Originally published in Spark Magazine in September 2014.
England left the World Cup this summer with three dreary performances, a couple of goals and a hard-fought, painstaking draw against a minnow nation.
Not much has changed, then, but what is different is the reaction.
Roy Hodgson’s side is seen as a work in progress and the conversation is, finally, about the deeper issues that have hampered English football for so long.
Where arrogance once prevailed, there is now an acceptance that England are lacking technically where other nations are thriving.
And that has led many to look to futsal, the fast-paced that is becoming rapidly popular in Sunderland at both Futsal Sunderland and the City Predators sides.
Participation in the 11-a-side game has dropped by 10% since 2005 and, as interests in small-sided football continue to grow, the FA see futsal as a high-quality small-sided game with a strong exit-route into football.
Former-Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace star Dean Gordon, who now runs Futsal Sunderland, says that futsal is growing in England and that it is now part of the conversation in English football.
“Compared to a year ago, 18 months ago, a lot more people are talking about it,” said Gordon.
“It’s still very fresh for some people, and some people still don’t know what it means.
“I think it’s the culture you have to try and change. I think we’ve still got to come away from that traditional “get the ball, lump it” attitude, win win win mentality.”
Gordon adds that changing that culture and attitudes towards youth coaching should see a shift towards the more technical player and the development of individuals, rather than focusing on winning the league or the cup.
“We need to get away from that, we need to focus on how we can improve kids technically, physically, mentally,” Gordon said. “Futsal’s an ideal way to do that. It’s a more technical game, a faster game, a more exciting game.
“It is a very unforgiving game, if you’re not quick, mobile or very good technically, it would be quite difficult. You can concede quite a lot of goals in a short space of time. You kind of learn a lot about yourself.
“But kids love it. You get more touches on the ball, and they just seem to enjoy it more. It’s faster, there’s more goal mouth chances, more chances to score, and it’s just a more exciting game.
“With more touches on the ball, you’re going to learn a lot more with futsal than you in normal football.”
Gordon represented 20 different clubs in an 18-year career, playing over 400 games as well as 13 games for England Under-21s in the mid-nineties.
He has been involved in soccer schools as well as starting the futsal franchise and he says he wants to help as many kids as possible make it into professional football.
“Being an ex-player, I want to help as many as I can get towards what I did. Yes there’s a fantastic lifestyle but there’s also a lot of hard work that a lot of people don’t seem to realise.
“We’ve got to increase the exposure if futsal is going to grow. Put more money in, get some big teams over, get it on TV, get people talking about it. That will have the biggest effect.”