England players put their clubs before their country and think of international football as “just a bonus”, according to former Three Lions striker Andy Cole.
Cole, who earned 15 caps for England, also believes criticism of Roy Hodgson’s side has been been blown out of proportion, that inflated expectations take the shine off playing for England and that Gary Neville is not ready to take the job as manager.
England bowed out of the World Cup at the group stage for the first time since 1958 following defeats to Italy and Uruguay before a disappointing campaign ended with a goalless draw against Costa Rica.
The post-tournament inquest has already begun and the players’ commitment has been questioned after Harry Redknapp revealed some of his Tottenham squad asked to be pulled out of England fixtures.
“I wasn’t surprised by what Harry said, not at all,” said Cole, who played for Newcastle and Sunderland.
“I saw that happen a number of times – it’s not uncommon. It’s been around a long time and it could well be the same with other countries as well.
“Who pays your bills? Nine months of the year who do you play for? Your club. So how can you put your country first?
“If you ask any professional player, their bread and butter is their football club and to play for their country is just a bonus.”
England went to Brazil with low expectations but just two goals and one point from their three group games has been met with widespread disappointment.
Cole, who remains the Premier League’s second highest scorer with 189 goals, insists the pressure on players to deliver is too much and the level of scrutiny takes the shine off pulling on the white shirt.
“People say playing for England is a great honour but you don’t expect to be under the intense pressure and scrutiny that you’re under,” Cole said.
“Ultimately it’s a game of football. It’s not life or death. It’s a game, a game we all love but when England don’t get results it’s treated like a death in the family. It should never be like that.
“Everyone should want to play for their country but when England lose, the depth the press go into everything is too much – the pressure is far too much.
“It definitely takes the shine off playing for England, it’s tough playing for England, no matter what anyone says, the expectations are far, far too high.”