* Prices may differ from that shown
Its that time where we see England flags on top of cars, hanging out of widnows and all over the workplace. I personally can see the hype behind it, no matter how bad our team does, we are all still behind them, and our level of support for the team is great. We even sing songs at football matches, not that many countries do that... At the world cup we hung flags out on the balcony completely filling the walls showing a lot of support for the team. But the team itself has its issues, the way they play, the way they are managed and indeed the players attitude. Count how many times you have seen backpages of newspapers where players have sworn, made rude gestures or something similar. Take wayne rooney for instance, swearing at matches isn not exactly unheard of for him, and the team seem to discourage it, but little action is taken when its put into practice. That brings me neatly onto the way the team is managed. Lets not forget the Incident with Robert Green letting the ball basically walk into the goal, come on that was washed over just days later like it never happened. Millions of YouTube viewers will agree that very mistake is still remembered by us today, and i dont think even after another two world cups we will forget that enormous mistake. On BBC News on the night of the match against America there were people on TV screaming "sack the manager!" because Fabio was damaging the team, putting them in a dangerous line up of 2,4,2. For me personally i would have gone 3,2,3 and had the 3 in defense ready to minimise mistakes and issues with the ball getting too close. The players have pulled off some pretty amazing tricks though, peter crouch gets his moments with ubelieveable headers and occasionally we get impossible saves, but at times you see stupid attitudes and ego's taking over, and again this name springs to mind: wayne rooney. What is his ego all about? In the match against America he got the ball and ran half the pitch with numerous other players waiting to step in ready in case it got too crowded and the ball was stolen, but no he had to get that goal himself to say he did it, its the lack of teamwork and selfishness that makes us loose out on great goals. The ball quickly gets stolen by an army of players, and usually ends in an argument in the papers the next day about how selfish it was to do that.
Room 442, be there in ten minutes! It has become apparent that our over paid dribblers have been scoring far too frequently elsewhere, other than the football pitch. I fear for our national squad of late, who have done so well in getting to the South African finals this coming summer; that I started to wonder what was wrong? There had to be a come-down surely, all with guns blazing and a fun-fare of media flags, shouting absurdities at our ankle socked millionaires. Now if we can't do it on the football arena, lets dive-in and get down and personal, we've barely 200 days till the World Cup tournament starts, more than enough time to see them wallow in their flirtations looking sheepish and then dose them up with World Cup euphoria that will lift their spirits just so that they can be dashed in a penalty shoot-out, to probable Latin opponents. We Brits love the drama of all this; can't beat some public humiliation of the seedy kind. It is what brings the public together. The lip smacking and the sighs followed by the high eyebrow lift, if it was an Olympic sport we'll be Gold medallists. Yesterday's heroes so quickly are the villains in our beautiful game, any excuse to throw the book at these mere mortals who think with their balls; well it certainly isn't with their head. If they did, they won't be sending obscene digital imagery to leggy blondes who've just bagged a Premiership millionaire, or a sordid secretary who conveniently didn't realise who her one night stand was with, after just 10 minutes at the bar, over-run with Football players with bulbous noted wallets, whose chat-up lines are likely from a "Viz magazine". The UK public have been screaming for some sackings from these 'bat fink armoured', expense fiddled authoritarians for infinity, yet still we are waiting. So it is our football heroes who we seek stupidity and sordid news to quench our thirst; and suddenly there is an open bar. Capello, must have wished he was in his native Italy, the way he twitched away from the vultures of the UK media concerning Terry's stripping of the Captaincy. "Ah, no comment. No comment, only fotball, fotball please. It's been a normal week at the office". He obviously has seen Donald Rumsfeld in a press conference during the 2003 Iraq invasion. The quick diversion was as sharp as Amy Williams sledge blade, going through a German frankfurter. With all these extra curriculum activities, the UK public are gradually cheering up, we mortals have had a tough time of recent; seeing these football millionaires put to the sword, and scampering off to Dubai to save marriages, licking their wounds while being hooked up to day-time telly, because of a broken ankle. Now that is a fate worse than death. Probably taking pictures of his plaster, sponsored by three's a crowd; or was it six, the allegations keep multiplying. Capello's English is poor thankfully; the problem is that he now has a Vanessa Perroncel in the squad. She apparently knows their favourite positions more than he does. It was inevitable that mid fielder Franklyn Lampard would of got hold of the England captaincy after the Terry demotion, he has Perroncel's mobile on speed dial, and anyway his romantic laisons with Christine Bleakley is hardly bed knob rattling, their just flirting, apart from new Dad Rooney, the captaincy had to go to someone who had absolutely no chance of getting caught up in a 'ménage a trios'; and that is Captain Rio Ferdinand. Anyhow, his football brain would think that is a football formation. Now if it was a line, Ferdinand would be on the case like a bee to a honey-pot, everyone now has forgotten his highly dubious drug test flouting in his early days at Manchester United. Apparently, he forgot what day it was and subsequently was banned for what seemed like for a month, but he too was subjected to day time telly for quite a period, hence, now why you never here him talk to reporters, he must be brain dead, like Ashley Cole. I can still remember poor Michael Owen's knee buckling beneath him, he now is resigned to small cameo roles if lucky. Owen Hargreaves, who now got even worse since joining Ferguson at Old Trafford. He was supposed to be the new Roy Keane, a hard nut mid fielder with a hatred for referees as his hairdryer techniques shows, just Google Roy Keane. Hargreaves appears to have gone off the radar like a Russian Satellite. Now it seems as if Gareth Barry has that holding role in defensive mid field, all sown up. This is after I claimed three years ago that Barry had as much chance of being an England Lions regular as a street wandering drunken 'Gazza'. I've not shown my face in those parts of town for quite a while. There must be a lot of eye shifting and ear wax picking in the England dressing room at present, as they wander who else is going to get caught with their pants down even if it is just to wash them. Footballers are now public property; especially top flight Chelsea players who earn in access of 100,000 GBP per week and break club curfews in plush hotel bars and en-suite boudoirs. I'm not surprised the FA are not putting in their authoritarian size 12 football boot, considering their track record with our dear Sven who just couldn't help himself to the staff members who may brush past him in the foyer before entering a 'Holiday Inn' for extra time. Of course after, the silent seducer Sven, the FA appointed a decidedly ordinary fellow in Steve McClaren who all I can remember of him is that massive umbrella when England failed to conquer Europe in 2008 by not qualifying to the finals in Portugal. That was our 'Golden Generation'. At least we Brits would have no heartache that summer, thanks to a Scot Carson's misadventure with a bobbing football that mysteriously out foxed Carson, an analogy similar to Ashley Cole's military mission in getting ladies into his chamber de lust. Capello may have in-house team conflicts at present with defenders Terry and Bridge, but I fear that South Africa's England's HQ is another concern just around the corner; it is not built. Well, it has a front, but has no sides and no roof. It looks like an Ikea wardrobe. No chance of any shenanigans there, probably designed by Victoria Beckham. That major big question in English football has been can Lampard play with Gerrard together in mid field? I personally would be sick and probably watch Wimbledon instead, regardless if England were three up or not. However, I would advise no team mate to look at Gerrard funny, just in case a wayward fist of a prize fighter may connect with jaw. Gerrard is the only Liverpool team member whose house hasn't been burgled. News travels fast around Merseyside, especially if Gerrard can't have a tinkle on the decks. In South Afritca - purposeful typo - the bongos have a language of their own which would make Gerrard's tinkle on the decks sound like 'play-time with Mama'. It won't wash with locals and a clean pair of shorts would be required. I will expect Aaron Lennon to zip up the pace like a starburst gush of zest. His delivery was once like watching Oliver Read dancing. it was pretty erratic, and amusing. Now that he has matured he is almost the polished article. Sven's once boot cleaner Theo Walcott, has whimpered off somewhat into the back room where all the Arsenal English players hang-out, usually playing snap and watching re-runs of Ian Wright goals on DVD. Before our England team can take the World Cup stage, it is imperative that all the newsworthy skeletons are shaken out into the public domain like a Gremlin seeing sun light. Rooney's granny magazines could make an appearance and we may find out if Beckham inhales. When it comes to major disappointment at a grand scale that destroys lives and upsets our national economic output, we Brits know that we are the best at creating a mountain out of a Jimmy Hill. Our commentators and pundits will lift our spirits to levels of extreme exhaustion before kick-off. Flags will be flying on car aerials. Beers will be spilt in anticipation. Girlfriends will get disgruntled, as it is that time again. The male cycle is nearly upon us, every four years, when our hearts get lifted for momentarily, when we kiss our pet dog on the mouth in glee and then regret it afterwards. Football's coming home, we sing. Then we wake-up to reality four weeks later, 'Terry chases after South African beauty queen and gets more than he bargained for'. Thank you for reading.
