Tag: Three Lions

Destination Russia

So it’s official- England will be at the 2018 World Cup finals. The next question is who will make the squad. Using the tabloids favourite cliche of airport terminology to illustrate who gets in the squad (or as they say who makes the plane) here’s a quick guide to who’s in, out and maybe

Boarding Pass for Moscow Domodedovo:

If you’re here then barring injury or a dramatic loss of form you will go to the World Cup with England;

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland

Fullbacks: Kyle Walker

Centre backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, John Stones

Central midfielders: Eric Dier

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Dele Alli, Adam Lallana,

Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy

harry-kane.jpg

 

Sat in the Terminal 5 Departure Lounge:

If you’re here you’re close to going- maybe one good appearance from boarding the plane or perhaps in a 50/50 battle with another player for your place- nobody wants to be 24th man for England- somebody on this list will be;

England-v-Peru-International-Friendly

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton

Fullbacks: Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw

Centre backs: Michael Keane, Chris Smalling, Harry Maguire

Central midfielders: Nathaniel Chalobah, Jake Livermore, Fabian Delph, Harry Winks, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley

Forwards: Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe

Rushing for the Heathrow Express:

If you’re here you might go but you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe you’re a young player trying to break through or you’re settling at a new club or returning from injury- it’s a long time until the manager names his 23- at this point in the build up to Euro 2016 Marcus Rashford was still in the Man Utd youth team!

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman

Fullbacks: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Sessegnon, Ben Chilwell

Centre backs: Jamaal Lascelles, Alfie Mawson

Central midfielders: James Ward-Prowse, Danny Drinkwater, Tom Davies, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Theo Walcott, Nathan Redmond, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Demarai Gray

Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Solanke

Boarding the flight to Maui:

If you’re here you ain’t going to the World Cup (this time at least) perhaps you went before on those brief trips to Brazil or South Africa or you’re still young and may spend Christmas 2022 in Qatar. OK the vast majority of English footballers won’t be representing their country next summer in Russia. But if you’re like stars here you are a highly paid well known (and maybe even liked) footballer and Hawaii is lovely in June.

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster

Fullbacks: Glenn Johnson, Leighton Baines, Mason Holgate

Centre backs: Ben Mee, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers

Central midfielders: Lewis Cook, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Marc Albrighton, Ademola Lookman, Josh Onamah, Andros Townsend, Scott Sinclair

Forwards: Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Gray. Saido Berahino

Andy+Carroll+England+v+Ghana+International+9LfXudagZsBl

Advertisements

Life after England

As Roy Hodgson prepares to re-enter the dugout with Crystal Palace how did his England predecessors get on when they left Wembley?

Bobby Robson

Unlike his successors Robson had already agreed to leave the England job before his last tournament at Italia 90.

Leaving England on a high Robson headed to PSV Eindhoven where he won back to back league titles.

He then took over at Sporting Lisbon where he employed a certain Jose Mourinho as his interpreter. Things didn’t work out between manager and chairman and Robson was fired in his second season.

Robson exacted revenge by joining rivals Porto and winning back to back league titles (again with the special one in tow).

From there this dynamic duo headed to the Nou Camp for the 96/97 season and won the Copa Del Rey & European Cup Winners Cup and finished runner up in La Liga. Barca then moved Robson to the boardroom to accommodate the more fashionable Louis Van Gaal (no really!)

e148282e7c4be1bd45c2a7b3f36f1440

The now Sir Bobby Robson finally returned to England after a brief stint back at PSV with hometown club Newcastle United in 1999. He guided the Magpies from the foot of the table to Champions League qualification. In the process he revitalised Alan Shearer and signed smartly including a young Jermaine Jenas for £5million. Despite bringing a standard of football rarely witnessed on Tyneside and stability the club hasn’t known since. But we was bizarrely sacked in 2004 after a (relatively) poor start to the season and not being able to sign Wayne Rooney ahead of Man United (that obviously wasn’t a great career decision from Wayne.)

Robson’s truckload of trophies after England enhanced his reputation beyond measure, upon his death in 2009 Sir Bobby’s passing was mourned across European football.

Graham Taylor

Taylor left Lancaster Gate with his reputation in tatters and it didn’t improve on his return to club management with Wolves where he couldn’t orchestrate promotion to the Premier League and was fired after just one year.

in 1996 he returned to his spiritual home of Watford after his former chairman Elton John repurchased the club now in League One. Taylor restored his reputation with back to back promotions and put Watford in the Premier League for the first time. With limited resources the Hornets lasted just one season and Taylor retired in 2001.

Watford-Manager-Graham-Taylor-With-The-Play-Off-Cup-Nationwide-League-Division-One-Play-Off-Final-1

He then surprised everyone by going back to another old haunt- Aston Villa. He had one uneventful season under the moribund Doug Ellis regime before stepping away from management and eventually entering the Watford boardroom in 2009 and eventually became honory life president of the club.

Football mourned his passing earlier this year but nowhere was his loss more keenly felt than at Vicarage Road.

Terry Venables

Venables left Wembley on a footballing high after Euro ’96. But his legal troubles were mounting and shortly afterwards he was banned from being a company director.

On the pitch he took over the Australian national team job and things started well making the confederations cup final in 1997. He then guided the Socceroos to a World Cup playoff against Iran but 2 late goals conceded in Sydney saw the Australians miss out on away goals and that was that.

He then turned up at Crystal Palace where new owner Mark Goldberg promised a Venables/ Gazza dream team and delivered the first half of his promise. But things descended into chaos on and off the pitch and Venables only stayed 10 months.

