On Sunday 8th June, the TBR staff attend Coral’s Brazillionaire World Cup Preview event. The evening involved four football panellists who were asked several questions on the upcoming tournament in Brazil.
During this session we heard the views of Dietmar Hamann (former Liverpool and Germany midfielder), Scott Minto (Sky Sports Spanish football pundit), Mark Langdon (Racing Post football editor) and Simon Clare (Coral PR Director).
Following the event we were able to grab an exclusive interview with Hamann, Minto and Langdon. We quizzed the trio for a good half-an-hour, touching base on Rooney’s expected impact, the development of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, and of course, England’s chances of World Cup glory.
Here’s what they had to say:
Do you think that the fact that hardly any English players play abroad affects our national team? Does it affect the standard of our team?
Didi Hamann: I think it does yeah, and I think the bigger problem is not that they don’t play abroad, but that the football they play in the Premier League is completely different to the football that’s played in International football. The football that is required to win a World Cup is the football that is being played in Spain and in Germany every week, so these players are used to that. The Premier League is a completely different kettle of fish; it’s pace, it’s power, it’s physical, it’s not the way you play in a World Cup to win because you’ve got 7 games. You need to manage yourself, you need to take the foot off the gas at times to last the game and to win games at 80% or in second gear. That’s not what the Premier League is all about. You can be an outstanding Premier League player but an average international player and I think this is a big problem for England.
Scott Minto: It’s not going to change. The Premier League isn’t going to adapt its style to suit continental football. The Premier League is the most exciting, it’s the richest league in the world because of the reasons why we probably won’t win the World Cup for so long. Because it’s fast and furious, because it’s exciting all the time, because it’s end to end, because you can get a top team going to the bottom team and you never quite know what’s going to happen. But Didi’s totally right. In terms of winning a tournament, you need to be playing possession football, you need to play in a more composed way. The English media, the English fans, and the Premier League itself is all geared towards playing a different way, so I think it’s very difficult. Having said that, you’ve obviously got foreigners who are playing in the Premier League who are able to adapt themselves, but that’s because they have been brought up in a different style. English players have been brought up on the Premier League and that’s it, so it’s going to be a difficult culture to challenge.
Mark Langdon: I remember the Spanish people saying that those around the set-up had said that moving to the Premier League had helped them because they added something else. Alonso definitely became a better player for his time at Liverpool, Fabregas and Piqué spent some time almost toughening up I suppose in a different way. You would like to see the English players do the same. I heard of one English player who had the opportunity to go to Ajax and he chose a Championship club in England instead on loan. Scott played for Benfica, he was prepared to try something new, but there’s not enough that want to do that.
Based on what you said about Germany maybe having a better chance 2 or 4 years ago, would you say England’s time is now?
DH: Yeah, I think they may go well. I think they’ve got players now in forward positions, Mark doesn’t fancy their defence. I think Johnson at right-back is the worry because he’s had a torrid time in recent months. I like the others, I think they’re solid, I like the goal-keeper. I don’t think they had the protection in recent years that they have now because Gerrard is playing that role beautifully, giving a beautiful balance. So that’s a big plus for them, and they’ve got players who can make a difference going forward. If you look back 4 years ago, they only really had Rooney going forward and Rooney’s not really done anything in tournaments. If you look at offensive midfielders; Gerrard played there sometimes and years ago you had McManaman. These creative players are the ones who make the difference, that’s why Messi plays there, this is why when Suarez drops off, he can play off the front man. These creative players who make a chance out of nothing, these are the ones who win games, and in Sterling, Barkley, and Lallana, they’ve got three now. I think they had none for 10 or 20 years and now they have three. If you’ve got a decent back four and one or two players who can make a difference, I mean you’ve got Sturridge who knows where the goal is, you’ve got a chance. You always know you can create chances, and I don’t think that was always the case. When you’ve got these players in your team, it gives you the confidence that even if you go one down. In recent years, I think you thought “Oh, we’re knackered here”. With these players, even if you bring them off the bench, you always know you can get a chance. I think the team is better now than it was 8 years ago or 10 years ago, and the expectations are lower so everything bodes well. The last generation was ‘golden’, I don’t think these are ‘platinum’ now, but as a team, I don’t think they’re worse than 98 years ago.
SM: Isn’t it funny how if you’d asked an Englishman, they wouldn’t have given that answer really. We’re more pessimistic I suppose. Yet when you speak to someone who’s played in a World Cup final, who’s won the Champions League, he can see the talent and the potential that we’ve got. So I actually think that it’s quite a good thing that the expectations is really low, and we may well surprise a few people. I think it’s still going to be very difficult to get out of the group, although I think we will. Whether that’s my head or my heart talking, I’m not quite sure. You’re talking to someone who’s won the amount of caps he’s won, who’s won that amount of trophies, and he’s saying these things about England, so maybe we should all look at ourselves and say maybe the future is brighter than we think.
DH: I think the problem is that players like Wilshere and Townsend have been hyped up when they weren’t the players people made out they were. I always had a problem with Wilshere because he doesn’t score goals and he doesn’t win balls, so what is he actually doing. Townsend, he had nine clubs on loan, he scores one goal for England and one goal for Spurs, all of a sudden he’s the saviour.
Do you think Barkley is different in that regard then?
DH: 100%! Barkley reminds me of a young Ballack. He’s got that arrogance about him, the way he passes the ball two-footed. He’s a more powerful runner than Ballack, whereas Ballack scored goals from set-pieces; he was lethal with his head. He could score from distance which Barkley can, and he’s got that arrogance about him which you need as a player who can make the difference. As for Sterling, you just need to watch him over the last 4 or 5 months, and I said before I thought he was their best player. He’s not the most typical winger. Wingers go down the line and whip the ball in, he played in the middle at the tip of a diamond. He sees a pass, outside of the foot, the weight of the pass, the kid does everything. He’s a special player.
What do you see as the future for Wilshere?
DH: I don’t know, he’s a talented player, but that’s all it is. He needs to do something. People talked about Henderson, Wilshere is a lot more gifted than Henderson but Henderson started scoring this year. The thing is with Wilshere, I think he is tailor-made playing next to Gerrard because you need somebody who can pass and who can take a player on, because you’ve got 4 players ahead of him who can make the difference, so he doesn’t need to score an awful lot of goals. But, if you want to improve and progress as a player, you either have to create chances, score goals, or win balls. So you’ve either got to be an offensive midfielder or a defensive midfielder if you play in a two. If you play in a three, you can have one who does everything and nothing, but if you play in a two you can’t. The problem I’ve got with him is how does he score a goal? He’s not got the best or the hardest shot, so he struggles to score from outside the box, he won’t score with his head, so how is he going to score his goals?
ML: He’s fallen behind Ramsey, hasn’t he in that respect.
DH: And he can’t tackle you know, every time he tackles he gets injured. I don’t know, somehow he’s got to add goals to his game. How he does it, I do not know, it’s not my problem! But I think he has to. He’s a very gifted player, there’s no reason why he can’t score 7 or 8 goals a season, and I’d love to see him do it. I’m sure that’s what he wants, I’m not sure how he does it but he has to if he wants to reach the heights that people have made out. I never thought he was as good as people made out, but he’s clearly a very talented player, and obviously he’s had some injuries which didn’t help.
Do you think Rooney is really going to show up this tournament and really blow us away?
DH: No, I don’t think so. He’s never convinced me. In the Premier League, yes, but not on this stage. His first one was probably his most successful, he scored 3 or 4 goals in 2004. No, not for me.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for part two of our exclusive interview, in which we discuss Spain, Neymar and the mis-management of youth football in Africa.