English football has had its fair share of dark days, but surely it can't get darker than this.
The humiliating exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of minnows Iceland on Monday night was nothing short of embarrassing. Roy Hodgson's side looked short of ideas, plans, and perhaps most worryingly, quality in attempting to break down an Iceland side appearing at their first major tournament.
Granted, before the tournament began, this England side were not expected to win their maiden European Championship, but at the very least, this squad, full of young and exciting talent, should have given us comfort that the future is bright.
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Instead, what was shown was a side not drilled or prepared anywhere near the level they should have been, and a team that did not have the motivation to show that they meant business.
So here we are again, at the end of another failing tournament, analysing what went wrong and what the many problems are with English football. All the talk in world can be done but unless change is made, more inept displays like ones, not only against Iceland, but also Russia and Slovakia, will follow.
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Now should be the final straw, now needs to be the time where the FA does what is required to make England a force again in international football. We can't wait or make anymore excuses. The change has to be drastic.
So, what can the FA do? Here are some solutions.
Introduce a higher quota of English players for Premier League squads
A serious investigation needs to be made at the detrimental effect the Premier League is having on English national side.
Although nobody can fault the outstanding drama and entertainment that England's top division gives fans week in, week out, the FA's priority needs to be the England team. The bottom line is, there are too many foreign players in the Premier League, and while it is undoubtedly a pleasure to watch some of the best players in the world grace our country, the influx of players from abroad is affecting our brightest talents from making an impact.
A way of solving this issue, therefore, would be to introduce two quota systems for every Premier League team.
The first compulsory quota would be for each team to have at least 12 English players in their 25 man squad, whether it be from their academy or from elsewhere. This would allow young British talent to be introduced early into the demands of high level football. Also, not only would this give a plethora of players for the national team to pick from, but it would bring competition to more established players, which should bring an increase in the quality of performance.
The second quota would be to have at least five English players in every Premier League starting lineup. The problem is not the lack of talent coming through, but the lack of game time that the majority of young English players are having.
Not only would the quota solve this problem, but young players would be exposed to Premier League football at a much younger age, therefore gaining more experience and improving their skills long before they have reached their peak. It would give the national team far bigger depth in quality.
As has been said, the talent is there, but it is not being used. Case in point - Chelsea. The Blues have won the last three FA Youth Cups, but the majority of that team have to been denied in making the big step up due to the impatience of modern day football and the theory that spending big on foreign players instead of bedding in our own talent is the answer to success.
If the FA are serious about improving the state of England's national side, similar quota systems must be introduced sooner rather than later.
Employ the Right Manager
Of course, this is easier said than done. The England managerial position may currently be considered a 'poisoned chalice', however, it is imperative that the next England manager that the FA appoint is motivated, qualified, and experienced enough to bring success.
It was evident throughout Euro 2016 that Roy Hodgson did not have a clear mindset or plan as to how he wanted his team to play, which ultimately proved to be the catalyst to England's downfall.
Major thinking and planning will be imperative to England's chances in major tournaments down the line. The next England manager must plan how he wants the team to play and be able to draw on experience of playing for his country in major tournaments, therefore giving him a better idea of what it takes to succeed.
Gareth Southgate is the man tipped as favourite and could be an astute addition considering his experience as England U-21 head coach.
Whether it is the former Middlesbrough manager or not, it's imperative that the FA get this next managerial choice right. After all, that is what they are paid to do.
England looked burnt out during Euro 2016. Players that had performed so well for their club sides throughout last season, such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana, for example, failed to replicate their form into this tournament, and seemed tired after a long season without much rest.
This, of course, is not an excuse for their poor showing on Monday night, but the idea of a break midway through the Premier League season during the winter could well be something to look at.
Other top leagues around Europe, such as La Liga, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1 all have winter breaks lasting 10-14 days, from which players have benefited from valuable recovery time during a busy period of football.
Stoke's Bojan Krkic, who experienced the advantages of winter breaks during his time at Barcelona, agrees that Premier League players would need a break mid-season.
"Is it really any surprise that Kane and Alli have looked lethargic at times in France?", asks the 25-year-old.
"They are among the most exciting young talents in Europe, but they both had a huge responsibility in a Tottenham team that plays at a high tempo.
"We can’t pretend there is no impact when you put ever more physical demands on players with the number of games in English football. We should carry on playing in December, but how about a 10-day break in the schedule in mid-January? It may well help the England team."
It is another issue the FA should address. England players may well be very fit athletes, but the risk of burnout is real and a winter break could work wonders in terms of the energy levels of the side - something that was considerably lacking throughout the Euros.
What should the FA change in order to get the best out of the English footballers? Leave YOUR suggestions in the comment section below!
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