England – where are we?

Maybe being a QPR fan has garnered more interest in the national team but I have always has a strong patriotic love for the Three Lions, from a young age. Paul Gascoigne probably had a lot of influence for that.


Tuesday night was time again for an inept, tepid England performance and for our footballing nation to descend into a range of emotions from frustration to anger to disillusionment. Twitter & Facebook go into meltdown, arguments raging about players, tactics, the manager, coaching. Ex managers & players giving their view. Opinions wide-ranging on what is wrong and right, who is wrong and right.

Job Done – Home wins secure group win

The recurring theme is that we got the minimum result needed and have to be happy with the point and being top of the group. 2 home games to finish, keeping our fate in our own hands.

That said you would guess 8 or 9 out of 10 people were not happy with the performance and where the England team is going.

So what is wrong and right with the team and set-up? Are there ANY positive signs?

The Manager – Negative & hard to beat may only take us so far.

A bit like Eriksson, he is making us a tough, hard to beat outfit but the worry is whether he can take the team to the next level, lead us to take a few teams apart like we should, & go into the World Cup on the back of some momentum and a realistic chance of achieving at least a quarter final or semi final spot.

I generally like Roy, he has a wealth of experience and obviously studied the game worldwide. But I think he is a little too negative and gives other teams too much respect instead of concentrating on the talent we DO have, getting our players on the ball and putting the opposition under more pressure.

In the past, when we have looked like challenging in the big tournaments we had some tempo to our game & gone out in games with a purpose, to try and win….not to watch the other team pass the ball around, try and nick it and play counter attack.
The tactic might not have been so bad against Ukraine but it has become Hodgson’s default again any half decent team. We need the players to believe more in themselves and their ability & play with confidence. We need to build a style of play and stick to it.

Ball retention is the new buzz phrase that is constantly used. Yet if we continue to sit back against teams and concentrate on being resolute & solid, them when we do recover the ball we do not have enough players in the right areas or ready to keep it.

Pace is also something that seems vital now in the modern game. We have plenty of it on offer and have to set up our teams to utilise it as best we can.

I think it’s great he’s got the playing experience of Gary Neville coaching set-up. Does he need another ex International in the couching set-up to inspire the next generation of players, maybe a Paul Scholes or a Becks, or an Alan Shearer, for the players to look up to. Players who were successful in the England shirt. Maybe we’ll see Gerrard or Lampard become involved one they retire from football in the years to come. These guys have first hand recent experience of the game, at Intl and Club level. They can relate to the players who experience a Premier League and often Champions League campaign whilst trying to do their best for the National Team and bring it success.
Could any of these players have an effect on the England team and setup like Jurgen Klinsmann did on the German team? Changing attitudes and bringing about an attractive attacking style of play.

There are many that will be hopeful that Glenn Hoddle will return to the England setup in years to come. It would be great to see him back in club management first and then be in a position to take over from Roy.

The ‘Experienced’ Players – Still need that backbone
Gerrard, Lampard, Cole, etc.

We still need these players. They hold the side together, still perform for club and country to the highest standard, and there are no better players than them currently in a position to take over. There experience is invaluable.

Just because they haven’t got Euro or World Cup Winners medals around their necks doesn’t mean their International careers have been unsuccessful and they have under performed. Look at Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, Bryan Robson, Stuart Pearce, Gary Neville, Gary Lineker, Michael Owen. No medals but England careers they should be proud off.

Cahill & Jagielka are forming a solid partnership but behind them there is little top class cover for injury. Maybe a case for John Terry OR Rio to be ready for a call up as cover next summer in Brazil? I wouldn’t put it out of the question should they have good seasons for Chelsea & Man Utd respectively and play a lot of games. Both have started the season well.

Andrea Pirlo is still playing for Italy at 34. He is still a top and one of their best players. Xavi also at 33. These players in my opinion do not block young players coming through. They are their idols and can inspire and help integrate them into the squad & team.

Ask Jack Wiltshire what he thinks of being in the squad with Gerrard and Lampard. Glowing reference I am sure. Ross Barkley, Tom Cleverly, the same.

The Youngsters – Need time to shine
Yes we have some great youngsters and need to have them in the squad and given some game time. More important though is they get get 1st Team Premier League (not Championship) experience to develop their game to the next level so they make a difference for England.

Big seasons for Barkley, Townsend, Sterling, etc. can give them some momentum going into Rio next summer.

Hopefully Jack Wilshere will have a little pressure and focus taken from him in his club football with Mesut Ozil arriving at Arsenal. If he finds a bit of form and takes it into an England shirt then he could provide that creative spark we need, and hopefully strike up an understanding with Rooney.