Then in 2001 He moved into a co manangent arrangement at Middlesbrough with his former England assistant Bryan Robson. He helped the club avoid relegation and secure mid table stability, but El Tel didn’t fancy moving to Teesside so the arrangement was short lived.

The next move stunned football- he joined high flying Leeds in the summer of 2002. Unfortunately the club was drowning in a tsunami of debt and star man Rio Ferdinand was immediately sold. But Leeds still had a squad capable of competing and things got off to a promising start with an early season win over Ferdinand’s Manchester United and giving James Milner his league debut. But things soon went pear shaped and by Christmas the club were out of Europe and dropping down the league. In January Chairman ‘Publicity’ Peter Ridsdale began a fire-sale of the clubs top stars. But the team still fielded 11 internationals and the FA Cup offered a last chance of a trophy, until they crashed at local rivals Sheffield United in the quarter finals. Venables was fired but the financial mess at the club meant Venables escaped some of the blame.

ridsdaletelend

If Leeds was a shock move his next was Earth shattering- he rejoined England as Steve McClaren’s assistant. But things went wrong from the start and England suffered a miserable and ultimately failed qualifying campaign. Some (i.e. Jeff Powell) argued Venables had too little influence in the set up, but his finger prints were clearly on some of McClaren’s decisions- notably the switch to 3-5-2 for the awful performance in a 2-0 loss to Croatia.

Since then El Tel has returned to his adopted home of Spain where he owns a very nice hotel and restaurant where he presumably entertains guests with his Careoke machine.

Glenn Hoddle

Hoddle left the FA in late 1998 with a well earned reputation as a tactical innovator and tactless man. He returned to management a year later with Southampton where he started well and got the club clear of relegation. But 1 year later his dream job came up- Tottenham.

article-2607887-004CAEE200000258-568_634x538

After an acrimonious split with the Saints, Hoddle arrived at White Hart Lane in April 2001 where his first game was bizarelly the FA cup semi final against Arsenal, which ended in the then customary defeat. The following season started well and in September the visit of Manchester United saw Spurs 3-0 by half time, they then shipped 5 second half goals and went down 3-5. But Hoddle still guided them to the League Cup final where they were surprisingly beaten by Blackburn.

The next season saw an encouraging start quickly fly south and a disappointing 10th place finish, Hoddle was fired early into the 2003/04 season. He then masterminded 2 seasons of Wolves forever stay in the upper middle of the Championship.

Since then Hoddle has set up an academy for ex youth team players trying to restart their careers and become an ITV pundit. Strangely given his distinctly mixed record in club management plenty of ex players and football journalists (well Henry Winter) persistently campaign did his return to the England dugout.

Kevin Keegan

Keegan left England by his own admission because he wasn’t up to international football management. Just over a year later he returned to club management to retry is favourite trick- reviving a fallen giant. This time it was Manchester City, Keegan got them promoted at the first attempt with a typically cavalier brand of football inspired by playmakers Eyal Berkovic & Ali Bernabia.

Keegan largely bought name veterans notably Stuart Pearce & Peter Schmichael and this odd combination of entertainers and Dads Army secured a top hand finish, UEFA cup football via the fair play league and 4 points at the expense of United.

kk_2002_2421154k

Dads Army was reinforced by Robbie Fowler & Steve McManaman but the following season saw a 16th place finish.

Keegan stayed one last season before retiring and seeing City into their new home at Eastlands and a top half finish. Keegan announced his retirement from competitive management and set up a Soccer Circus- no really!

So it was to everyone’s surprise when in January 2008 Keegan reappeared at Newcastle. To Newcastle fans it was the second coming, to everyone else it was doomed to failure. Not that Keegan was a bad manager but only Newcastle would think conjuring up a Geordie Messiah from a Soccer Circus and think he would deliver a title challenge. With Mike Ashley now running the club it was always likely to end badly, particularly with Dennis Wise appointed Director of Football over Keegan’s head. After 9 months it was over and Keegan has stayed away from the frontline ever since. But Keegan has always done the unexpected so…

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Sven left the 2006 World Cup in apologetic mood after England’s early exit ,(back when the quarterfinals was considered early for England).

Most expected he’d return to Serie A where he’d enjoyed great success prior to his England stint. But he took a year to return to the game and when he did it was with Manchester City. City had just been taken over by Thai billionaire Thaskin Shinawatra.

Needing to overhaul a relegation candidate squad Sven signed a mass of players including Gelson Fernandes, Martin Petrov, Verdan Corluka & Geovanni with the need for quantity over quality.

Erikkson surprised everyone by making the early premier league running and scoring an early win over Ferguson’s United- revenge perhaps for all those England squad pullouts!

Sven1504_468x450

However they couldn’t retain their brilliant start and started to slide down the table. Then February 2008 brought the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and unbelievably the fixture computer through out City at United for that weekend. The teams played in their 50s strips in tribute and City fans impeccably observed the minutes silence with some attributing this to the calming influence of their manager. A game that was supposed to be about United’s past ended up hinting at City’s future and a shock win, it was the first double City had scored over United in the Premier League era. City finished the season with their joint Premier League points record and UEFA cup football but a final day 8-1 drubbing persuaded Shinawatra to fire Eriksson.

City fans were outraged and Noel Gallagher offered to give Sven a ‘big kiss’ for turning the club around, its a what might have been for Sven had he survived another year- the following summer the Abu Dhabi billions rocked up in Manchester.

The next step was a move back to international football with Mexico but things quickly fell apart and the World Cup qualification campaign dropped off a cliff and Sven was sacked at the mid way point.

