Shambles! Embarrassing! Inept! NOTHING Has Changed
That was a shambles. That was embarrassing. That was inept.
And that ladies and gentlemen, was a group of players who this morning should be giving themselves a long hard look in the mirror.
There are 2 very familiar strands to this debate that will now turn to the familiar whys, wherefores and the who is the next messiah, so I’ll keep it simple.
Here’s my evidence to Greg Dyke (who’s now jumping ship, surprise surprise) at Wembley a couple of years ago on the state of English football and what it needed to do to move forward. To adapt, thrive and survive in an increasingly competitive international game and to live successfully alongside the monster that is the Premier League.
I really would like you to read it, and answer one question…
What has changed? Answer, NOTHING.
It needs to start with the FA. Too many boring, lightweight people with no clout in the game are slowly killing it with their choices, hires and vision. The Brian Clough method of shaking the whole place up from top to bottom is 40 years overdue. But like I said, read my evidence. It will only sound like it could have been written today, not back in 2014.
My anger but clearly thought-through criticism today is aimed at the management and players, so I’ll go through the relevant questions and rate the squad that will find itself back at Luton by the time you’ve read this column.
Roy Hodgson, Gary Neville and Ray Lewington.
Roy was always accepted as the establishment choice.
In all honesty there will be a mild panic at FA HQ today because they desperately wanted him to stay on until the Russia World Cup. A man who learnt his trade in Sweden, Switzerland and beyond is an old school meat and two veg 4-4-2 man, who ironically put his best teams out to play in the way Iceland did last night. But he tried to be clever, he felt he needed to up his coaching game, and as the systems we played became more exotic, it was obvious for all to see that Roy didn’t know his best side.
He didn’t know how to use them and he displayed an unwavering loyalty to players who demolished a woefully poor qualifying group. It could be argued that Hart, Rooney and Wilshere in particular, senior international players at the hub of Roy’s team, let him down badly.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, this was a functional manager, doing functional things without an ounce of maverick, passion or x-factor to eek out special things from a highly regarded group of talented players.
Back To School
Gary Neville for me, great player he was and a great speaker in the game is almost dead as a coach before his career has begun. Maybe it’s over-confidence, maybe it’s having played for the best manager in the game in Fergie for so long, but Gary is now tainted with Valencia and England failure and I’m pretty sure that means no top level club would touch him.
Valencia conceded sloppy goals, in a system that was clunking and formulaic and although Roy will take much of the blame and rightly so, Gary Neville is a coach who could and perhaps should have done better for England.
Little things like the throw-in for Iceland which everyone, everyone knew was a threat was the avenue from which they scored and the technical staff are as culpable as the players for either not seeing it or not expressing how important it was to stop it.
So Gary, like Roy and Ray has to take his medicine and go back to school.
Or more likely a TV studio with his tail firmly between his legs. He’s damaged goods and it will be fascinating as the greatest show on earth rolls back around soon whether he still will continue to have the gravitas to talk tactics after such a poor spell as coach. I suspect he will but with more humility and it will take a little time.
The Next Messiah
We need a manager now who will unify and excite the nation. The absolute nos for me are…
Gareth Southgate – Roy mark II
Alan Pardew – Not convinced about his global and particularly pan-European knowledge.
Eddie Howe – Not for me, a home boy at Bournemouth and doing very well, hasn’t proven anything outside the south coast.
Big Sam – Will want it, will be the most passionate manager we’ve had for a long time, but we need to embrace the new and brave, not old and stale.
Gary Neville – No, for reasons laid out above.
Harry Redknapp – 4 years too late now.
Laurent Blanc – Yet to see the tactical or managerial genius that had him linked to the Man United job.
My Personal Choices Are…
Mourinho – Three years too soon.
Slaven Bilic – Knows the country, knows international management, with an attractive style of play. Plus he’s a massive anglophile who knows what we expect from the players.
Neither are English, neither are available, so we will go for Southgate or similar. Which will turn long suffering England fans off again. We’ll win our World Cup group having played nobody and the boom and bust cycle will continue.
Where was the promise of talent development at St Georges Park? Pearce, Ferdinand, Wright, Shearer, Sheringham, McManaman, Fowler, Cole, damn even Collymore invited to coach, learn and get involved with the national set up?
