* Prices may differ from that shown
So yet again England lost on penalties after blocking out one of the big teams in 120 minutes, our only tactic when it comes to the crunch and the heat is on, it seems. We never beat the big boy's in 90 minutes in international tournaments, especially when the suns out. We never score more than one goal in the big matches. We are not a big team and Italy are. Our guys are dim, ignorant and scared. Their guys are winners.
The cunning F.A. plan this time around was to dampen down expectations by employing the world's most boring manager, Roy Hodgson, the theory being the press wouldn't turn on him just yet because he is not a flash git and damaged goods like Terry Venables and Harry Redknapp, two managers well capable of getting average England players to semi-finals. They walk like the players, talk like the players, drive the same cars and wear the same clothes as the players, the sort of guys the pampered players would look up to. An intelligent old guy who speaks five languages and knows the game inside out is easy to walkover. If Redknapp wasn't considered because he plays less tax than Jimmy Carr then I would have gone for Alan Pardew at Newcastle United. He is bespoke in the bling criteria and the new Redknapp, a man who got his name embroided on to the seats of his Bentley.
So where did it go wrong? Well we turned up for starters and so the coach driver must take most of the blame. Secondly the managers England employ still put fear in the players (or fail to take it out) and so their games quickly strangled, rigid defensive systems that kill freedom on the ball. You could see against Italy that the English defense (who were excellent again, mind) were scared to move the ball through the midfield. Parker played well but Gerard is always too deep and never seems to get in the box to deliver his obvious talent. He timidly sits in front of the back four and zings in those crosses, which are rather good, but no one brave enough on the end of them, apart from four Italian defenders. You can see that anxiety and worry on his face at every interview, on or off the field. I have always thought he was over-rated because of that. Ad what a dull man to be captain? There is fear in that midfield that if they f**k up they will be blamed and so instead of playing an aggressive pass or serious of triangles the ball rolls back to the defense and they give it to Joe Hart to blast down the pitch after being pressured by the Italians, and so lose the ball. Responsibility has been passed on, quite literally. It just saddens me to see how scared this great nation has got. The Great Bobby Robson took that fear away in Italia 90 because the players knew they had guys like Gazza on the pitch who were not afraid. When the chips are down and the game drifts away the guys have the cushion and comfort of millionaire's salaries to fall back on and so some of the will to win lost for England.
If England had been playing Germany on Sunday night it would have been 4-1 again, the Italian forwards very poor for once, Gomez and Podolski ripping us apart again. They would have done in the semi-final. But the match for me was summed up the impudence of Pirlo's performance, on the pitch in general play and taking that penalty, a guy not afraid to make mistakes and so more able to deliver the killer ball. It's the Latin and German arrogance that wins matches, the belief they are better and the courage to take risks. Paul Gascoigne had it, as did John Barnes and Chris Waddle. But the FA has even bashed that confidence and flare out of Wayne Rooney, a sensation in Euro 2004 but his goal against the Ukraine his first tournament strike since Euro 2004, 8 years off oppression and dumbing down killing his game and goals. 'Don't express yourself kid as you are showing up the other lads! He looks crap in an England shirt because there is simply no one as good as him to snap and zing quick passes to ad off. He doest trust his fellow players to be able to pull off the one-two's that wins games. Instead he drifts in and out of the game looking to do it all on his own, three Italians on him when he does and so out of the game, weighed down with responsibility. How is he going to be able to do that alongside Andy Carrell, a man who moves like Gordo Brown on the dance floor and with the first touch of a pervert in a girl's school. Rooney in the Italian or French side would be ideal.
Joe Hart has the confidence and ability to be great yet one big blunder from being dropped, such is the England mentality to blame keepers, going through ten keepers in ten years, Buffon remaining unchallenged in that period for Italy. We need to rebuild the England team set up the way the cricket team did and throw money at success, the way the British Olympic cycling and rowing teams became all conquering. The kids need to be taught skill and not just play for results by percentages. They need to enjoy it and express that flare on the ball, the way Spain keeps the ball. For me the answer is simple: Its time for Ian Hollaway to be the England manager! Now that would be fun.