His next move was a return to England as director of Football at Notts County but the backers pulled out within weeks and Sven left in a hurry with the cls debts mounting.

Sven did however make it to the 2010 World Cup with Ivory Coast. The draw was awful (Portugal & Brazil) and an injury to Didier Drogba didn’t help and the Ivorians departed in the group phase.

A few months later he was back in England with Championship strugglers Leicester, Sven got them out of trouble but couldn’t push them beyond mid table so it was another short stay although he did sign Kasper Schmichael.

Since then Sven had been in the mega bucks Chinese Super League where he still quietly presides the touch line.

Steve McClaren

McClaren exited Soho Square to a flurry of kicks and punches (not literally). Given in England he was associated with umbrellas and failure like no man since Neville Chamberlain, the only real option was to look abroad.

In in the summer of 2008 he pitched up at Dutch side FC Twente. Things didn’t start well- he decided to give his first press conference in Dutch. The only problem being he didn’t speak Dutch so he just did a bit of schpeaking like thish. HE described his side as ‘masshive underdogsch.’

But Schteve (that’s the last one I promish) had the last laugh guiding Twente to 2nd place in Holland in his first season. Despite the sale of star forward Marko Arnautovic, McClaren bought well with Bryan Luiz & Miroslav Stoch. Twente stormed up the table on the back of a near perfect home record. Twente came out on top of a tight title race and won their first Eredivisie title with McClaren named manager of the year- redemption!

136360564

McClaren decided to twist rather than stick and continued his continental odyssey in the summer of 2010 with German side Wolfsburg. But despite a decent start things quickly went downhill and McClaren was fired after only 9 months in charge.

He then returned to England with Nottingham Forest but that only lasted 10 games and by 2012 he was back at Twente without his earlier success.

In the summer of 2013 He joined QPR as a coach but in September McClaren returned to Derby where he’d served as both a player and coach. McClaren enjoyed an excellent season finishing third- had he been there from the start they might have got automatic promotion but they had to make do with the playoffs.

After beating Brighton, Derby secured a place in the final ironically against QPR. In the build up McClaren pointed out he ‘wouldn’t be taking a bloody brolly’. Derby dominated the game but lost to late Bobby Zamora goal.

Derby entered the 2014/15 season as promotion favourites and remained in the automatic promotion places but a dramatic late season collapse saw Derby miss out on even a playoff spot and McClaren was fired again.

In the summer of 2015 McClaren finally got back to the Premier League with Newcastle. McClaren became the only manager to persuade Mike Ashley to loosen the purse strings and signed Georgino Wijnaldum & Akexsander Mitrovic. Predictably Mitrovic got an early red card and lengthy suspension and the season spiralled into relegation trouble with McClaren getting fired in March and The Toon relegated 2 months later.

The Newcastle affair sent McClaren back to square one and Steve is now at Maccabi Tel Aviv as a consultant.

Fabio Capello

Had Capello left England just before the 2010 World Cup (when Inter were sniffing around) he’d have had his pick of top club jobs. However by the time he left England in early 2012 he was damaged goods.

Eventually he settled on the Russia national job. His first task was to qualify for the 2014 World Cup- something he comfortably managed.

fabiocapello_2919845

The finals group looked passable with Belgium, Algeria & South Korea. But a disappointing draw with South Korea put pressure on the Russians going into the headline encounter with Belgium. The Russians were resolute and tough but eventually succumbed to a late Divock Origi strike.

It would all come down to a final showdown with Algeria- who’d given Capello’s England a tough time in 2010. Russia got a dream start through Alex Kokorin’s 6th minute strike. Russia controlled the first half but Islam Slimani struck with a close range header (something Leicester fans have rarely seen), Russia couldn’t summon a response and were out in Round 1. Financial problems at the Russian FA saw Capello’s hefty salary delayed and Euro 2016 qualifying got off to a ropey start and Capello was sacked.

For the last year Fabio has been enjoying footballs highest paid retirement home of the Chinese Super League where he and Sven can compare bank balances.

Managing a fading star

As Gareth Southgate moves on from Wayne Rooney I’ve delved into the archives to look back at how other managers handled fading stars either easing them towards the door or trying to keep them in the room.

Bobby Robson & Kevin Keegan

When- 1982. Incoming England manager Bobby Robson felt it was time to put the nations favourite footballer out to pasture and decided not to select him for his first England squad.

289999_1

How did Kev take it?

Really badly. Neither The FA nor Robson told Keegan of the decision in advance so Keegan found out when the squad was announced. He gave an on the spot reporter an earful of his anger saying “What upset me is the way I heard about it. I mean a 10p phone call from the FA is not a lot to ask.” A few weeks earlier at St James Park, Robson had indicated to Keegan he would be in stating after the game “see you soon,” it’s fair to say Robson and the FA could have handled it a lot better. Meanwhile there was condemnation in Robson’s hometown of Newcastle over dropping the new Geordie Messiah, with hate mail sent to the new England Manager.

 

How did it work out

Not great, Robson stuck with his decision to leave 31 year old Keegan in the past but failed to qualify for Euro 84 despite a qualifying group that put ‘England on Easy Street,’ according to The Sun. It wasn’t the last case of hubris on the tabloid’s back page but nobody saw Preben Elkjaer and Denmark coming and they took the group whilst England stayed home.

From then until Italia ’90 Robson was a walking target for a critical press, an adversarial relationship that may just have started when the ever popular Keegan was dropped.

Wether Keegan would have made the difference is harder to say he was by that time playing in the Second Division with Newcastle before taking them to promotion and finally departing St James Park by helicopter after his final game just weeks before Euro ’84.

