Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me, like I want to be different or controversial for the sake of it. I prefer to see myself as a realist and just look at the facts rather than get emotional. The truth is this…I cannot warm to this England team. Now don’t let my surname fool you, I am an England fan. In fact, back in 1990 I was a 12 year old watching England crash out in the semis to the Germans through floods of tears on my 14″ TV. That team was full of character and fight. I was sure they would have won the World Cup had they gotten through those damn penalties or Gazza’a toe was a little longer!
Roll on 28 years later (blimey am I that old!) and we have a team that got to the same stage and even had a better chance of getting further. “What an achievement” and “how proud they made us” were the cries on the TV and Radio. I agree, and they certainly did better than 28 good teams. I hear people like Stuart Pearce rave about them with the passion you would expect from him but at the same time nonchalantly dismissing the fact they faced weak opponents. No, back up a little there Piercey. The fact is they barely beat Tunisia, Panama was a joke and Columbia could have gone either way despite how bad the opponents were. Yes Sweden was a convincing win but the two decent teams they faced beat them. You see, I cant even say “us” and refer to as “them”. I just don’t have that feeling I had all those years ago. And its not just my age. I was more connected to embarrassing Euro team of 2016. Maybe its because i’m an Arsenal fan and the team is full of spurs players?
But then I hated players like John Terry and Wayne Rooney in the premiership and yet when they put that England shirt on I was fully behind them, as I was with Tottenham’s Gazza and Linekar back in 90.
So what is it?
The day the team was announced I was just underwhelmed. There was no one in that excited me, both in technical ability or character, like the John Terry’s or the Gerard’s and Lampard’s. Southgate’s team are just industrial and workman like. Now there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometime they are the most successful teams. Just look at what an organised Greece did in the Euro’s. I remember back in that tournament, pundits like Linekar absolutely slating them even after they won it, openly suggesting they were boring and that they didn’t deserve it. Yet the same person was cooing over a team that had fewer shots on target from open play than everyone except Iran!
I think we are getting closer to why I feel the way I do. It’s the over hype. It’s the dimwitted fans and pundits getting carried away. It’s the same fans that wanted us (“us”, see i’m warming up) to finish top of the group for the sake of “momentum”. Give me a break. You can’t lose momentum if the side you put out is completely different. And how long would we have lasted against the likes of Brazil or France given we cannot beat Belgium or Croatia?
The buzz has been so intense that it felt negative to even mention these things. So here I am to get it off my chest. Most of the players individually (in my opinion) are not good enough. At the back John Stones and Kyle Walker have mistakes in them. The midfield however was my biggest bugbear. Where was the creativity?
Henderson to his credit had a great World Cup and did his job well. He, to his credit proved me wrong. However, everyone was so hellbent focusing on Sterling’s performance that Dele Alli doing absolutely nothing for 95% of the tournament went unnoticed. In fact Sterling going off against Croatia is where it all went wrong. He was our outlet and Croatia were hesitant to push forward for fear of the break. Rashford came on and dropped deep to get the ball and be a hero allowing Croatia the freedom to push on. For me Rashford is not a centre forward, just ask Mourinho. He should have been coming on for Alli who was drifting out to the left wing and looking very uncomfortable for it. This is where I have seen Rashford at his best. The substitutions against Croatia summed up England’s problem on the whole. There was no one on that bench that could change things; no creativity, just like for like substitutions. Dier for Henderson, Rose for Young and Rashford for Sterling. Look further down the bench, Delph. Delph?
I have racked my brains with this one. A nothing player that is happy to sit on the bench at City and collect his wages. Surely a Lallana or Wilshire with their directness or even Shelvey’s creative passing could have been a better alternative to warm the bench?
I want to back up a bit and reiterate, I am an England fan and I desperately wanted them to do well. I am all for the nation’s good feeling. The sun was shining, beers were flowing, Brexit talk was at a minimum. Ironically I was an early predictor of their success, placing a decent sized pre-tournament bet on them getting to the final. I was impressed by Gareth Southgate’s organisation, the way he named his team early and had a set 3-5-2 system in place. He left no stone unturned with the preparation both on and off the pitch. And this is it. This is my problem. Whilst the majority of England fans were expecting less and feel like they got more, I had high hopes and felt they flattered to deceive. They were boring, created very little and Harry Kane scored penalty after penalty to help win the Golden boot, which as an Arsenal fan does grate on me because we won’t hear the end of it. It shouldn’t be like this. I want to feel for them like I have in the past.
Please everyone stop talking this team up and have some humility until they really prove something. Just getting to the semi’s really isn’t enough Piecey given their run of games. Let’s go and compete with the better teams first. I hear all this talk of us now winning the Euro’s and the next World Cup and “building for the future”. On what basis?
There are at least 5 other Eurpoean teams better than us right now let alone in two years. You cannot start talking tournaments in 2 years. All it takes is a bad game, an unfortunate decision or few injuries at key moments and the next tournament is gone so lets concentrate on now. Win what is in front of you and if you can’t, at least acknowledge the deficiencies and correct them. When my 7 tear old son comes home from school and talks about his day I ask him what he got wrong that day and then proceed with a “well done”, muct to his bemusement. Its not a negative thing but by acknowledging our flaws we can then go about working on fixing them and not making the same mistakes. Glossing over this tournament with star-gazed eyes does none of us any favours. Come on England, make me feel again!!