Having a read through many of the papers this morning, I couldn’t help but shake my head and chuckle softly to myself at the reports of last night’s travesty of an England performance.
I know that many fans share the opinion I’m about to air, and I really hope I can stir some real passion with what I’m about to say.
There was a time, in the not so distant past, that I used to look forward to every Three Lions fixture, buy every slightly re-designed England jersey, and back an England win - no matter the opposition or chances of a victory - because I had real faith in my national team that every boy dreams of playing for as a child.
These days I just feel obliged to watch a half.
Last night’s dire turnout was just a showcase of exactly what England has become. A team of names and faces with a manager that seems to have no clue how to get the best out any individual.
Don’t get me wrong, there was not a happier guy in England than me to see a player of Frank Lampard’s calibre pull on the jersey for the 100th time. There haven’t been many English players in the last 30 years that can match the Chelsea man’s class and ability. Plus Gary Cahill’s performance was top drawer and fully committed, something I see in him every time he walks out onto a pitch.
But the bottom line is there is not a single player in the Ukraine line up that you would pick over any of the starting 11 that England fielded.
The blistering pace of Walcott, the vision and passing ability of Lampard and Gerrard, the experience and dependability of Ashley Cole and natural goalscoring prowess of Rickie Lambert should have caused all kinds of grief to a side that has lost its true class generation to the sands of time.
Players like Sergei Rebrov and Andrey Shevchenko, statistically one of the deadliest strike partnerships of all time, are long gone. Even captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is a player past his prime, being pushed down the pecking order at Bayern Munich and has subsequently moved away to Zenit to wind down a successful career. He didn’t even feature last night.
It’s not the fact that we failed to win. It’s not even the fact that we failed to score. A visit to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, playing a team that can give any one a scare in their own backyard was always going to a challenge for Hodgson’s men. But that’s what separates us from the likes of Spain, Germany and Italy. We just can’t get the job done.
England failed to create any clear cut chances in the whole ninety minutes, with a team filled with players who play for title contenders in one of the best leagues in the world.
The only players who don’t play in the seemingly impenetrable ‘top 6 clubs’ of the Premier League were Rickie Lambert, a player who has scored for fun at all levels of English football, and Phil Jagielka, a player who has been a rock for Everton and pivotal to their high finishes in the last two seasons, who many feel have been punching far above their weight for a long time.
When a popular tabloid uses Walcott’s tame effort late on in the game, which he pathetically appealed took a deflection, as the main picture of a spread with caption ‘Walcott goes close’, you know you are about to a read a biased patriotic assessment on what was a performance which left a very bitter taste in fans mouths.
At the end of the day, we got a result which I know Roy was happy to take and run with. But this assumption that we are in prime position to qualify form the group automatically really makes me want to cry.
Wembley is a fortress - no doubt about it. Teams like Brazil and Spain have turned up and couldn’t turn us over like the whole world expected them to. But we have two games against opposition that boasts one of the world’s deadliest strikers in Robert Lewandowski, with attacking players of Błaszczykowski and Obraniak’s calibre to back him up, and one of the most promising young squads in world football which boasts names like Stevan Jovetic, Stefan Savic, Marko Bakic, and Mirko Vucinic. So I ask , where do these easy six points come from?
Something just has to change. What does Michael Carrick have to do to get himself involved in the England setup? Regardless of Defoe’s current starting situation with Spurs, his goal to game ratio is incredible, and James Milner’s inclusion is something that continues to baffle me.
Whilst I am optimistic that we can get the results needed to put us on that plane to Brazil next year, I, like many other English fans I have spoken to, am quite fearful of a tournament where we could be heavily embarrassed by some of the world’s footballing powerhouses we are supposedly one of.
A team that was only missing Wayne Rooney, a player who hasn’t looked himself in a long while, and Jack Wilshire, a player with monumental potential and class, but with little experience at the top level and a suspect injury plagued past for such a young player, could well be in for a shock in Rio.
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