Graham Taylor & Gary Lineker

When- 1992. With 28 minutes left of the last group match of Euro ’92 England needed a goal to qualify for the semi finals. Taylor decided to take off Lineker and replace him with Alan Smith. Lineker had announced pre tournament he’d retire at the end of it meaning he’d never wear the Three Lions again if England went out.

Gary Lineker

How did Gary take it?

He gave a surprised look when his number was called but trotted off without complaint. After Taylor’s untimely death earlier this year Lineker tweeted his sadness at the his former manager’s passing, when one tweeting twit suggested Gary should have hated him Lineker gave a typically sensible response stating ‘Why? because he subbed me once! he made me captain and I’ll always be grateful for that.’

How did it work out

Badly- Smith didn’t get a decent shot off and Tomas Brolin scored late to send England packing and the turnip was born.

Glenn Hoddle & Paul Gascoigne 

When- 1998. With Gascoigne struggling for fitness and Hoddle needing to trim his World Cup squad to 23 the manager decided to put on a Kenny G record and calmly tell Gazza he was out.

How did Gazza take it?

Liam Gallagher style. Gazza went bezerk allegedly trashing Hoddle’s room before being lead away in tears.

How did it work out

In footballing terms Hoddle was almost certainly right. By 1998 Gazza was a shadow of his former self, and a move to Middlesborough aimed at cementing his World Cup place had yielded only 7 appearances. Then a late night session followed by a stop at a kebab shop made the back pages and Hoddle made his mind up.

Gazza 2

However Hoddle handled Gazza’s delicate psyche very poorly.  Clearly Gascoigne thought he could do anything and still get in the side and Hoddle should have managed him better. The decision to cut the Gazza-esque Matthew Le Tissier from the squad two weeks earlier suggests Hoddle just assumed Gascoigne would be going to France ’98 and had no contingency if things went pear shaped.

It’s hard to believe the whole episode didn’t have a negative impact on morale as the squad headed for France particularly amongst the senior players who’d played with Gascoigne for years. In Hindsight reprimanding the wayward star earlier and trying to pull him into line with a credible alternative in the background would have worked better.

Steve McClaren & David Beckham

When- 2006, Steve McClaren names his first England squad and omits David Beckham. It’s seen largely as a press friendly move, the hacks of Fleet Street having spent much of the previous two years insisting Beckham was passed it.

How did David take it?

Beckham took the snub with his usual good grace insisting he would work hard to get back into the managers plans. McClaren perhaps noting the Robson/ Keegan fall out notified Beckham in advance to explain his decision.

How did it work out

Badly- for McClaren. England’s results went downhill and the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign quickly unravelled, unsurprisingly the press were no longer saluting his decision to drop Becks.

McClaren didn’t help his cause by explaining in a BBC interview that he dropped Beckham because he was looking for more pace and direct running at opposing fullbacks  from the right wing. A fair point, but for the fact he then played Steven Gerrard on the right of midfield nullifying his own point.

McClaren back tracked and Beckham was recalled 6 months later a move widely seen as McClaren undermining his own authority. Beckham was by the resumption of qualifying playing for LA Galaxy and returned too late to save his beleaguered boss and England failed to make Euro 2008.

AUSTRIA V ENGLAND

Fabio Capello & David Beckham (again) 

When- 2008, When Fabio Capello took over from McClaren the first player the press asked about was Beckham (now aged 33 and playing in LA). Capello decided to retain Beckham but with a notable caveat- Beckham needed to be playing top-level football.

david_beckham_1478533c

How did David take it?

He spent the US offseason and start of the next season on loan at AC Milan. There was an irony to Beckham’s plight- Capello had been his manager at Real Madrid when Beckham was dropped by Real & England. Sensing his options in Europe being reduced to middle tier sides Beckham opted for his American adventure. Of course no sooner had he signed  a pre contract agreement with the Galaxy he was back in Capello’s team and he played a key role as the La Liga title followed 5 months later.  Now Capello wanted him back in Europe.

How did it work out

Pretty well, Beckham enjoyed a fruitful spell at the San Siro winning over a sceptical Milan fanbase and continuing his England career mainly as an impact substitute, providing calm ball retention as England looked to see out tight games.

It cost Beckham in LA with a chorus of boos upon his return to California but he soon saw out the storm and signed up for a second stint in Milan in the spring before the 2010 World Cup. This time disaster stuck, Beckham suffered a torn achilles and his World Cup dream together with his England career was over. Capello showing an unusually sympathetic streak brought Becks to South Africa in an unofficial capacity, not that it did England much good.

Roy Hodgson & Wayne Rooney

When- 2016 In the build up to the European Championships England traveled to a friendly in Germany without injured skipper Wayne Rooney. The ensuing 3-2 win inspired by new boys Kane, Alli & Dier got an excitable press suggesting England should move Rooney to the bench. Roy wasn’t having it.

How did Roy manage it?

He changed formation to try and accommodate Rooney, Kane, Alli and Vardy. First he tried a diamond with Rooney at the tip, Alli further back and Kane/ Vardy up front- this resulted in Vardy on the wing. He continued to tinker before deciding on 4-3-3 with Rooney and Alli together in midfield.