With the World Cup only 4 months away it is becoming increasingly clear that Englands goalkeeping options are not overwhelming Fabio Capello. At the moment press speculation implies that his first choice keeper would be the veteran David James who at 39 is still younger than the legendary Dino Zoff who won the World Cup at the age of 41 with Italy in 1983, the big issue with James is not his age but the knee injury which has niggled him since cruciate ligament surgery during the summer. The fact he has hardly played is something of a disadvantage for Capello who will want a player in form, fit and ready for a non-stop tournament. If James does play he will also have to contend with the fact he is playing at Portsmouth, a club in utter turmoil at the moment with nobody quite sure whether they will last financially until April. With talk of a loan move to Stoke City, with all due respect this is more suited to a Journeyman professional than the English National Keeper, but then English goalkeepers are not an essential part of the Premier League anymore. Of the other contenders for the goalkeeping spot, Ben Foster is not the first choice keeper at Manchester United and has not had enough games to build up any level of consistency, he also appears to make one mistake a game which is disappointing, Robert Green is going to have a stressful season with the West Ham defence under constant pressure but has eliminated a lot of the errors he used to make, although he is still very dodgy on crosses, while Chris Kirkland possibly the most naturally gifted English keeper would have been put down if he were a horse due to the constant range of injuries he suffers. Looking back on previous tournaments individual goalkeeping errors have hit the England team hard with David Seaman's poor judgement costing the team against Brazil in the 2002 tournament. While the defence has players of the quality of Ferdinand, Cole and Terry with lots of decent back up players, the goalkeeping spot has never been quite as stable. Although James has held the spot, his consistency and ability to make errors in big games has never made the English public comfortable with him as the last man. Is this a problem, can a team win the tournament without a great keeper, well yes they can, but generally they can't win it without a reliable one. Unfortunately at the moment England's biggest problem is finding a keeper we all believe to be reliable. As good as James is, how many of us in our heart of hearts believe he won't make one of his irregular big match cock-ups during the tournament, equally Green for all his good points is not strong on crosses and is also well known for the occasional big match balls up. Is there a young keeper who could make a late surge for a place in the squad? Unfortunately not, Joe Hart is having a fantastic season at Birmingham but doesn't have the experience to play at the higher level quite yet, and Capello is not going to experiment at this late stage. Scott Loach is the under 21 goalkeeper but like Peterborough's Joe Lewis his experiences at Watford don't give him the experience or profile to go to the tournament. Rob Green, Paul Robinson and Joe Hart are the only 3 English Keepers really guaranteed first team football at the moment and while Green is consistent as West Ham's last line of defence, Robinson has come through the mental turmoil of the season where his form utterly left him and Hart has been a revelation, none will start in the World Cup unless James is injured. With only three English goalkeepers guaranteed first team football in the Premier League there is a small pool of options for Capello to choose from, this means we will probably go with James, Green and either Robinson or Ben Foster, but being honest who believes any of these goalkeepers could help us win a World Cup? It has been discussed that perhaps the Premier League need to have some kind of ratio system to ensure young English players get a chance to play and develop in their league, allowing them the opportunity to really understand the game at the highest level. Young keepers like Hart, Foster, Loach and Joe Lewis have the ability to play at the highest level, but most have to seek loan moves to gain first team football, otherwise like Foster they play the odd Carling Cup match and lots of reserve football. With reliable Scandinavian and American keepers being cheaper and more used to the big matches, it is a conundrum, the Premier League really needs to put the national game above money for once and consider it, because while its Goalkeepers at the moment, without Wayne Rooney we would also be seriously bereft of a top English goalscorer at any of the top 4 clubs, we could end up with a Premier League watched around the world and a national team filled with reserves and youth team players who never live up to the high standards required by the English media and fans. The current English goalkeeping issues put this in perspective with only 3 keepers possibly even less at the moment playing in the Premier League, Capello is limited in choice and this can't be good for the England football team in the short-term or the game in this country over the longer term.
Ever since the success in 1966 us english (though probably not the scottish and welsh especially) have been yearning for a repeat of that. We have seen world cups and with all the surrounding hype that comes with it come and go. In fact despite the fact that we invented this brilliant sport, we seem to be floundering. The english approach... Football is a beautiful game but the john smith advert epitomised unfortunately the type of football england play, because while the other players in the advert were demonstrating their fancy keep up skills, the english guy thumps it high in the air lol. Unfortunately this approach does typify the type of football that english play. There has been an awful lot of long ball being played, or very one dimensional predictable football. The problem is that while in the premiership some players, seem to fair extremely well, they often fail to make the much more challenging transition to the big international stage. However that is only one of the problems because while in the premiership especially amongst the bigger teams, long ball is something to be frowned upon, it has almost been encouraged by england national coaches. England do however produce a few truly excellent world class players. For instance Alan Shearer will forever be respected as one of the greatest strikers in the last decade. Paul Gascoigne will be remembered as the exceptionally talented but equally tainted and flawed genius and of course no one will forget the likes of Glenn Hoddle. I am a long suffering England fan who has been through the motions that many times that I am starting to feel motion sickness! I say this with baited breath but the current crop of English players is looking very promising. English replaced McClaren with Fabio Capello and he is starting to instill into them that the long ball is unacceptable and sure enough England have actually started to pass the ball!. I pinched myself extremely hard just to make sure I wasn't watching a different team but thankfully I wasn't. England have some very gifted players in the form of Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney, Milner and Gareth Barry. What of Gerrard and Lampard? well the jury is still out on them especially playing in the same team. I am not under any illusions though and recognise that there is also a lot of mediocrity in the team and furthermore teams like Spain outclass England as was shown in the recent friendly. I think the future looks brighter for the England team as they play with more verve, more accuracy and more incisiveness. World beaters no, but on an off day for the best, well who knows. I won't be placing any bets on England winning anything any time soon though!