Kyle Walker will learn and improve from a stern test against Ukraine. Another full season in the Premier League, invaluable.

We need this mix of youth and raw talent to go with some real seasoned and respected players at the highest level.

Team Selection – Milner & the midfield
If many of us are honest would we pick a team much different to what went out against Ukraine?

OK there is a lot of argument about the selection of James Milner. I would not have selected him but you cannot argue against the logic. I though he played really well (out of positon it can be argued) and put in a real shift but was always going to end up being a scapegoat for a bad team performance all round. I would agree that we could have been more positive and played Young or Townsend but Milner was asked to do a job and you can’t fault his energy and application. We should want his attitude in our national players, happy to do whatever job the manager asks when may moan of overpaid pampered superstars not trying or caring about the shirt.

The overriding fact is had Rooney, Welbeck or Sturridge been available then Milner would not have played.

Michael Carrick – would he have done anything much different in that team setup as Lampard or Wilshere, the only players I could see him replacing.

What’s the positives?
If we can get the wins we need from the last 2 qualifiers the players can go away, having achieved qualification and concentrate on club form in the Premier League & Europe.

Plenty of time to find the best 23 for Rio, blood even more of the youngsters.

We do have a set of youngsters coming through that (as said before) if they can play at the top level (i.e. Premiership & Champions League) can develop & become big International players.

Wilshere should benefit playing alongside Gerrard & Lampard,and even more so Ozil at Arsenal.

Sturridge is turning into a goalscorer now and we wait to see wait Barkley, Townsend, Tom Ince, Sterling can achieve.

Man Utd should always have some English youngsters coming through and maybe some of their existing or developing players can turn into the Nevilles, Scholes & Beckhams that were so successful. Any change of an English Ryan Giggs whilst you are at it…?!

Grass Roots/Premier League
Is this really effecting the top level, the England team and their results? I don’t think so. The players are still coming through, as mentioned throughout this article. We have top academies & amazing training facilities that are either built or being built.

I am sure our coaches adapt and try and take the best parts of the English game, but combine them with studying the top European sides performances and methods and use them in training. Showcasing the quality of the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, how they play certain tactics and skills.

However you can never take away the tempo and aggression from the English game. We are known for this and should use it to our advantage.

However if we can learn to press the ball, keep it better (yes all sounds like the Barcelona way), be confident and go out looking to win games & not just survive. This should start with the attitude and tactics put out by the national team. And work it through to the U21’S and Youth Teams and Academies. Overall get our players comfortable with the ball and in possession.

Did France really have a big overhaul of their system that led to their back to back International triumphs? if they did what has happened to that success in recent years.
Is Spain’s success all about coaching and infrastructure change ? Or have they benefitted from a “Golden Generation” – with 2 or 3 genuine World Class and all time great players and many players building on successes with Barca & Real.

We need to guard against our best young players, being given big money contracts with the biggest clubs, taken by the big boys then having a lack of regular competitive football that stunts their development. A year or a couple of years in and out of the team, sub appearances, unsuccessful loans, confidence can go in a flash and not always easy to recover or have managers put faith in them again.

Let’s hope the Zahas, Sterlings, Barkleys etc. don’t fall by the wayside and end up as average players and not having fulfilled their potential.



Johnson Cahill Jagielka Cole
Walcott Gerrard Wilshere Welbeck

This is the Starting XI I would look to play if I was Roy. Rooney can drop in and make a midfield 5. Do the role I am sure he favours and is best at. Hopefully Moyes will have him in that #10 position this season for Man Utd.

Squad for World Cup:

Hart Forster Ruddy
Johnson Walker Cole Baines
Jagielka Cahill Jones
Gerrard Wilshere Milner 2 from : Lampard or Carrick or Barkley or Cleverley
Walcott Young 1 from Townsend or Ince or Sterling or Lennon
Rooney Sturridge Welbeck 1 from: Defoe or Lambert or Crouch

We do have depth and there are players outside the squad than can be called upon to do a job should we suffer injuries in most positions.

We have midfielders, wide players aplenty. Another real goalscorer to break through would be useful and maybe a young midfield enforcer to complement or cover Gerrard once he retires.

Ever the optimist on the England front (yes call me a fool!) we have enough talent at our disposal to make something happen next summer. As long as Roy, gets us on the attack more, gives teams things to think about and instills confidence in these players that perform week in week out for their clubs. Why can’t they do it in an England shirt? We always ask this. I would love not to be repeating this question next June & July.



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