How did it work out

It showed promise in the Euro 2016 opener against Russia but got gradually worse, Alli was shunted further wide, Rooney played deep and gave the ball away and Kane was running on empty. We went out to Iceland and Hodgson’s decision to try square pegs in round wholes to accommodate Rooney was derided whilst the manager resigned on the spot.

roy-hodgson-england_3487775

6 England Squad Takeaways

The most fitting adjective I can think of for Gareth Southgate’s squad is sensible, I’d have preferred scintillating but sensible will have to do for now. With such exciting prospects at youth level ‘doing for now’ seems to be where England are right now. There were few surprises so what can be read into this selection?

That’s a lot of players

28 in total! The message is clear if you didn’t get in and you’re not in an England youth squad, injured/ short of fitness or suffering transferitus then you’ve got a lot to do if you want to go to the World Cup.  Only 2 players have been dropped Ben Gibson (now of the Championship) & Fraser Forster (England’s number 5!) Forster’s Southampton teammates Nathan Redmond & James Ward-Prowse are amongst the few who might have been expecting the call and didn’t get one, must do better lads!

That’s a lot of goalkeepers

Southgate’s insistence on picking 4 keepers is on the face of it odd. But there is some logic to this, for the first time I can remember the England Goalkeeping jersey is up for grabs. Previously it’s been a case of 2 similar level goalkeepers fighting for the gloves; Seaman & Woods, Seaman & Martyn, Green & James and hmm Carson & Robinson. This time it’s anybody’s to claim, Jack Butland is favourite but Jordan Pickford is rapidly improving. Joe Hart’s still around and officially number 1 making Tom Heaton the fourth man.

My suspicion is if Hart doesn’t get picked for any of the next 4 England games he’ll announce his international retirement, I just can’t see him wanting to travel to a World Cup as third choice a role I could see Heaton filling. Much of next week’s back pages will be dominated by this issue as we wait to see who’s wearing the number 1 shirt in Valetta next Friday.

gettyimages-491797104

 

New boys added

Only 2 new call ups; Harry Maguire & Nathaniel Chalobah. Maguire was a surprise to some but his early season form has been great. He’s clearly got a range of passing and composure on the ball that Southgate wants- bad news if you’re Chris Smalling and perhaps explaining the exclusion of Swansea’s Alfie Mawson. With Maguire following Michael Keane into the squad England suddenly don’t look so dependant on John Stones converting promise into performance as a ball playing centre back.

Harry-Maguire-2.jpg

Chalobah’s call up was widely predicted. 18 months ago it looked like the precocious midfielder would suffer the same fate as Josh McEachran- endlessly miles on the Chelsea loan treadmill followed by a career in the Championship.  But Chalobah has finally made it to Premier League regular with a move to Watford. If he continues to develop I suspect Vicarage Road will only be stepping stone to a bigger club but for now he’s playing well and likely to win his first senior cap to go with the 97 he has at junior level.

Midfield worries

Whether it’s 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1 the central midfield pair is England’s biggest problem. Chalobah’s call up means we have 3  holding midfielders (Chalobah, Livermore & Dier) and Jordan Henderson, if Henderson’s unavailable who comes in? Against Scotland the midfield was too cautious and lacking creativity because we had 2 holding midfielders against a side happy to defend, these 2 qualifiers will provide a similar challenge.

Jake+Livermore+VBf1dxWbqVtm

There are extenuating circumstances with Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley & Danny Drinkwater all currently unavailable whilst this World Cup will probably come too soon for the likes of Lewis Cook, Harry Winks & Tom Davies, we’ll just have to make do for now.

World Cup Winners kept back

Nobody from England’s victorious Under 20- World Cup side has been promoted to the senior side, but 13 of that squad have been selected for the Under 21s. It’s a smart move from Southgate, keeping a winning group together (for now) and letting them develop at the next level of the international pyramid.

Previous England managers would have picked Dominic Calvert-Lewin straight away, but that’d have been short sighted. Had he been picked he’d have sat on the bench and maybe got 15 minutes for his debut, whereas now he’s likely to play twice for the Under 21’s- the first a tough away qualifier in Holland, which will he get the most from? Exactly.

Welcoming back the Welbler

EnglandWelbz

Danny Welbeck is back- 18 months and a major injury recurrence on from his last cap. Welbeck was a favourite of Roy Hodgson due to his versatility, he may well have a roll to play next week, particularly if England go 3-4-3: where he fits anywhere across the frontline.

Welbeck needs to make an impression next week, he’s got Lacazette & Giroud ahead of him in the Arsenal striker pecking order and his recent run in the side has been largely due to the absence of the returning Alexis Sanchez. Might he need excusing from England training to finalise a late move to Everton or if desperate Newcastle?

Was Rooney called up?

Gareth seemed a lot less sure than Wayne that he’d have been recalled. Rooney claimed the manager was going to pick him on announcing his retirement. Southgate meanwhile side stepped the question saying he was under consideration. He went to hail Rooney a legend and state he would ask him to come back if needed, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

 

Farewell Wayne

 

GettyImages.622484896

Imagine my surprise when the article I was writing about the merits of Wayne Rooney’s imminent England recall were torpedoed by the announcement Rooney was retiring from international football.

It’s the right decision for Rooney, for Everton and probably England too. Rooney has got himself in condition, found form and is rekindling his old flame with Everton, good luck to him.

The challenge of a 38 game league campaign plus cups plus Europa League is a sizeable undertaking for a 31 year old without the additional demand of internationals. If he ends  Everton’s 22 year trophy drought it will provide a final flourish to a glorious career.

Yet somehow Rooney has never quite become the loved figure his record seems to merit. As has been poured over this summer following his departure from Old Trafford, he left Manchester United with the clubs goalscoring record, a truckload of medals and accolades but never seemed to quite have the love of the Old Trafford faithful afforded Charlton, Best, Law & Ronaldo.