The England team are now well on course to qualify for the world cup in 2010 which is going to be held in South Africa. After winning all the games in qualifying up to this point (June 2009) including a very impressive 4-1 win against Croatia away, the team top their qualifying group. The current manager Fabio Capello has instilled alot more discipline in the squad and has got them performing on the pitch and has been getting good results on the most part. He may not be English which would have been the preferred option but he is a world class manager who has managed some of the top teams in Europe including AC Milan, Juventus , Roma and Real Madrid. He has won serie A titles, la liga as well as the Champions League. Is the next trophy going to be the world cup? I think that believing England will win the world cup next year is a bit optimisitic but the team are playing well and have got some good results in qualifying. Playing Spain and other better teams such as Italy, Brazil though is a slightly different prospect. England played Spain in Seville earlier this year and were completely outplayed as they lost 2-0. England were missing some key players like Rooney and Gerrard . Lampard was also on the bench for the game. The problem though was the way Spain were able to knock the ball around the pitch at will and keep possesion of the ball for most of the game. Xavi and Iniesta are great players for Barcelona and Spain and they are the main source of creativity in the Spanish team. One major problem England managers had before was accommodating Gerrard and Lampard. I think Capello has done well on this one issue with Barry coming in a defensive midfield role with Gerrard having a slightly free role on the left with Lampard in the centre. This has worked well and England have got the results. It will be interesting to see how the team will change when Joe Cole comes back from injury who has been a pretty consistent player for England over the past few years. One slight problem area for England is the goalkeeper position. The current number one is David James who will be almost 40 by the time the world cup comes around next year and there doesn't seem to be anyone really pushing him to fill his boots. Robert Green was an option in recent games but wasn't really tested. Scott Carson, Ben Foster, Joe Hart, Paul Robinson and Chris Kirkland are other options but no one is really clearly staking their claim to replace James as of yet. I am hopeful England will make it to South Africa and do well. Would be great if they could actually do it next year and win the whole thing but even getting to the semi finals will probably be considered a great tournament after not even qualifying for the last major tournament( Euro 2008).
Take your minds back to the era from approximately 2003-2007 the era where the English National Team were managed by sven goran eriksson and Steve Mclaren respectively . These were not good times for the national team , week in week out , I would watch many english players play fantastic in the bestg league in the world 'The Premier League' . Players such as Lampard , Gerrard , Beckham and Owen would all play fantastic at your old traffords and stamford bridges etc. But when it came to playing at Euro 08 or World Cup 2006 we would always underperform . I truly belive Fabio Capello has found the solution to this . The individuality element has gone and now its a team game , with players like heskey and downing called into the team , and so far , so good - we've been winning . The England National football team play their home games at Wembley in London (the capital) . They have won the world cup once in 1966 , therefore they have one star above their badge on their all white kit . The u21 team is managed by ex england star Stuart 'pshcho' Pearce.
Are we good enough to win the next World Cup in South Africa in 2010, i'm writing this after the reality check of the Spanish 2-0 victory over England in Seville during the week. I accept that England were missing Rio Ferdinand, Stevie Gerrard, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott, but I do ask myself would they have been able to get the ball off of the spaniards to make a difference, would one of those players have created something out of nothing that could turn a game, my answer in the inevitable optimism of being an England fan is maybe. With Rooney's creativity and eye for the unknown he could have created something for himself or via Emile Heskey, had Walcott have played he could have got at Spain's weak link Left back and fed balls into the box for Gerrard, Rooney and Heskey to run onto, or could have outpaced the defence to create opportunities for himself, this is all theory and the question would then be, if you include all of these players, do you include Lampard and who plays on the left and right of midfield to balance things out? In this context I believe Capello is doing the right thing, following the Spanish model but in an English style, of having two decent centre halfs (Ferdinand, Terry) to command and bring the ball out from the back, two athletic full backs to charge up the wing creating and then defend too (Ashley Cole and Glenn Johnson, or Micah Richards if he ever gets his game back). In front of the defence you play two central midfielders, one to break up play and the other to be like a quarterback playing creative passes, setting up the play and probing, at the moment, Barry looks like our best defensive midfielder, the other player could be Carrick with his range of passing or Lampard who can create and is invaluable as a goalscorer. On the left I would play Gerrard, in the Iniesta role, playing on the left but with freedom to roam wherever he wants, on the right i'd play Walcott, pace, freedom to express, drop inside and get behind the last man, up front i'd play Emile Heskey with Rooney just off of him, this allows Rooney time to think and develop play and play balls for runners such as Walcott, Gerrard and Lampard, I believe this system requires great fitness from the full backs, adaptability from the entire midfield, to cover the full backs, to push up in regimented fashion and to decide who should run on and who shouldn't, it requires Rooney to cover for Walcott if he pushes on and vice versa. I think England have potential and with Wright Phillips, Ashley Young, Agbonglahor and others have real pace in the wings to exploit teams as they tire, the team need to understand what Cappelo wants from them and to develop their own tactical mindset beyond typical Premier League mindsets, if they do that then next time they play Spain it could be a much more equal affair and we could see how Spain actually react under pressure.
