Wednesday, October 4, 2023

FA set England’s targets and it is not good for my rage!

The English FA announced its plans and targets yesterday when the results of an extensive review were made public.

In amongst the various targets and goals were some very laudable items. For example, the National Football Centre at Burton has been given the go ahead and should be in place by 2010.

Other notable and praise worthy targets are;

• Successfully bid to host the 2018 World Cup
• Wembley achieving an annual operating profit by 2012
• The FA’s move to Wembley completed by 2010
• RESPECT campaign improves overall disciplinary performance by 25% by 2012
• Commercial/broadcast revenues increased by a substantial amount at the next review date in 2011
• One million 5-11-year-olds trained through FA Tesco Skills Programme by 2010
• 125,000 existing teams retained and 20,500 new teams created by 2012
• 26,000 referees retained and an additional 8,000 referees recruited by 2012

It is hard to question or criticise any of those aims. Indeed, overall, the document, ‘vision 2008-2012’, subtitled ‘A world class organisation with a winning mentality’, is not anywhere near as shambolic as you may be entitled to expect of something coming from the FA.

Having said all of that the target set that is undoubtedly the one that is making all the news is that set for Fabio Capello and the England team. Capello has been set the target of reaching at least the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup or the 2012 European Championships.

On setting the target, the FA have made clear what they would regard as a success, and after the dismal failure to qualify for Euro 2008, a semi-final appearance would indeed represent amazing progress.

That was my first reaction. A decent document with sensible, achievable and realistic targets. Unfortunately, I then spent some time thinking about what this document meant and found that my rage began to build!

I realised that England is probably the only country in the world that could set a target of reaching only a semi-final. It might be realistic, but it is also ridiculous and very, very English.

Let’s ask the Italians, Germans, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Argentineans, Brazilians and even the Greeks, what their target is. Actually, we don’t need to. They all believe that they will win the thing!!

For England though, a heroic semi-final failure on penalties as experienced in the World Cup in 1990 and in Euro 1996 at Wembley, will be regarded as a success. I am convinced that England is the only country in the world where failure and mediocrity can be celebrated.

In setting the target, Brian Barwick the FAs Chief Executive said, “Fabio Capello is a winner by his nature and wouldn’t recognise targets other than those that reflect winning. That’s the nature of the guy and that’s the confidence we have in him. The phrase ‘winning mentality’ hasn’t come from (chairman) Lord Triesman or Brian Barwick; it’s come from Fabio Capello. It’s a phrase he uses a lot.”

So there is lots of talk about winning, and the document is even sub-titled ‘the winning mentality’ yet the targets actually set for the team are such that heroic failure is acceptable.

I am convinced that other countries must spend an awful lot of their time sniggering and giggling at English incompetence and when they see what target we have set ourselves they will probably break out into full blown belly-laughing. “What are your aims in this tournament then England?” “Well, we are hoping to raise the hopes of the nation to fever pitch and then lose with dignity in the semi-final.”

You couldn’t make it up, you really couldn’t.

Ask any of the countries I mentioned earlier and they would say that anything less than winning the tournament would be regarded as a failure. If England wants to be regarded as a top footballing nation, difficult in the present circumstances I know, then we must aim for the very top. There is no point in taking part if your target is anything less than winning.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the FA are trying to be sensible and realistic, and that targets should always be achievable. I know that this is, on the whole, a worthwhile document and that a review of our game from top to bottom was desperately needed and I know that after the under performing of the team over the past few years the FA needed to be careful not to raise expectations.

I also know that I want England to win a tournament and I want everyone at the top to have that aim as their number one goal and ambition. To set a target of anything less than victory is very poor indeed.

I get this vision of our team returning from the world cup to a tumultuous welcome, having an open top bus tour around London, being entertained by the Prime Minister and getting MBEs from the Queen for coming third or fourth! It is ridiculous and it is not good for my rage!!


Graham Fisher



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