His England career will inevitably be summed up with this sort of sentence- He’s England’s record goalscorer and he never delivered in a major tournament. It’s the Rooney paradox.

wayne-rooney-england-croatia-euro-2004_3360388

Rooney arrived with England to tremendous hype- the final piece of the golden generation jigsaw, the superstar to bring glory to England’s hugely talented side. Rooney’s first tournament with England was by far the best- setting Euro 2004 alight with  three stunning displays and 4 goals from the group phase. But then came the first metatarsal injury in the quarter finals and his tournament came to an abrupt end.

In 2006 he suffered another metatarsal break at the tail end of Manchester United’s season and the nation went into a month long ‘will he won’t he go debate’. What’s alarming looking back at the 2006 media furore is I can’t remember a single journalist or pundit giving serious consideration to what England would do without him. But it seemed the nation didn’t need to worry, Rooney was training and declared ‘injury free’ by Sven so it was panic over.

Of course the term ‘injury free’ was carefully selected and really meant he wasn’t match fit or even fully recovered. He was kept out of England’s opening game but brought off the bench in the next and it became evident quickly he was at best 50% fit, his frustration grew and ended in a red card in the quarter finals.

The biggest scar on Rooney’s England career (and many others) came in South Africa in 2010. Rooney arrived at the tournament England’s great hope, but left with 4 appearances no goals and no assists. Again a pre tournament injury meant he wasn’t 100% fit but that didn’t explain why he suddenly couldn’t trap a ball, his post match rant about supporters after an insipid 0-0 draw with Algeria didn’t help his standing.

Wayne-Rooney-England-Mexi-006

Fabio Capello kept faith with Rooney for Euro 2012 qualifying and Rooney rewarded him with goals, but in England’s final qualifier for Euro 2012 Rooney picked up his second England red cad- with a 2 match suspension slapped on as punishment. England started the tournament well picking up 4 points from 2 Rooneyless games, new manager Roy Hodgson brought Rooney back straight away but again a lack of match sharpness told. Alex Ferguson always maintained Rooney needed games to reach his maximum level and was not a player who could make an immediate impact, it’s hard to argue with his assessment.

And so to Brazil 2014, Rooney’s last chance to make a major impact at the World Cup, sadly the England squad of 2014 was a pale imitation of 2006 with few major stars. A tough draw did for Hodgson’s limited side but notably England’s only goals came from a Rooney cross against Italy and his neat finish against Uruguay, had he been in a better side maybe that would’ve been his tournament.

In 2015 Rooney became England’s record goalscorer by despatching a penalty against Switzerland in Euro qualifying. By the time England arrived at Euro 2016 a new generation of strikers were available to England: Kane, Rashford & Vardy. Hodgson shuffled Rooney into midfield with initial success but when England crashed into the Icelandic iceberg Rooney was heavily criticised.

promo266014293

In 2016/17 Rooney’s form faded and new England manager Gareth Southgate wisely dropped him, Rooney to his credit took it professionally and got on with it. Ironically  Southgate wanted to recall Rooney this week when Wayne decided it was time to go.

It’ll be interesting to hear Southgate’s thoughts on Rooney at tomorrow’s squad announcement, was the proposed recall with the World Cup in mind or a reward for his club form this season? Southgate had always maintained he would recall Rooney if his form merited inclusion.

Part of the conundrum with England was his various England managers (he played for 6) had different ideas about where to play him; Sven saw him as a deep lying forward, Capello an out and out number 9, whilst Hodgson eventually put him in central midfield having previously played him as a striker, wide attacker and number 10.

Another issue was Rooney’s lack of tactical discipline, he always seemed to follow the ball rather than hold his position, the worst example coming in 2014 against Italy where he wad deployed on the left of a 4-2-3-1 but failed to provide Leighton Baines with cover and Italy cashed in.

All that being said Rooney was a fine player for England lighting up Euro 2004, many a night at Wembley and dragging England’s chestnuts out of 1numerous qualification fires. While he was never quite the Leo Messi he was once hailed but he was a great international player.

I’ve said before he reminds me of former Spain & Real Madrid striker Raul- a creative forward with an eye for goal who left the Bernabeu with a bookful of records and a suitcase crammed with medals. For Spain he enjoyed a hugely credible career playing 100+ times and setting a new goal scoring record but was never quite the  national saviour he was hailed and never got beyond the quarter finals of a major tournament- sound familiar?

Interestingly Rooney’s resignation statement ended with this reference “One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan – or in any capacity” referring to the possibility of England winning something. Is he hinting at a coaching career? Maybe not but it’s important Rooney passes on his knowledge of international football to England’s next generation and remains visible at St George’s Park perhaps helping the juniors or even just giving talks about his England career.

Rooney was a great servant to England and Gary Lineker was probably right in saying we have under appreciated him. But it’s the right time for England and it’s most famous player to move on.

 

 

 

 

 

England Squad Announcement- Why fans should care

southgate-rooney.jpg

On Thursday lunchtime Gareth Southgate will announce his first England squad of the season. International squad announcements are usually followed by a collective groan. It’s the signal that a fledging season whose narratives we’re becoming engrossed in is shortly to be paused in order for England to take on the footballing powerhouse of Malta. It’s the footballing equivalent of a Theatre interval and the usher telling you the bar’s shut and we’ve run out of ice cream.

International breaks are tedious and I’d be happy to see friendlies restricted to the summer. However this squad announcement is more important than most.