I must admit that although I'm an avid sports fan, England football internationals can sometimes be rather dull to watch, especially with the apparent lack of effort that can sometimes come across, bringing up the whole club vs country argument that is always banged on about by the media and pundits. Although the game against Germany last night at Berlin's Olympic Stadium was a friendly I decided to watch it because I have seen all of Fabio Capello's games as England manager and so far I've been quite impressed by what I've seen; four wins out of four in a world cup qualifying campaign can't be bad! Last nights game was a bit of fresh air for me because a lot of the big name players which like a good old whinge from time to time weren't playing for various reasons, their absence enabled some younger, less experienced players at international level to finally get the chance they have deserved, unlike what used to happen under Mclaren's regime where players like Lampard and Rooney were almost un-droppable! Last nights squad included the likes of Upson, Agbonlahor, Davies, Parker, Bullard, Young and even Mancienne (which reminded me of Sven's decision to take Walcott to the world cup a few years back). Unfortunately, not all of these players made it onto the pitch, but it still must have been a good experience for them to be included in the full squad. In comparison to recent friendly matches it was a great game, I suppose England v Germany was always going to be a bit tasty, especially after the 5-1 smashing we dished out last time the fixture was played! The level of football played throughout the game wasn't of the highest standard, but that didn't matter to much, it was the manner in which the game was played that impressed me. The mix up between Terry and Carson for their equaliser could have easily been a turning point in the game in the favour of the German's but if anything it worked to rally our players together; within minutes Terry had made a mends and scored the winner, a terrific header showing such bravery. In terms of individual performances I thought Carrick did very well, rarely giving the ball away and playing some great passes for others, Downing was also impressive and so to Upson; he too scored. For me though Defoe still didn't look that good upfront, he seems to struggle bringing his club form into the international team, a problem he had at spurs and now pompey too. Also, the goalkeeping wasn't that great, neither James or Carson looked at home between the sticks, but I think James did enough to hold onto his number one jersey, there is simply no competition for him at the moment, hopefully Foster will be back to his best soon. All in all Capello will be happy with the result and performance the players delivered. He seems to have carved a strong unit now and it's showing with five out of five wins since he took charge. Steve McLaren.....who's he?! Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.
England England England! It's very hard being an England fan! Firstly, being female, I obviously know nothing about football LOL LOL. I am passionate about this game, on all levels, but at the end of the day it all boils down to the National team. Everybody has their own opinions on who should manage the team, who should be in the team, what formation should be played? Gerrard or Lampard or dare to play both, Where should Rooney play? Who should be up front? Left sided players? the list is endless - but on international night the nation is brought together and that is why England are fantastic. Who would be your starting 11?? I think the Rooney / Heskey partnership is spot on, ok, Heskey hasn't managed to put the ball in the back of the net but Rooney has scored 4 in 2 and I don't think thats a coincidence. I would rather have Gerrard than Lampard but they are both quality players. David James in goal but I would like to see Paul Robinson find his form again cos he was brilliant, Ferdinand and Terry in central defense, Brown and Cole as the full backs, Theo and Joe Cole on the wings with a special place recerved for Sir Beckham - who can still cross the ball better than anyone We talk to people we wouldn't normally talk to, we have in depth conversations about what we think should be happening on the pitch - it brings us all together. And now with the first 4 qualification matches won we are well on our way to South Africa in 2010 when world cup fever will once again take over the nation and the feeling of ' is this the year' will spread across the country like an infestation If we can all get behind our boys, and not boo them ( such as the Ashley Cole pathetic incident on Saturday ) I beleive!
So just who is to blame for the apparent demise of English football? Are there enough young players coming through? Has the influx of foreigners been detrimental to the national side? This discussion will give my two cents on the matter....... What do we expect? Firstly, what are we looking for in a player and what do we want from them? Putting an academy system in place at a football club doesn't instantly create great players. Those who have the awesome natural ability are often there and don't need 'producing' out of a system. The ones just below this rung, the ones that need their skills honing slightly to achieve the top level are what academies should work on. But how many of these are we producing? The academy system in this country has been around for just over a decade and realistically, are we creating enough 'great' players? One Rooney doesn't make a World Cup winning team for example. What can be done about the academy system? Well, it should be always under review to prevent a lackadaisical stance, but who should take full control? Originally it was the Football Association who took charge of it, but with the money involved nowadays, often Premier League sides will control it themselves by bringing in the fresh talent from the continent rather than just growing to grassroots, English football. Since the emergence of the Premier League in 1992, the bright hope of our national game has resulted in just one semi-final at a major football championship and regular failure (often on penalties!) on the big stage! Someone needs to take account of this, but whether it's the F.A. or the clubs in the Premier League is an ongoing argument. Is the Premier League to blame? The birth of the Premier League (or Premiership as it was previously called) in 1992 produced an 'elite' league of teams that would help reinvigorate the English game not only in this country, but throughout the world after such a bad reputation it gained in the 1980's through numerous disasters and tragedies regarding fans. Originally, the plan was to make the league consist of just 18 teams, however for the first few seasons there were 22, and even now there are still 20. The F.A. allowed the clubs to agree on 22 teams originally to mean that there was no reduction in games and thus made no benefit whatsoever for the national side. A total of up to 8 league games would have been removed had the league originally been made up of 18 teams which would have meant more time to practice on skills and technique rather than play football, not only with their clubs but for the national sides. Remember, the season that the league was created, England failed to qualify for USA '94. Many argue that the best form of practice is to play games, but the argument so far certainly disagrees with that philosophy. Is the influx of foreign players to blame? More and more nowadays, not only foreign players, but also young foreign players are congesting the English game. Some nationalities are countries that some people may have thought didn't even think existed or played football! However, legal constraints could apply if clubs block players from playing due to their nationality. Obviously FIFA President Sepp Blatter's "ingenious" idea of the 6+5 rule - having a set number of players from the clubs home country - may help things, but you can more or less guarantee that once it happens, a case will be taken to the European Court of Human Rights to protest against the ruling saying that it is unfair to stop someone working due to their place of birth. But the birth of many academies was initially designed to help young English talent, not foreign talent. At the start of the last Premier League season only 38% of the players were English; this proves this argument even further that the influx is to blame on the national team's demise. Those who feel that England can't become a second-rate footballing nation because we invented the game, have won a World Cup, have the biggest league in the world etc. etc. have to be very careful in this day and age. We lost to Croatia and Russia in the qualifying group for Euro 2008, but both countries have proven in the tournament that they are certainly worthy adversaries due to their respectable performances. It can no longer go as read that England should be a top ten nation in the world-rankings. If we don't have enough young players to represent the country as a top-ten nation, then we may start to slide backwards fast. The Premier League is a commercial organisation that has been tremendously successful in promoting the English game, but is not interested in the national side. Eleven of the twenty clubs last season were owned by foreign owners...that must tell us something about the lack of interest in the national side?! Is there just not enough good English talent? There'll always be talent. But look at the under-21 side for example. When they return to their club sides, they're usually sat on the bench or in the reserves due to the expensive foreign players that can sell a team more merchandise. This is also starting to apply to the Championship, which is even more concerning in the grand scheme of things. There is the argument that if they're good enough, they'll be in the team anyway, but if they're not good enough, then surely we should be looking at the entire system?! So, does the overall responsibility lie with the F.A. or the clubs themselves? The problem is that the most powerful organisation nowadays is the clubs due to the money. The F.A. are the governing body of football in this country and are responsible for promoting and developing the game, but they must be more prepared in the negotiation with clubs on certain problems. For example, the talk of the "39th step" got laughed off in the media, but if more foreign owners come into the Premier League, they'll put pressure on the F.A. to conform to it. The F.A. must therefore stand their ground over matters such as that, to ensure that in the future, England's national side are a team that we can be proud of and can realistically hope to win silverware, not make up the numbers or dare I say it, fail to qualify for a major tournament...again.
