With the fall-out from England’s dismal Euro 2016 campaign only exacerbated by the recent departure of Big Sam under ignominious circumstances, it’s safe to say that English football is on its knees.
Gareth Southgate, a manager who has tempered an otherwise indifferent managerial career with his recent stint in the Under 21’s, becomes the next man (albeit, perhaps temporarily) to assume his place on England’s poisoned chalice.
And this week, Southgate’s Three Lions side look to uphold their 100% record in this season’s Russia 2018 qualifying campaigns with games against Malta and Slovenia respectively. With the national team’s qualification routes to major tournaments usually paved in gold, the indifference shown by a large subset of their supporters isn’t surprising.
Roy Hodgson, quite rightly was the fall-guy for this year’s European Championships debacle. But when we broaden our scope to the last 10-15 years, it’s fair to say that not many people at the helm of English football’s most coveted job have actually gotten it right.
At major tournaments, the narrative stays the same. No matter the personnel in charge, promising players are forsaken for the same big names that sell more shirts. The rigid, unimaginative tactics that are deployed look embarrassingly archaic, yet, when we try and mould ourselves on our more ‘progressive’ European counterparts, we still end up being second best.
Why do promising performances and results in the preliminary stages swiftly become undone in a heartbeat? Why do we play well when the pressure’s off only to choke when it really matters? Is this an English trait? A large subset of this year’s most successful ever group of British Olympians would tend to disagree.
By default, the English national team has done nothing but build up hope, only to knock it down. And this is frankly, a three-card trick England supporters are sick of falling for.
Be bold & do what works
In the build up to this year’s Euro Championships, the same English side that fell to a 2-1 defeat against minnows Iceland, conjured up a performance of epic proportions when they came from 2-0 behind to beat Germany 3-2 on their own turf.
Wayne Rooney was absent that night, which as a result, forced Roy’s hand and made him play a 4-4-2 system which relied on the pace and work rate of England’s front two, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.
The extra man Germany had in midfield on this occasion had no bearing on the result or performance that night. England were arguably unlucky to be 2-0 down at half time and in the end their, dare I say it, ‘quality’ shone through.
In order to progress as a nation, England needs more nights like that fateful one at the Olympiastadion Berlin.
With English football ebbing at its lowest point for quite some years, Southgate needs to be bold and have faith in the resources and indeed the players laid out before him.
Pick a system that works and stick with it, please Gareth.
If Hodgson had heeded this advice following our 3-2 win over Germany earlier this year, that aforementioned narrative may have been quite different in France this summer.