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What Can English Football Learn From British Tennis?

Watching Great Britain win their first Davies Cup for 79 years got me thinking is there anything that English football can learn from British tennis as they look to end their own trophy drought?

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A monumental effort from all involved in Great Britain’s Davies Cup team came to a victorious end not too long ago. An effort fronted by the incredible Andy Murray but also backed up by a cast of other tennis players from various levels in the world rankings putting in titanic performances to drag Great Britain from the doldrums of Davies Cup tennis to winners in an unprecedentedly short space of time.

Clearly the first thing which can be taken from the victory is that it always helps to have one of the best players in the world, maybe arguably on of the best ever in your team. Having that player you can rely on is the key, and Andy Murray really was that man not losing a single match in the Davies Cup this year.

In football Portugal have been dragged kicking and screaming far further in tournaments than they otherwise would have got by the genius which is Cristiano Ronaldo. Indeed they have only managed to reach some of these tournaments thanks to Ronaldo bailing them out.

Spain teams of old had strength all over the park but were without a doubt helped by truly world class players in the form of Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas amongst others. That strength all over the park though is what made them so much better than anything else. With Portugal in the football and Great Britain in the tennis if you took that one world class player out then the impact would be horrendous. But with a squad like the one Spain had this would not matter all that much.

This can also be seen with the France team which won the World Cup and European Championships at the turn of the century. Having the likes of David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry and of course the legend who is Youri Djorkaeff to just mention a few is a formula for success.

I think it is fair to say that this is a lesson which English football has been clobbered over the head with for many many years now. The problem of not having enough world class players is banded around after every major tournament having gone into it insisting that we have the playing staff to succeed. Despite people claiming that Wayne Rooney is world class this is clearly not the case. And beyond him we don’t have any players who can be said to fall near that bracket.

But how do you solve this problem? Can British tennis help us with a blue print here?

It does appear they cannot. All the reports about how British tennis is run are remarkably bad. It does seem that Murray becoming one of the best players in the world was nothing to do with them, and from that perspective it was pot luck that Great Britain had the players to win.

This is also an area where you could argue that English football is greatly lacking. This has been noted by the Football Association who are looking to improve youth coaching and the facilities available for them. This will take time but is probably the surest way to success. And maybe this is an area in which British tennis should look to learn from football somewhere down the line.

Beyond having Andy Murray was there anything else critical to Great Britain’s success?

A lot of people do give an awful lot of credit to team captain Leon Smith. He was appointed before a play-off match which if British tennis had lost they would have slipped into the bottom group for the Davies Cup. But they won it and began a remarkable march to the very top.

What does he bring to the team then? One thing which he is greatly credited for is inspiring huge performances from players who on paper should be blown away. James Ward pulled on some remarkable victories. None more so than his win against the American John Isner who was ranked a laughable number of places above him in the world rankings. This sort of performance is what needs to be inspired of England’s footballers if they are to succeed at international tournaments.

If you look at Greece’s success at Euro 2004 it shows that you don’t need the best squad in the world to succeed on the international stage. Yes they had Stelios which was obviously a huge advantage. But beyond that they had precious little winning the tournament in no small part thanks to a fantastic defence.

So is this the type of thing which English football should look at, finding a manager capable of making players over achieve? We have no shortage of these managers at the moment. The Premier League table shows us that with the likes of Alan Pardew driving Crystal Palace up the league. In his defence Roy Hodgson has had Fulham and West Bromwich Albion punching above their weight.

In all reality this is our only hope on the international stage. Whether it is a repeatable formula is of course hugely debatable. Many managers have pulled of miracles at one team and struggled to repeat them elsewhere. Just look at Big Sam for example, yes he has done well at his clubs since Bolton Wanderers but has he ever achieved as much as he did at the Reebok?

I think the answer to the question of what English football can learn from Great British tennis is very little. In many ways British tennis’ victory just tells the story of any major sporting victory. They had the right mix of world class players and good management. That is what English football needs; getting it though is of course far from simple.