THE RANT BEGINS And so - for the first time in over a decade, England fail to quality for a major championship. Steve McClaren's epitaph has been in some quarters "worse that Graham Taylor". What a legacy; does he not like that, I am certain. As McClown (as he will be henceforth known) presided over the gradual disintegration of a half decent team previous incumbent Sven Goran Ericsson managed to get at least sporadic performances from (and a qualification record that looks positively gleaming with hindsight), we were all left to ponder: * Why can't England produce decent goalkeepers anymore? * Why couldn't Lampard and Gerrard gel after 5 years of practice? * Why can't people who earn more in a week than most of us to in a few years kick a ball accurately to a team mate near them? * Why do we expect so much of our team when they patently aren't up to it? This rant aims to take to task those to blame and in no particular order here we go. YOU CAN'T WIN EVERYTHING WITH KIDS Let me relate to you a story I have heard from grassroots. There is a once proud Northern club running junior teams for the various age groups. One of these teams, under 10s perhaps, played a game where they were winning 4-0 at half time. The other team pushed hard to get the game back to 4-3 and just fell short, but their coach was proud of their effort. Meanwhile, the coach of the winning team laid into his juniors, berating them for letting the other team back in, with no word of congratulation or encouragement for their win. This team is also well known locally for poaching kids from other teams, and then dropping them like a sack of spuds if they perceive them not to be of the standard they require after all. What sort of example does this club set? How exactly is that encouraging kids to play football? Is winning everything and how much are they actually teaching them about skill? It seems to me that from a young age, players are bawled at from the touchlines. Over eager parents, vicariously living their dreams through their children; competitive coaches with perhaps little else in their life they have control of, pushing on kids to win at all costs to give them bragging rights in the pub. These are just two examples of the many motivations that seem to have taken our game off track. BLING BLING Shall we blame the players then? Well they should take their share of the blame. I don't think they don't try hard enough due to being pampered in this case; if anything, when under such pressure from fans and media, they try too hard and can't think logically how to deal with situations. Their football education perhaps does not encompass intellectual tactical aspects, as they would for example in the Netherlands. English players on the whole just do as they are told and disengage their brains; by contrast a Dutch footballer is renowned for his opinion giving - and, it has to be said, resultant byproduct of his argumentative arsiness. But nevertheless, there is surely a lesson to be learned here. Hopefully this will be part of Mr Capello's brief and the signs look good so far. MEDIA MADNESS & FANS FORUM We build them up, we knock them down, every time. We're going to win the World Cup. We go out in the last 8, we're useless. Ad nausium ad infinitum. A good team isn't useless overnight. We need to reign in our expectations and hopefully the media will cotton on and not try to hype us up every time. Perhaps under less pressure even our cerebrally challenged team can perform to something more akin to their alleged ability. MISMANAGEMENT Looks like Sven wasn't such a bad manager was he? Three convincing qualification campaigns and half-decent knockout stage performances. Maybe he realized the limits of the team, and just played as pragmatically as he could, with the inevitable ending when faced with a decent team. Alternatively, you could say he failed to inspire talented players. Well I think a bit of both is in here; for certain, the players have not fulfilled their potential, but equally they haven't shown that as a team they can do this. Perhaps the way players are picked needs to be looked at; pick a team based on what each player can bring to the table as a cog of a machine, rather than the best 11 individuals at each position. Look at the way Gareth Barry briefly flourished; no-one would have picked him in a 1st 11 on paper. AN EASY SCAPEGOAT Foreigners in the Premier League have also been blamed, and I think it is not so much this per se, but foreigners in the club's academies that do the damage. With less of a pool of indigenous people to pick from, the inevitable consequence is, even if players do make it through, as a proportion, less of them will be English, thus there are less English players even in a "homegrown" talent squad. WIN AT ALL COSTS Winning at all costs as seen in the example of kids I've given extends all the way up to the adults. Premier League clubs are under enormous financial and commercial pressure, with the consequences of relegation being potentially fatal to clubs overstretching themselves for success; look no further than Leeds United for an example of what can go wrong. With such high stakes, it's no wonder nurture of talent takes a back seat to instant success, bought with expensive imports than are already the finished article. FA USE TO US And who exactly is running out game? The FA and their various committees, all of whom seem have conflicting interests. The International Committee, made up of club chairmen. Who do they want to appoint as head coach? Certainly not their successful club coach. How exactly is this helping? THE SOLUTION (OR AT LEAST A START) With all these factors contributing and more that I'm sure I haven't even considered, it's clear to me that our game needs a radical overhaul. Whilst these measures surely won't cure our ills in an immediate way, they will at least ensure that things improve for the next generation. Although this won't guarantee anything (let's face it - what can?) at least it will give us a fighting chance. 1. Make sure the kids are enjoying themselves and learning skill, as much as learning how to win. Make them think about the game more too, and make their footballing education more than telling them to hoof it and feeding them stout & raw eggs to make them tall and powerful. 2. Emphasize technique over power. Too much emphasis from a young age is on size and strength. Look at the Manchester United golden generation; all taught skill from a young age, never mind their physique. The Nevilles and Paul Scholes are hardly giants and yet they have been highly successful professionals, due to their skill. 3. Reform the FA into a coherent, more accountable, organization. Not just some self serving old boys club based on nepotism and favour. 4. Set some sort of quotas for foreign players in academies. Controversial but surely necessary. It can't help Spain or France much that their best youngsters are poached almost out of the cradle. 5. Set a maximum wage in the professional game, or at the very least reverse the current trend of ridiculous amounts of money being extorted from paying fans for inflated wages. With less money to play for, the clubs won't be so paranoid about the financial losses due to relegation, and may give player and coach alike a chance to develop. 6. Implement some sort of "draft" system as adopted in American football, where.the best players are shared fairly amongst the top league teams. I don't know the ins and outs of this but it seems to be a more level playing field will encourage a broader base of talent, rather than a small pool from big clubs, with half of those not even getting a game and rotting in the reserves.
