Bitter disappointment. England exit yet another tournament far too early.
Strong FCapital readers may remember that, what feels like months ago, just before the Euros, I wrote an article supporting Roy Hodgson as England Manager. This was met with laughter and scorn from the rest of the FCapital team, but none the less I dared to dream that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t be awful this tournament.
Good God was I wrong. We were even more awful than usual.
My hope and support came largely from statistics, and I still like to think that on the face of things at least, this wasn’t a bad way of looking at it. It all looked fairly rosy going into the Euros – Ten wins in qualifying, beating the Germans and the Portuguese. I even dared to believe, but yet again, the dreaded pit in every England fans’ stomach came back within a few minutes of scoring against Iceland.
Normally at this point in an article I would go through point by point what went wrong, but it’s hard to do with Roy Hodgson. He got everything wrong.
Going back to the strong qualifying campaign and pre-tournament friendlies, in which we claimed a much valued German scalp, the formula seemed to be working. You would think that such a good showing would prompt a united and secure team. So why would Roy choose to change this in the tournament? I have no idea.
Whilst not all the blame for the embarrassment should be rested on the manager – the team played shockingly as well, it was his job to gel this unit of players. During the game against Iceland, the team played as if they’d only just met each other. Passes went astray, chances typically squandered and set pieces, well, that was a new low. Given that Iceland’s not-so-secret weapon was their long throw-in (a throw-back to the Rory Delap era at Stoke City), the way the England team dealt with this was shocking. The reason the Rory Delap era ended at stoke is, quite simply, because people learnt to defend it. Just mark the two possible targets and get the ball out – treat it like a corner, fairly simple once you know how. So how could 11 professional footballers who had had an entire week to study and rehearse this far from unimaginable goal threat let it go in so easily? The mind boggles, but ultimately circles back to Hodgson.
The Three Lions or the ‘overpaid nonces’?
But now, at least, Hodgson is gone, and the nation can heal after another embarrassment. The focus turns to who can take the poisoned managerial chalice of the English National team and live to tell the tale. The options and rumours have come flying in already – Shearer, Southgate, or my personal favourite, Eric Cantona, because, well, it can’t get any worse than losing to Iceland, can it? The Manchester United legend has many qualities that England Managers have lacked – passion for the international side (despite being French), a great playing career in his past that will command the respect of the players, and personality.
Comedy aside, Eric learnt from the best.
This may also be an opportunity to jolt some pride and team spirit back into the “overpaid nonces” as the BBC’s Julia Hartley-Brewer aptly described them. Look at the Welsh – aside from Gareth Bale they were more or less a write-off in the press before the tournament began, and now they’re the only ones representing the British people at all. They play as a team, they are well drilled, they have thrown aside individual egos (and with a Galactico in their ranks that’s no easy feat), and have been absolutely astounding. The English could learn a thing or two from their friends/enemies across the border.
The time has come to accept that England have been a let-down once again, but, as always, I remain hopeful that someday within my lifetime England will win something – anything would do. In the meantime, after scrolling through my family tree and learning that my Great Uncle lived in Cardiff for a time, I’ve decided I’m a proud Welsh-man, so I’m with them. Men of Harlech and all that.
By James Doherty.