FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION chairman Greg Dyke insists the lowering of expectations can prove a major advantage to England’s quest for success at this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
Last month, England were handed their toughest World Cup group draw since 2002 after being pitted in with four-time winners Italy, world ranked No 6 side Uruguay and unknown quantities Costa Rica in a daunting looking Group D. Bookmakers immediately lengthened the Three Lions’ odds from 25-1 to 40-1.
Dyke even appeared to question England’s chances in a joking ‘aside’ at the tournament draw when he made a cut-throat gesture to indicate the tough nature of their group.
But with the dust having now settled and with England beginning their campaign in just 143 days time against Italy in the jungle city of Manaus on June 15, Dyke sees reasons to be positive.
The fact that the public and media won’t saddle England with a welter of expectation in contrast to the last two World Cups – when they failed to live up to their star billing – is something that can work in Hodgson’s favour, according to Dyke.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he said: “We’d all love to win it. But we don’t go there as favourites by any means. Yet that can be a help.
“We’ve got a tough job and we didn’t want to meet the other floating European side (in the group) and didn’t want to go to Manaus either – we got them both.
“But maybe it’s a good idea to go in with the expectation not so high. So often in the past, we have gone with high expectations and under-performed and this time maybe we won’t have those.
“It will be a tough job as Europeans historically have not done well in Latin American tournaments. But I am a big fan of Roy’s – I think he has done a very good job.”
Dyke’s wide-ranging FA commission tasked with mapping out a successful and sustainable future for the English national team stopped taking submissions at the end of December and will reveal their findings in the Spring.
Alongside Dyke, the panel of nine ‘wise men’ includes Roy Hodgson, former England manager Glenn Hoddle, ex-Leeds United and England defender Danny Mills and former Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson.
The FA supremo feels that while some interesting ideas have been expressed, finding some common ground – particularly with the Premier League – is another matter.
Back in September, Dyke delivered a call-to-arms to the whole game, imploring everyone from Premier League clubs to his own organisation to do more to help England to become a consistently feared force in world football.
Mooted ideas include everything from a winter’s break to the raising of the minimum number of homegrown players in Premier League squads to tighter regulations on granting work permit visas and quotas on the number of foreign players in squads.
On plotting a path, Dyke acknowledged: “It’s about working across football to find solutions. There’s common ground on the commission, but whether there’s common ground (elsewhere), I didn’t know. But there’s some interesting ideas.
“When we started, we asked three questions. The first one was why we have got in a situation where 70 per cent of the Premier League players are not English. The second was: ‘What can we do about it?’ and the third was how we actually change it, because that’s the hard bit. Everyone can say what needs to be done, but it’s about delivering it.
“I’ve been to a lot of clubs and a positive is that there are good kids out there. The negative is how do we make sure they get more (first-team) games than they are getting at the moment. That’s the question. There are no easy answers.
“Some clubs have a culture where their aim is to bring more kids through into the first team. But in a world where the average Premier League manager lasts 18 months, why would they take the risk? That’s also part of it.
“In some clubs, it is a lot easier for some kids to get through. But they have all got the same problem as all the guys who run the academies will tell you they can’t get their kids (regular) games.
“That’s why so many go out on loans, although sometimes they aren’t satisfactory and they come back worse than when they went.”