Once you have won the most coveted trophy in football, though it be many many moons ago, there is a sudden rise in national pride, an insurgence of belief that is hard to curtail. Since 1966 we have seldom had a chance to breathe, almost every breath is accompanied by some obnoxious prat praising the England team and living of past glories, it's time to get real. There might still be indeed some real quality players in the green and pleasant pastures of the English country side, and they may indeed be World Class , but bringing them together as a rabble of stars eager to fill their own coffers and create themselves an even greater star status isn't the answer. Perhaps during the latest sad saga in English football I was watching another team, perhaps a stream of warm summer rain washed away the rose tint from my spectacles, but I saw little evidence of a TEAM. There is plenty room for blaming the manager for certain situations and even tactics, but the bottom line is that if the players don't follow instructions then it ain't worth doodle squat. It makes no difference how good on paper a team appear to be, it makes no difference what you or I think, the only difference in FACT can be made on the field of play. I saw absolutely very little evidence that any of the players ( with the exception of a few ) really had their heart in it. Their appeared to be very little effort and it was all me me me. When passes should have been made, Mr Superstar would decide to have a go through half a dozen more eager defenders in the off chance he could become England's saviour and be plastered all over the tabloids as a hero. Football ain't about hero's it's about teamwork. Good teamwork will show up a world class player to be exactly that, whilst trying to be Mr Fantastic and grab all the glory will only serve you get you quickly knocked out a major competition that you had the ability as a team to qualify for. It's not 1966 anymore but there is more than potential in this current squad, there is just no belief anymore, no belief as a team. I love football I've always loved football, but England seriously need to get rid of the ego's it's the ego's that are losing the games, it's the ego's that lost the games. We can all write here and moan there and come up with hundreds of plausible excuses why qualification failed. We can blame the manager the FA even God, but a t the end of the day it's the players who must surely take the brunt of criticism and blame for it is they who are the one's who are charged with the task of playing the best team game in the world, so next time get it right and start playing as a team.
Minutes after England's chav millionaires had crashed out of Euro 2008 (at the qualification stage no less) everyone was railing against foreign imports, the way we coach young players and children, bemoaning our lack of technique etc. The general consensus seemed to be that we were now a third world football power and would be lucky to qualify for anything ever again. And yet, the same group of players had got to the last eight of the world cup, only losing on penalties, and should have turfed over a mediocre Portugal team to make the last four. Barring Graham Taylor's eccentric and comical turn as England boss in the early nineties, qualification has been expected as the bare minimum. My own opinion is that Croatia and Russia, the two teams going to Euro 2008 instead of England, are both very average and England should have won the group with ease. The reason England didn't win the group has nothing to do with foreign imports or the way we coach ten year olds. In my opinion it came down to Steve McClaren. We effectively shot ourselves in the foot when we appointed him to replace Sven. I don't remember hearing a single person on the radio phone-ins at the time support McClaren getting the job. The reaction of most people was to groan. The press were agaisnt him from day one because they knew he was out of his depth and they wanted a big character to spar with and enjoy, someone with charisma and a bit of wit. McClaren, with his annoying voice and capped teeth (always giving the impression of a goofy slightly gormless grin) was just not up to it on any level. Uninspiring, dull and completely out of his depth on the pitch. Right from the start he was seen as Sven's no 2 and struggled to impose his own identity. He immediately dropped Beckham from the squad to signal his intent. The subtext was clear; this is a new era and I am no longer going to pander to the Beckham circus. It didn't take long for McClaren to realise that the ability to cross the ball accurately was something his team probably needed to do a few times to score some goals and qualify. So back came Beckham, afterall he was only 32 and his vast experience and passion was sorely missed, but McClaren's authority was undermined and he looked indecisive. Most people said, "Why not just pick Beckham in the squad and stick him on the bench in case you need him?" This compromise solution only seemed to occur to McClaren in the last match. The damage of course was done early in the campaign. England were always trying to catch the others up, especially after the woeful performance away to Croatia where McClaren decided to play a 3-5-2. England have played this system before in tournaments in the past and done well. I don't believe there is any one traditional system that England should always play and have often felt three centre-backs was worth looking at again with our recent glut of central defenders. The thing is though, you try this in a friendly or two. You don't suddenly get out of bed for a qualifier and change the system to a 3-5-2! Also, the most important players in a 3-5-2 are the 'wing-backs'. They are going to give you the 'get go' and the width, freed (in theory) by the security of three centre-backs. And who were our 'wing-backs' that day? Yes, the Neville brothers! I have a lot of time for Gary Neville but wing-back he is not, especially in the twilight of his career. As for Phil Neville, we established he was rubbish waaay back at Euro 2000. Heaven knows why he was in virtually every MClaren squad. Agaisnt Croatia McClaren's team ended up scrunched into a 5-3-2 formation with a far too defensive midfield. It looked like a prime example of someone who has no idea what he is doing, trying to be 'clever' and was reminicscent of Graham Taylor's similar tactical shambles agaisnt Norway in 1993. Let's be honest, if Sven had been in charge he's have kept it simple and we'd have qualified easily. Sure, Sven would have buggered up the knock-out stage with his hopeless substitutions and inability to work out a Plan B but at least we'd have qualified. One of the many aspects of the Croatia game at Wembley that annoyed me was McClaren's inabilty to change things early. England were 2-0 down and a complete shambles right from the start but McClaren stood there with an umbrella and cup of coffee, looking bemused. Can you imagine Big Phil Scholari or Martin O'Neil being so quiet and emotionless in that situation? One of his problems that night was that his team had no idea what they were doing or what formation they were playing. McClaren, typically, had decided to shoehorn Frank Lampard back into the team despite establishing (by accident) that England were best balanced by a Gerrard-Barry midfield pair for the time being. He stuck the Chelsea prima donna back into a team that attempted (and I use this word loosely) to have a stab at a 4-3-3. With Crouch up front on his own we soon resorted to pinging long balls up to him. Lampard and Barry seemed to have no idea what was going on as Steven Gerrard ran around like a headless chicken to no effect. Shaun Wright-Phillips gave it a bit of a go on his muddy right-wing, running into several blind-alleys before being dragged off at half-time. The other wing was largely empty. If SWP seemed to be playing in a 4-4-2, Joe Cole was playing in another system altogether. Wayne Bridge, now completely exposed down the left and never much of a player to start with, had the sort of match he will wince about for years to come. There are things that need adjusting in our football. The Academy they mothballed to bankroll Wembley needs to be activated again. More English players in the Pemier League can only be a good thing. But, ultimately, the England team is a core group of twenty or so players and a coach. I believe that if that coach is selected wisely England will always have the wherewithall to get to tournaments and give it a decent go. Steve McClaren, prior to a flukey UEFA cup run where Boro seemed to come from 3-0 down in every game, was not that far from getting the sack. Months later and that buffoon at the FA is appointing him as England coach and telling us he was first choice despite them being caught red-handed abroad trying to persuade Schloari to do the job. Incidently, a lot of people like Howard Wilkinson had a good moan about the Scholari approach and were agahst at the prospect of another foreign coach. Well, you got your way Howard, and now I hope no one listens to you again. Who cares what country the coach comes from? Just get the best man. My choice last time was always Gus Hiddink. He's performed miracles with weaker nations. He got South Korea to a WC semi-final and Australia to the knock-out phases where they gave the Italians a very tough game. Imagine what he could have done with England. Hiddink is out of the running now, off to Euro 2008 with Russia. So who would I appoint as England boss this time? To be honest anyone has to be better than Steve McClaren, but I would prefer a foreign coach who is widely respected for his tactical ability. I'm not entirely convinced by the clamour for Redknapp or O'Neill. O'Neill, for me, has really struggled at Aston Villa, and Redknapp, while a great motivator, has not proved himself in European football. If Mourinho could somehow be tempted I'd have no problem. The 'Portugese Brian Clough' has not an awful lot to prove after Porto and Chelsea, and is the 'big character' England need and deserve. Mourinho has a charismatic authority that a McClaren can only dream about. Failing Mourinho, I might just go for Capello. His record is peerless. Cappello would not be afraid to make decisions and ruffle a few egos and England need that now. That and a coach who actually knows what he is doing.
