seen the advent of a breakaway league) you refuse to pick from players who play in it. Short term it could be disastrous but long term it will sort out those players who really think that playing for their national side is their ultimate goal. Clubs will have the choice - rejoin the proper Football League or stay in the non recognised PL. If fans of clubs were given a vote I would hazard a guess that most would prefer going back to the "old way". It can be done. Slightly different but the Italian FA long ago issued an edict that they would not pick players that went abroad to play in foreign leagues - so their stars all get regular games in their own league. Remind me, who are the current World Cup holders?
Next the FA constitution be changed so that the whole ethos of English football is to improve the national side to the best of it's ability. The rules of the league competition be changed that - picking a figure at random - 8 of any squad picked for any individual game must qualify to play for the national side. I don't believe the argument of EU employment law would ever stand up if challenged, a club could employ as many foreigners as it liked, but under the rules of the competition it has entered it would be restricted to how many could appear at any given time. I'm sure EU employment rules also say women must be given equal employment rights but the existing competition rules ban them from playing in the same team as men.
Next make the rules of the competition include a salary cap. I favour an overall wage bill as a percentage of turnover. That rewards clubs who build up big followings over the years as pre-PLC ManUre did, plus it keeps the options open to go for a few superstars or a bigger squad of more average players. The cream of English football should then be playing as first choices for their clubs, competitively every week. And the likelihood is they will be spread amongst more clubs, creating a more level playing field for the League competition. If any have chosen to stay in the PL (if it still existed) or maybe a breakaway European League, purely for the money then sod them, England don't need people of that attitude playing for them anyway.
It would take time but eventually we would get back to an era when players took pride in the white shirt and clubs felt that they had a sense of worth and weren't simply there to make up the numbers.
Of course none of this will happen. The dinosaurs at the FA (now saddled with the debt of a (roofless) national stadium need the PL and will suck up it's every whim.
Oh and another step would be to appoint a national team manager who picks the best players to fit his favourite system, NOT a system to fit his favourite players. It worked in '66.
It all seems so easy sat here.
PS For the summer I shall consider myself Spanish