The golden generation was a tag given to the England players leading into the 2006 World Cup by the then head of the football association Adam Crozier; he gave the players the tag after a relatively successful European championship two years earlier and a fairly simple world cup qualifying campaign. The players he referred to were David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Michael Owen. All these players starred for England in the 2004 championships played for top English clubs which had started to dominate European competitions and were all in their mid to late twenties. The players all had pace, skill and could be considered as amongst the top 5 players in their positions in the world.
The golden generation focused particularly on two Scousers that are Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, Gerrard had been the driving force behind Liverpool's Champions league triumph in 2005 and Rooney is amongst the top 5 players in the world and was strong enough to cross over from Merseyside to Manchester to play for Liverpool arch rivals Manchester United. These two players were head and shoulders above the rest of the English players in the country and were the lynchpin of their teams.
So what happened to this golden generation? Well it ended with the 4-1 defeat by a younger and hungrier German side on Sunday and failed to reach the heights the teams components should have reached. The 2006 World Cup ended with defeat by penalties to Portugal, failure to qualify for the European championships in 2008 and looked old and slow in 2010. The team never really reached the heights it could have been capable, the two best midfielders in the country Lampard and Gerrard never managed to merge into an effective midfield duo. Rooney has failed to deliver on the international stage, and looks a shadow of the player we see week in week out for Manchester United.
The constant desire of the viewing public to watch an England team playing with Rooney as the lone striker with Gerrard just behind was never explored by successive English managers and the unfortunate injuries to Rooney prior to both World Cups has perhaps led to his poor showings there. We have had moments of hope, the 4-1 win in Croatia and the 5-1 win at home to the same opponents which cemented England' s place in the 2010 World Cup, the latter performance promised much in terms of retaining possession quick counter-attacks and a genuine cohesion in their play but since that night the team has gone backwards.
England now must look forward to a team without these golden generation players, only Rooney will be young enough to play in the 2014 World Cup and the rest must be slowly axed over the next four years. Is there a second golden generation coming through? England won the under 17 world cup last year, and there is a decent smattering of young players in the Premiership but will they make their mark on the world stage? Only time will tell!!
Last night was one of the first England football matches I have watched start to finish in a long time. That is because I am not an avid fan, although I am a follower, as I like the excitement and drama of the big matches when everyone gets together to watch them.
Last night, when England beat Croatia 5-1 was the first time in a while where England have stood a chance of winning anything and therefore the people spirit is back up and its not too depressing to watch. It reminds me of Euro 96 where people actually believed England had a chance and really got into the matches. Since then, with the constant changing of managers, bad results, inability to qualify for the latest Euro cup, I was put of following them so closely as it was full of doom and gloom. One thing I don't understand is why people don't give managers a chance. One of the statistics they gave last night was that the last two England managers only latest 18 months. How is that enough time for people to guess if they are good enough or not, or if their tactics are working. Teams and their managers need time to settle to gain their best results.
I really enjoyed last nights England match, I wonder if David Beckham will be playing longer games in the future?
Despite a change of manager the England football team has still yet to show any sign of improvement, maybe soon people will realise that it does not matter what type of manager you put in place or how many trophies they have won, it is the players that deliver the results and the current crop are not as good as the or we think they are, they might look good in club football but that is because they are surrounded by talented foreign players, you only have to look at last years European Cup and Premiership title winners who are a one man team, take out Ronaldo and they are very ordinary, likewise Liverpool relied on Torres and Arsenal on Fabregas while Chelsea relied on Roman Abramovitch buying everything in sight good or bad.
So is the England website any better, well at least it does have a recognisable structure and formation, run by the F.A. which could be short hand for what they actually know about football and there is information all the way through from the senior team down through the youth set up and the womens game.
There are links to the latest news items on the team and I must say the site is very easy to navigate. It is perhaps not the most engaging of football sites, rather formal and busines like as you would expect but it does have tons of information for the interested fan as well as links to the other areas covered by the FA.