"In the bleak mid winter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone". Depression has swept across the nation like Bird Flu, data theft and global warming hype has, as winter and the coming summer are wrecked by our hapless football team. With no home involvement in Euro 2008 (apart from Poland) at least now the dooyoo females can start booking their holidays for next year as they know where their boys won't be! It all went wrong for England when the Heathrow police (heavily armed as normal) were called to an incident at WH Smith, the head of the Croatian F.A accused by the staff of stealing a newspaper (the Eastern Europeans reputation for this particular trait not exactly helped), and so embarrassment all around. The 'mistake' was cleared up and the team proceeded to Wembley in a very bad mood. No wonder they were pumped to inflict such a national disaster on our hopeless team. With just 87 English guys playing in the premiership the week before the big match this result was inevitable. Foreign owners mean foreign managers, and that means foreign players and foreign agents, and so English money and talent is pouring out of the game here in 'bungs' and droves. I want my national sport back. I fed up with this bu**shit. Most foreign players are not coming here because they are the best players for the team or are game-they are coming here so everyone gets paid in the chain, from agent to chairman. Good English players in the championship have no chance of moving up now because of that situation. That just can't be right. Its time for quotas. A minimum five English player's must start in the 'prem' every game for every team. It seems like lowly Luton Town are the ones designated fall guys for the F.As abject failure to deal with corruption in the national game that has got at this all time low. Yes there's world class talent here in the UK and that produces exciting games, Arsenal testament to, but the English qualified players are just not there any more, McLaren trying a total of 37 in his 18 month tenureship. How many English players are good enough to play abroad? Can you think of any playing at the moment in Europe that were born here? I know we can't have our cake and eat it but this is getting silly. The guys froze out there, the Beckham and Svenless England that many wanted totally ineffective. The game is broken here and we are about to dive of the edge of the world. The crowd didn't hurl derision at the manager or the players because they knew both were not good enough. The match... It hasn't helped with the fact the nation has been willing McLaren to fail from day one. I wasn't one of them. I thought the players would be big enough to perform and adjust on the pitch to what was needed. What we found out on Wednesday is a slick foreign team can still pass us off the pitch, as Croatia also did in Zagreb. I had to chuckle with the FAs choice of a black guy to sing the national anthems. The Croatians players and fans are as a racist as anyone out there, Heskey and Cole, who were called all sorts in that part of the world during the qualifiers, would have loved that ironic moment even more. At least Barwick got one thing right on Wednesday! How ironic that if would be a goal keeping blunder against Croatia that would start and finish McLaren`s woes. The bizarre decision to put young Carson between the sticks on a wet night on a terrible pitch-wrecked from the American football game-for a critical game was one of many howlers made by Macca over the 12 matches. Starting Crouch with Wright-Phillips and not Beckham was also ridiculous. Wright-Phillips is about as keen on the cross as Usama Bin Laden is, the midget hussled out of it at Wembley by a back four with 220 caps between them. Beck's proved he is still the only world class player on the pitch by immediately changing the game with accurate passes and crosses on that wet surface. He seems to get a lot of stick because he's rich and handsome just as Crouch does for being tall and gormless. But it's these two guys who can turn a game by keeping it simple and precise then its Laurel & Hardy. The crowd were lifted by Beck's coming on in the second half, a chorus of 'Britannia Rules the Waves', breaking like the ocean on the now saturated pitch, the punters then realizing we don't actually rule the waves anymore, recalling those 15 sailors in a boat between Iran and Iraq, the players soon to deploy the same tactics of abject surrender, Carson screaming 'don't shoot'! Carson looked caught in the headlights like most of the guys did early on, scared by the fact Croatia had come to play, their worst nightmare. Watching him get behind that shot from Krankjar was like witnessing Monty Panasar trying to save the match winning boundary in the Ashes. In fact Monty would have done better in goal. At least Monty's team mates would have calmed the guy and had a word to try and resolve the crisis. No England players offered sympathy to Carson when he made that catastrophic error. The Villa keeper bottled the shot, as simple as, and that's something else a manger has to take into account when selecting teams. Young Green and Foster are by far the best young English keepers out there and James the in-form one. Did he go with Carson because McLaren shares the same management promotional team? Who knows. The second goal was typical Croatian style, the sort of inter-passing and understanding world class players like the absent Rooney and Owen get up to, Olic beating Carson and the off-side trap with his slinky feet and confidence. I still have the sneaking feeling Rooney's knock that kept him out of the game wasn't as bad as United made out and he was 'rested' by Sir Alex thinking/hoping Russia would win in Israel, and so Wayne ready for the busy Christmas program and the Liverpool match, now that Tevez is cover and playing well. I'm sure if the likes of Rooney, Terry and Rio were playing then we would have held the Croats. With the right changes made at half-time it was great to see Lamps show some real bottle and slot that penalty. He was licking his lips before he stroked it away. I love to se that. But when the equalizer came from that reliable Beckham-Crouch combo you always felt Croatia would score again, as indeed they did as the now renamed Willie 'Frank' Carson couldn't quite reach an angled shot from Petric that found the far corner of the net to sink a nation. There was to be no way back at that point with Croatia odds on to score again on the break if we pushed. It was left to the forlorn hope of the mighty Andorrans to end their run of 27 straight defeats with a late equalizer against Russia. It didn't happen. Most England players were more concerned with their tax affairs being in order in that particularly principality than the result going their way. When it came to digging in the Croatians were probably thinking about family and friends in the concentration camps in the 1990s Civil War, the team here only to win the group, whilst England players were thinking which model of Ferrari to purchase for the summer holidays or to blow 50k on a watch. I know you don't want to hear it but Erickson and Beckham qualified us for three straight tournaments. Gerard was a hopeless captain last night as McLaren was a leader off the pitch. The reason we cocked the World Cup up is because there aren't enough Beckhams out there. Beckham is our only world star because he has bottle and ability, how ever rusty. The scariest thing about Wednesday night was the lack of heart at the back, the traditional savoir for any England team. We have never lost three qualifying games in our history. I just can't see us qualifying for the World Cup (the draw on Sunday by-the-way). In the seventies we missed two World Cups-74 and 78-and two European Championships-72-76. Scary isn't it. The sacking As expected McLaren was paid off with two million quid and a free blazer badge and tie box set, Venables just given the boot. Brian Barwick, the Captain Mainwaring of team F.A, ignored calls for him to leave, planning a pay rise for all those with the power to fire the useless tw*t. I think the Post Office could do with a second in charge behind Adam Crozier to liquidate that particular English institution. Barwick gave a Mainwaring style apology for employing Macca. Barwick also announced he would select the next England manager, an audible groan rolling around the press conference. What next? It doesn't look like the flow of foreign players is going to collapse here until the game does and so not a very enticing prospect. The alleged bungs are huge on these guys coming in and Championship clubs are jus not prepared to sell their best English guys at a fair price to the Prem so to balance things up. The solution is for players in the lower leagues to buy out their contracts and move to the premiership on lower deals. They have to realize they are priced out of the current market as it is. We need a pool of at least 200 English guys in the Premiership to make national team function or it's the 1970s all over again. Of the guys playing Wednesday a lot of them were on the bench for their clubs and making way for lesser foreigners. Get average guys in there who have bottle instead. It beats those talented wasters that are always scared of making a mistake. Keep Beck's for now, if just to sell out all these friendlies to come. He can go on loan to a top club soon and he can help to market the game around the world for 2012 or something. I have nothing against the guy and he's seems a decent chap. And you guys shouldn't, either! Gerard as captain was terrible, Terry the better choice. With players like the excellent Richards, Abonglahor, Bentley and Walcott, ready to establish themselves it's not all doom and gloom. I want to see cocky guys coming in who are not afraid to make mistakes and learn from that and the losers kicked out.