Of course the first subject will be somebody not included: Wayne Rooney. Inevitably Southgate’s opinion and tribute to Rooney will be the headline but not the main event. Southgate handled Rooney well, taking the decision to drop him. Some will argue Southgate has egg on his face for attempting to recall Rooney but all he needs to say to that is he wanted to pick Rooney based on current form (which has been excellent).

Thursday’s squad will be the first of a World Cup year, with a manager keen to promote youth there will inevitably be new faces, with Rooney departing expect Southgate to hammer home the youth message. Coming only 2 games into the new season the number of new players will be limited with many young players thus far restricted to bit part roles in the fledging campaign. That’s normal until the autumn and the onset of injuries and two games a week forces managers to shift around their squads. It means players like Dominic Solanke, Will Hughes, Demarai Gray & Harry Winks all of whom could be in for a break out year will have to bide their time.

However Southgate’s squad will include some or possibly all of Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nat Chalobah, Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, James Ward-Prowse & Tammy Abraham. Might there be another left field selection?- Marc Albrighton’s positive start to the season shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

There will be those veterans waiting anxiously by the phone to see if their lack of game time costs them an England place. Southgate has insisted it’s important players are getting a regular game so where does that leave Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Jermain Defoe and Theo Walcott? It is hard to judge based on the limited sample size of 2 games another reason I suspect there’ll be a sizeable group from Everton whose Europa odyssey has seen them play 5 games already. Against City this week they started 8 English players, Calvert Lewin was particularly good although if picked he’d be on the bench behind Marcus Rashford so perhaps would benefit more from going with the Under 21s.

The Under 21’s are the other announcement of the week and fans should keep an eye on this one. The Euro Under 21’s in June marked the end of one squad cycle for Aidy Boothroyd and this week starts a new one. Many of the side that made the semis this summer are now over aged for the U21s meaning a squad reboot is upon us. For England that means the introduction of players from this summers 3 tournament winning squads, a nice position to work from.

Boothroyd has an embarrassment of riches to choose from and the likes of Solanke,  Calvert-Lewin, Tom Davies, Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden & Mason Mount could be forming an exciting new team. Whilst the World Cup is ultimately England’s goal the 2019 Euro Under 21s should be the next prize England are seriously hunting. Adding it to the Euro Under 19s, Toulon tournament double, Under 20 World Cup and 2014 Euro Under 17s all in the bag.

The accumulation of junior prizes is an essential part of success at senior level. But the tournament is a long way off and England face a tough opening fixture away to Holland, in a group that also includes Ukraine & Scotland. It’s also important to keep the momentum going from England’s excellent summer, the Under 17 World Cup is only a couple of months away and building interest in the face of an all consuming domestic season and an imminent senior World Cup is a tough challenge for the FA.

This week should provide some indication of where England are going, hopefully some progress on the pitch and 6 points in the bank.

Predicted England Squad;

Goalkeepers- Butland, Hart, Pickford

Defenders- Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Bertrand, Cresswell, Cahill, Keane, Stones, Jones, Maguire, Mawson

Midfielders- Henderson, Dier, Chalobah, Ward-Prowse

Wingers/ Number 10s- Alli, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Redmond

Strikers- Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Welbeck, Calvert-Lewin

Injured/ short of fitness Clyne, Trippier, Shaw, Rose, Lallana, Barkley, Wilshere

 

 

 

 

 

England’s 10 greatest qualifiers

For all England’s tournament woes they remain Europe’s leading qualification experts- 1 defeat in their last 46 (and that was a dead rubber) is an enviable qualification record.  I’m counting down here their 10 best qualification performances I’ve witnessed;

10. England 3-0 Poland (Sep 1993/ World Cup 1994)

The game that almost saved Graham Taylor, after the infamous loss in Norway Taylor’s England needed a win at home to Poland to keep the campaign alive. Taylor looked to have finally found the winning formula with a strong physical side with Gascoigne providing the flair, Lee Sharpe the pace and Les Ferdinand the power upfront. And for one night they resembled a Jose Mourinho side, Ferdinand powered home a header after 5 minutes, Gascoigne scored a clever second and Stuart Pearce lashed home a free kick early in the second half. Sadly Gascoigne (not for the first time) picked up an untimely suspension and Ferdinand got injured meaning England arrived for the decisive game in Holland with Carlton Palmer back in the side and all that was left was for Taylor to utter his timeless catchphrase and our dreams of a summer in the States were over.

9. England 3-0 Scotland (Nov 2016/ World Cup 2018)

Currently the stand out performance from Gareth Southgate’s brief tenure with England. England started well and Daniel Sturbridge headed a poachers effort in mid way through the first half. Scotland rallied after the break and should have equalised when first James Forrest and then Robert Snodgrass missed presentable chances, moments later Adam Lallana headed in a second and it was game over. With the pressure off and Scotland disheartened England played some neat and tidy football finishing with 68% of possession and added a third through Gary Cahill. How Raheem Sterling missed from 2 yards out for a fourth is anyones guess, but a biggest win over Scotland in 4 decades isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself as England manager.

nintchdbpict000281615397

8. England 3-0 Russia (Sep 2007/ Euro 2008)

Steve McClaren’s one good night as England manager- yes he did have one! England were playing catch up when Guus Hiddink’s talented Russian side rocked up at Wembley. With Rooney absent McClaren gave the much maligned Emile Heskey a recall hoping he could rekindle his old partnership with Michael Owen, it worked wonderfully well on the night. Heskey’s power and pace caused havoc in the Russian defence and Owen was at his predator best scoring twice in the opening half hour (his final goals for England). The Russians had a goal wrongly chalked off for handball and showed plenty of verve in attack, but always looked like conceding more and Rio Ferdinand drilled home a third late on. It was a performance of calm confidence and authority, qualities sadly lacking in Moscow the following month or against Croatia when a brolly entered England folklore.

