Sunday, July 10, 2011

Scholes insists England players are too selfish to succeed

For the past seven years the received truth was that Paul Scholes quit international football because he felt undervalued being played out of position on the left wing and that he stayed in retirement, despite the efforts of Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello, because he wanted to extend his career with Manchester United and spend more time with his family.

There was another reason why Scholes grew disenchanted with England, however, one that reveals a profound problem at the root of the national team: the destructive self-interest of players who saw England caps merely as a vehicle to transfers and better contracts.

Scholes retired from football in May and had not played for the national side since quitting in 2004. “I got fed up,” Scholes said. “When you are going to a team, and you want to be part of a team and playing well, and there are individuals who are after personal glory... when there is a simple pass of 10 yards, they might try and smack it 80 yards. They will do things to try and get themselves noticed.

“No, [playing out of position] was never a problem. I played on the left for United I don’t know how many times. I probably had my most successful time scoring goals in that position so it was never a problem.” When Jamie Carragher admitted that it mattered more to him when Liverpool lost then it did with England, it confirmed the suspicion that some players had much deeper bonds of loyalty to their club.

Scholes thinks the problem runs deeper and that some players are loyal to one thing only: themselves.

“You still hate losing, whether it is Manchester United or England,” he said. “Maybe it is half the problem if players are going into that squad and not caring about it. I think there definitely is an element of that, what Jamie said about not being bothered about England losing.

“I always felt when I first started going away with England, players — especially players at clubs like your Aston Villas — try to use England as a way to get to a top club. Which, I don’t know, you feel: are they there for the right reason? I think they are very selfish people.

“It happened in my day, I think they are all there to get their bit of glory, their headlines, to think, ‘Oh, I will get a move from this’. That is the biggest problem with English players: that most of them are just too selfish.

“[When they get their move] they have probably done what they have wanted to do and that is enough, to get to a big club. It was a frustration for us United lads. It was just selfish. If you look at the Spain team now, they all seem to play for each other. There isn’t one of them who would try to do something in a game that doesn’t suit the team and the way they play. And that could happen over here.” Scholes won 66 caps between 1997 and 2004, playing for Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and Sven-Goran Eriksson. Despite the emergence of a talented group of players (what Adam Crozier called the Golden Generation), Scholes and his team-mates never got further than the quarter-finals of a major tournament — and fared no better after he quit — failing even to qualify for Euro 2008. All that while English club sides became the dominant force in European club football. Was there some form of technical deficiency among England’s players?

“No, it is probably more attitude. If you look through our teams, there are loads of technically brilliant players but for some reason when we go onto the international scene, we don’t look like that. Why? I just don’t know. We, England, go to these tournaments with the greatest of hopes when really the reality of winning something is not really there because there are so many good teams.

The French of a few years ago, Spains, Brazils, Argentinas, we just seem to be not as good as them.

“You never feel that when you are playing. You always think you’ve got a chance. We feel we’ve got the good players, people say the best in the world, but I don’t really think we have if you go on international tournaments.

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