The England football team recently embaressed by the Ruskies showed what we all don't want to admit, England aren't one of the best teams in the world, not even europe for that matter. But rather than just reviewing the team and our dissmal record to talent ratio I'm gonna do what everyone else does, and rant about how we need a top class manager. We will start at the back, in recent games Steven Mclaren has persisted in playing the evidentally out of form Paul Robinson, now before I get told he'd only conceeded 2 goals in 9 games for england, I know. However I also know he could have conceded 0 if we were that good, and it was just a matter of time before his club form got taken into the national team (as seen against Russia). I've heard a host of people say we have no other options, but we do, we have the eternally injured Chris Kirkland knocking on the door, therenasaince man of english goalkeeping in David James, the phenomanol Scott Carson another injured hope in Ben Foster and the unfairly treated Robert Green. My opinion is that out of the fit ones (James, Robinson, Green and Carson), Carson deserves a fair shot at the position, he's been pretty dam good for Villa this season (despite his nightmare against a scintalating Manchester United) even though he's behind a defensive line that consists of Zat Knight which makes anyones job a nightmare). Now onto the defense, a position we have unbelieveable depth in is central defense (John Terry, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragehger (please read note 1) and Johnathan Woodgate. Now even with Terry's injury and suspension and anything else that happens to the loud mouthed but seriously over-tough guywe still have 3 pickable solid central defenders, a position where we're overly blessed in riches. Sol Campbell's tackling ability and ability to read the game more than compensates for his now diminished pace, whilst Rio's calmness on the ball, great arial skill and terrific timing as well as Woodgates almost impeccable form for 'Boro in the past few months really should mean that any manager would be embaressed by his riches. At Right back our number one guy is almost as often injured as Kirkland and is also on his way to retirement, (Neville), but depsite this we've several other great right backs to pick from. Including the overly versatile Micah Richards (delibrately left from the central defensive list), Luke Young and even the terribly average Wes Brown can fill in. I'd myself go for Richards when Neville isn't available (though Neville everytime that he's fit enough to last 90 mins). Left back, this is probably what cost us against Russia, we have the currently injured Ashley Cole, who is defensively average, though as a wing back he's pretty damn good, Nicky Shorey who's as solid as almost anyone in Europe barring the Italians. We'd also have the likes of Phil Neville, Wayne Bridge, Matthew Taylor. Quite why Mclaren played Joleon Lescott in such an important game, out of position and out of his depth is questionable. Phil Neville may get a lot of stick but has played at the level before and can be pretty efficient. The midfield is probably the most argued part of the england team. On the right the options are really Shaun Wright Phillips, David Beckham, David Bentley, Steven Gerrard (note 2), Lennon can play on both sides as well. Again the experience of Beckham and his leadership in the squad maybe invaluable but I'd go with Wright Phillips's pace and skill, which should be able to undo most defences. However the ability of Lennon shouldn't be overlooked for an impact player in the last 25 mins or so. In the centre, where the real arguements are we again have an embarassment of riches, with Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Carrick, Hargreaves among others. Despite the injury's to Hagreaves and Carrick keeping them out of the Russia game, going into it, Barry and Gerrard seemed to have formed a decent partnerships, with Barry's defensive holding ability allowing Gerrard to show off his attacking mind, something that doesn't work with Gerrard and Lampard in the same team. Whether Mclaren tries maybe using Lampard and Barry is up for debate. On the left we do have problems, with one outstandingly talented player (Joe Cole) in the position, sure Lennon can play their but is a bit green at international level and Stuart Downing has seemed a bit poor for us. Matthew Taylor or Garry Barry could act as cover but they don't have the attacking ability of Cole which may make the team inbalanced. In attack we just seem to under-perform, and not click, with Rooney's undoubted ability not being questioned but him and Owen dont work at all, where as a Heskey and Owen (despite my many years of ridicule to Heskey) do work well, and Crocuh and Rooney seem to work well. Of course we always seem to be missing a foreward for one reason or another, but we also need to add Andy Johnson, Jermain Defoe and (the currently injured, again, Dean Ashton). I do realise I'm not being all that detailed and have missed out some players who do deserve a mentioned such as Matt Derbyshire, Scott Parker, Keiron Richardson and Keiron Dyer, but the list of players who could be added to this list is almost longer than my 2 cents is worth. My Line up (I know few will agree with it and does take 100% fitness which never happens) 4-4-1-1 GK:Carson RB:G.Neville CB:Terry CB:Ferdinand LB:A.Cole RMF:SWP CM:Hargreaves CM:Gerrard LMF:J.Cole AMF:Rooney SC:Owen With a plan B of taking Hargreaves off and putting Heskey or Ashton up front in a 4-3-1-2. Theres my 2 cents on the England football team. Note 1-Yes I realise Jamie has retired from international football, but that was due to being overlooked more than anything else, if he'd been played when he was available, he'd still be available. Note 2-Gerrard doesn't seem to like playing their, but it may be the only way to get him and Lampard in the same team.
After a 3-0 win in Estonia England are back in the hunt for Euro 2008 qualification. Head coach: Steve McClaren. Assistant coach: Terry Venables. The England squad: Paul Robinson, Robert Green, Scott Carson, Phil Neville, John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Wayne Bridge, Ledley King, Ledley King, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Kieron Dyer, Jermaine Jenas, Stewart Downing, Michael Carrick, David Bentley, Michael Owen, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Alan Smith.