Vieira: England players don’t love the team

WORLD Cup-winning former France captain Patrick Vieira has voiced his concerns at the widespread player apathy towards representing England, blaming a lack of love for the national team and weakness of the Football Association.

Vieira also expressed his astonishment that it had taken the FA so long to establish their own national centre dedicated to improving the game at all levels, following the opening of the St George’s Park facility this week.

The comments from the ex-Arsenal skipper, now an executive at Premier League champions Manchester City, comes amid accusations that the FA has been too lenient in its treatment of errant stars and as England prepare to play San Marino tomorrow.

“In England I really don’t understand how come so many players from 16 to 21 pull out of the national team through ‘injury’,” said Vieira. “I think it’s maybe a lack of FA power, and maybe a lack of love for the national team as well. When I grew up I wanted to play for the national team –- that was my target, my dream. In England I don’t think the young players dream of playing for the national team anymore.

“I don’t know the answer but, from the outside, I believe in England they’re not as proud as they used to be. I don’t know why; I think that’s a good question to ask. We’re talking about the national team – that’s bigger than anything else.”

The FA hopes St George’s Park will help England end the long wait to add to the 1966 World Cup, which remains the national team’s only trophy. Vieira has welcomed the move, which he believes is long overdue, but warned that there would be no quick fix to what he depicts as England’s systemic failure to capitalise on its natural resources.

“All the big nations have their own house – I didn’t understand why it took England so long to realise they need their own place,” said Vieira, an ambassador for Western Union’s Europa League PASS initiative, aimed at funding education in developing countries. “But it’s better late than never. It’s a really good step for England. I think people running English football realise they are far behind other countries, that something is wrong in the system.”