The latest FIFA world rankings show England have slipped six places to 15th, their lowest position since the disastrous qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren. The youth sides aren't faring much better, as both the U-21 side and U-20s crashed out of major tournaments this summer. With qualification for Brazil 2014 next year still not guaranteed, the future of English football is not looking bright.
The FA has often received the bulk of the blame for England's failure at international level and now they're taking big steps to change the fortune of the national game. Here, Sky Sports takes a look at how the FA plans to halt the slide...
Following the dismal showing in Israel this summer - which saw the U21 side score a solitary goal and amass no points - there was criticism aplenty for manager Stuart Pearce, which eventually led to his contract not being renewed. In his leaving dossier Pearce stated he was "sick to the back teeth" of defending out-of-form players and cited the lack of access to senior players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as being a key issue for the FA to address.
A lot of coaches I talk to tell me there is a lot of talent out there, but they can't get through. That is going to be one of the big challenges. How do we get talented kids, properly coached, into the top level of English football?Greg Dyke
Pearce's management style was branded out-dated and his arguments as excuses. But it's rare that a manager can produce miracles from a team that are technically inferior and lack experience playing at the top level. New FA chairman Greg Dyke knows the challenge is not going to be easy. On his appointment he said: "A lot of coaches I talk to tell me there is a lot of talent out there, but they can't get through. That is going to be one of the big challenges. How do we get talented kids, properly coached, into the top level of English football?"
In order to increase the number of young footballers playing in the top leagues, the level of skill needs to be equal to the foreign players flooding the market. The training methods and attitudes towards style in England are arguably decades behind that of Germany, Spain and France and the answer to 'how can we change the English style of play?' has troubled the industry for years. Harry Redknapp, once the bookmakers' favourite to take charge of the senior side, summed up England's technical skills with an honest view: "In this country we do not know how to play football," the QPR manager said. "We just boot the ball up the pitch and it gets us nowhere."
It's not just technical ability that's hindering the development; the top clubs are failing to encourage English talent, favouring instead cheaper-to-buy more skilful foreigners. The Premier League is pushing international football into insignificance and the FA is finding it hard to impose regulations upon the financial powerhouses - home-grown player quotas and financial fair play have had little-to-no effect on the top teams. The success of the Premier League is hiding the splintered English youth system that lies beneath. Outgoing FA Chairman David Bernstein has highlighted the issue in the past saying: "The number of English players in the Premier League and the Football League is a really important matter. We have this number of around 30 per cent and in Germany it is more than 50 per cent and that 20 per cent is a lot of players."
The FA's plan for change
'The Future Game' plans to use the new £105m St George's Park development in Burton as the central pillar in a new youth development system. The top-class training facilities are designed to be 'a national centre, for the national game, a place where players and coaches can develop their skills using the latest technology and training techniques.
The programme has also identified the need for young players to be inspired to play a different kind of football. Using the template of the successful Spanish, German and Italian games - passing and moving, keeping hold of the ball and closing down the opposition are being honed as essential skills. The FA hopes this will improve the overall package of young footballers and help ease the transition to the senior teams of top Premier League clubs which will in turn increase the selection pool for the international teams.
The plan tries to avoid forcing the clubs to include young English players in their squad with quotas, but instead increase the overall technical skill of young players making it easier for the top clubs to integrate them in the senior sides earlier.
This improved technical ability is hoped to be achieved using 'The Future Game' practice guides to change the style of coaching and training for those aged between 8and 21. They include new drills and tests that focus on technical ability and avoid the stereotypical long ball style of play.
Only time will tell if these efforts to change will work, but the impressive St George's Park, informative and imaginative training schemes and team of new staff appear to be a step in the right direction. Fans can look ahead with slightly more optimism and maybe in the hot sun of Qatar 2022, England will end 47 years of hurt.
To find out more about 'The Future Game' go to www.thefa.com