We can’t even be arsed to train and stay there anymore (London Colney and the capital hotels put paid to that despite St Georges being our “Clairefontaine”), never mind have a three lions identity which lays the path for the future, so we will continue to lurch from English coaches who aren’t good enough to foreign mercenary (Sven and Capello came for the dough.) who promises a lot but delivers little.
It’s time to change, it’s time to rip the FA apart and have the biggest ever shake-up of staff at the Association ever.
Nice people all, but in a comfort zone, jobs for life if they want them and number-crunching robots who are shaping the destiny of our national game.
Hart – Hope the comparisons with Neuer and Buffon stop today. Very good keeper, never proven he’s a great one. Forster to step up and challenge now.
Walker – Best England player. From poor two seasons ago to marauding right back, a real positive.
Smalling – Overall did OK, but again, if Bonucci et al are the best, Chris is only a solid 5. Nothing more or less.
Cahill – Could say the same about him as Smalling. Honest lad, good player, just not exceptional at this level.
Rose – Started the tournament well but too erratic in his timing of runs down the left. Get the feeling he doesn’t know where he is likely to end up most of the time. Must do better with his deliveries into the box.
Dier – Casualty of a big rookie season and lots of games. Waned as the tournament went on and was given the runaround for Iceland’s second goal. Important player to build around for the future.
Rooney – It’s only the name now getting picked, not the footballer. Engine has blown a gasket, too many Hollywood pinged passes which do nothing other than get an “ooooh” from the crowd. No pace to go past anyone, living off Euro 2004 ‘new kid on the block” and “white Pele”.
Will go on and break the caps record but hasn’t delivered when it matters for England in over a decade.
He’s nowhere near a world class performer and no Robson, Pearce or Shearer when it comes to leadership for England.
A living, breathing myth.
Alli – Looked like a player who was told to “go and run around a bit”. Needs to learn his role, hone it and when he does we have the next generation of dynamism in England midfield. Until then, a rookie who we can’t rely on fully but nor should we. That’s the job of the seniors.
Wilshere – My concern isn’t fitness in a tournament, my concern is that Jack puts so much weight and power through his legs that he runs on the outside of his feet creating all sorts of physiological issues to his body that we may just not see this fine player ever get to the level he can play at. Unfit at this tournament and in hindsight shouldn’t have gone to France.
Kane – Tired, poor movement, poor touch in this tournament. Very little service to be fair but the lad needs now to go on holiday, switch his phone off, tell his missus to stop Instagramming them both on hols and get away from it all. In danger of burnout if he’s not careful.
Sturridge – Ended up trying and failing to do the money role, namely come deep, create and be the ‘clever’ forward. Credit to him for taking that on and at times looked as if it could work but he’s a predatory striker in the box and it’s another indictment on Roy that he was asked and allowed to take up a different role than he does for his club. Square peg, round hole.
Vardy – I wonder after his start against Slovakia where space was at a premium and he had little impact without space to run in behind, whether that was when he called his agent and said “I’m staying at Leicester”.
Looks effective with space to run in behind, almost looks lost when he has to think has way through and around a congested defensive opposition final third. Arsenal come up against the latter every game so for me not a great fit. At this level, like others, needs more than just outrageous pace. Needs a football brain.
Sterling – What do you want to be Raheem? A winger or a 10? Because from what I’m seeing he’s confusing both so much at the moment that he’s looking like a shambles at both.
Either get chalk on your boots and go past people (not stopping every 3 strides), or play as a 10 and use your striker to play off. On this form he simply wasn’t worth taking. Townsend was the better option.
Lots of people will say “what about Barkley and Rashford”, why weren’t they used more? In Rashford’s case I agree, a fearless young man who did more in 5 mins against Iceland than many did over 3 games, but it’s too early to heap pressure on him.
As for Barkley, I’ve heard from coaches who’ve worked with him for a number of years at all levels that he’s got talent but no football brain that can adapt to differing situations on the pitch.
In other words it’s all off-the-cuff and when that doesn’t work then he becomes a liability. Damning, but perhaps true that while Sterling and Wilshere were getting games despite poor fitness and form…
Barkley wasn’t doing enough in training to depose them.
That should work the lad, so let’s hope Ronald Koeman is the man to make his the talent and football mind that we all expect.
It’s time for massive change at the FA. Break up its old models of working, sweep the stench of failure away from its processes, staff and procedures, and let’s get a general executive who can excite us with a bold vision and a manner that will deliver.
If we don’t, see you in Russia after the group stage with the same analysis!