7. England 3-1 Poland (Mar 1999/ Euro 2000)

Call it destiny, call it fate but England had an uncanny knack of drawing Poland in the 90s- in 5 consecutive qualifying campaigns the 2 countries were drawn together. This was Kevin Keegan’s first game as England manager and he quickly discovered he had a player similar to himself (only with red hair and no perm); Paul Scholes. Scholes gave a masterly display of attacking midfield play scoring twice in the opening 22 minutes. He completed the hat-trick in the second half and King Kev was up and running. Sadly under Keegan that was as good as it got, but when it did go well Scholes was always in the thick of it.

6. Switzerland 0-2 England (Sept 2014/ Euro 2016)

After the disastrous World Cup campaign of 2014, England arrived in Switzerland for their Euro 2016 opener expected to lose or at best salvage a draw. What followed was a masterclass in counter attacking football, with a new midfield triangle of Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson & Fabian Delph controlling the game. In the second half Arsenal new boy Danny Welbeck got a deserved opener and as Switzerland pressed for an equaliser Welbeck sprinted forward for a stoppage time second. The most difficult fixture from a simple group negotiated England went on to post their only 10 wins from 10 qualifying campaign. The less said about the finals the better.

danny-welbeck-england-switzerland_3201726

5. Italy 0-0 England (Sep 1997/ World Cup 1998)

‘Hoddswallop’ was the verdict of The Sun after Glenn Hoddle’s first big qualifier ended in a 1-0 loss to Italy at Wembley. But slowly Hoddle rebuilt belief and England went on to win every other qualifier whilst the Italians suffered costly nil nil draws in Poland & Georgia, it all meant a draw from the final qualifier in Rome would send England to France and Italy the playoffs. England produced an excellent defensive performance largely on the back of a solid defensive trio of Adams-Campbell-Southgate and a busy midfield display from the tigerish pairing of Paul Ince & David Batty and Ian Wright harassing the Italian backline, the sort of thing you hope to see in a Champions League quarter final second leg (Man City take note!) Wright went for glory at the death, when the corner flag was a more logical option and Christian Vieri almost nicked it in injury time but England hung on for a deserved point and their World Cup tickets.

0006534200000258-3136602-image-a-4_1435091214545

4. England 5-1 Croatia (Sept 2009/ World Cup 2010)

After their hammering a year earlier in Zagreb a sombre Croatia showed up at Wembley 2 years on from their great triumph over the Wally in the Brolly. England needed a point to ensure qualification, Croatia were struggling to make the play offs. In the 8th minute England won a penalty which Lampard stroked away and when Gerrard headed home the second 10 minutes later it was clear this was to be an execution. Bilic cut a dejected figure on the sidelines as Capello’s England exacted vengeance for the humiliation of 2 years previous. Three more goals followed in the second half as England completed a flawless qualification (8 played, 8 won, 2 to play). Had the World Cup been played that autumn they may have made the final, how quickly things changed.

3. England 2-0 Turkey (Apr 2003/ Euro 2004)

Turkey were on a high entering this Euro qualifier having finished 3rd at the previous years World Cup. Tensions were high at The Stadium of Light following a series of controversial games for English club sides in Turkey (in particular against Galatasaray). Sven gave young forward Wayne Rooney his first competitive start but initially Turkey looked dangerous with a series of neat passing moves, but Rooney dropped deep and began causing their defence problems. In the second half England pushed the Turks deeper and deeper into their own half and got a richly deserved goal through superstitute Darius Vassell. Turkey lost their cool and gave away a late penalty, Beckham duly dispatched and when Gerrard (accidentally) pushed a Turkish player with his arm while celebrating he received a shove in the back to which he got the repost of Steven celebrating in the players face- that’ll learn ‘yer!

006226DB00000258-0-image-a-13_1427581190706

2. Croatia 1-4 England (Sept 2008/ World Cup 2010)

Rarely have England turned up for a qualifier so unfancied. Croatia had done the double on them in the previous qualification campaign and had an imperious home record. But Croatia were soon put on the blackfoot by Theo Walcott, the Arsenal winger drilled a low shot from the right home to give England the half time lead. Croatia grew frustrated and a violent elbow to the face of Joe Cole saw them down to 10 men. England then simply hammered home their numeric advantage with Walcott adding a second, Rooney a brilliant third and despite pulling a goal back Croatia had no answer to Walcott  who duly completed his hat-trick. The final session of keep ball was reminiscent of that famous Leeds- Southampton game from the 70s, Croatia really didn’t know what day it was. Stunning.

Getty_873177a

1. Germany 1-5 England (Sept 2001/ World Cup 2002)

Never any doubt this was number 1. After falling behind to Carstan Janker’s early strike England found their rhythm and a goalmouth melee saw a swift equaliser through Michael Owen. England were excellent throughout the first half but Germany almost went ahead on the stroke of halftime through Sebastian Deisler’s point blank effort he somehow smashed straight at David Seaman, England broke, won a corner, Gerrard hit a volley and the rest is history. With England ahead a pedestrian German side tried to dominate possession but were repeatedly caught out, Scholes & Beckham shredded the German backline and Owen smashed in 2 more, when Emile Heskey runs through your defence for the 5th you know you’ve been hammered. A memorable night and a result that genuinely shook the football world, qualifying never gets better than this (that late free kick against Greece a month later only made it sweeter.)

gettyimages-52712077