Same old England !

How do I even begin to dissect the game on Friday?  To be honest I am still in shock with how bad England played!  We’re we that bad? We’re Scotland good?  Is it a combination of both? 3 days on and I’m still as angry and dis-illusioned today as I was after the final whistle on Friday night.  

Last time I was this angry following England was the loss to Iceland in 2016. On the streets of Lens after Sturridge had just won us the game in injury time against Wales, we all booked our flights for the quarter final in Paris as football was definitely coming home! Didn’t even consider we could lose to little old Iceland! Note to self – don’t book flights on the back on injury time winners, that £330 could have been spent on much better things!

Friday night should have been so different and for me is an opportunity missed by the crop of young English players.  It should have been a statement game where the whole world stood up and took notice as to how superior England are or are perceived to be in comparison.  A justification of all the hype surrounding this talented young team and a way to shut up even the biggest of critics. What transpired was a game that left everyone with more questions than answers.

This was a proper game of football though.  The whole day, the build up gave it that big game feel. I know it was ‘only Scotland’ we were playing but these fixtures always have a special feel to them.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend games against Scotland before and every time we play them as much as it is a local derby in footballing terms, I never really feel nervous about the game like I do when we play them down the road as I always see them as inferior and not on England’s level.

I don’t buy into the narrative of ‘let’s hope all the home nations do well’.  I can honestly say that I don’t won’t Wales, Scotland, or Ireland to win a throw in let alone a football match.  Friday was no different, for those of us that play Super6 each week I predicted a comfortable 4-0 win for England.  How could it be anything other than a massacre when you compare the 2 squads?

How did Friday compare?

Compare player for player in terms of the 11 that started the game.  How many of them would get into the England squad, not starting 11 I’m talking the whole squad?  You could potentially argue that Robertson would have a chance but is he that much better than Chilwell and Shaw?  Other than him there isn’t a single Scotland player that is anywhere near good enough to get near this England team, they are a decent Championship side at best!

The arrogance of the above statement may be part of the issue.  Maybe the England team thought they could just turn up and win Friday night as the individual brilliance we should have as a team would see us over the line.  

The atmosphere had a different feel to Sunday v Croatia.  What helped was the fact Scotland had a good following in the capital which made the game seem more authentic.  The fact that both National Anthems were booed respectively by the opposite set of supporters showed me that slowly but surely, we are getting back to the beautiful game we all love.  

Sidenote from the game – Where did the tradition of Scotland fans drinking on the streets and buying alcohol from One Stops rather than pubs come from?  Another point I’d like to make is imagine if this was England fans in Glasgow or anywhere else in the world?  I’m pretty sure the media narrative would have been very different, but I will save that rant for another blog at another time!

I’ve said in previous blogs that Southgate is a negative Manager, this will never change.  We know what we get with him, it’s a fear of losing as opposed to being brave enough to win.  Under him the shackles will always be on with emphasis on ball retention and shape as opposed to expansive football.

What Friday proved is that when we play slow football and methodical football against inferior opposition England as a team are so easy to play against.  This team are suffocating Harry Kane and suddenly our captain and talisman has become the scapegoat and the problem.  Harry Kane is far from the problem, it’s the system that is and that system is chosen by the Manager.

Was Southgate to blame on Friday?

I’ve always been supportive of Southgate in his reign.  He picks young players which I’m a fan of, he has a good record tournament wise (Semi Final of both World Cup and Nations League) and we have walked through qualification at a canter.  After Friday I just don’t see how I or anyone can defend him anymore.

We played 6 defensive players on Friday for a full 90 minutes and mustered 1 shot on target.  He made substitutions that were like for like and added nothing to the game.  His interviews after about another clean sheet and we are still on the way the qualifying set alarm bells off for me.  What we saw Friday was simply not good enough.  He has somehow found a way of making every player play within themselves, I lost count of the amount of times we went sideways and backwards when in possession of the ball. That direction comes from the Manager, lets keep the ball lads and not lose the game.

Things must change, and the beauty of tournament football is that the next game comes around quickly.  We have a chance on Tuesday to right the wrongs from Friday night, take the shackles off and let the talent we have play to their strengths.  Will this happen?  Being honest I don’t think it will.

What I predict is the ‘Same Old England’.  In fact I predict the team for Tuesday will be more defensive than the team that played on Friday as he knows if we don’t lose the game then we qualifying 2nd in the group and avoid a game against France, Germany or Portugal.  Maybe this is all part of the plan and he is a genius?

What will happen next ?

I think he will go 1 of 2 ways on Tuesday.

Pickford, Walker Stones Maguire, Trippier Henderson Rice Chilwell, Sterling Kane Foden – 343

Pickford, Walker Stones Maguire Trippier, Henderson Rice Phillips, Sterling Kane Foden – 433

Neither of those line ups are inspiring but they will be a perfect representation of the manager and his beliefs, qualification is all that matters and by not losing we qualify!

We all dream of a starting 11 that has attacking content.  You can argue as to the attacking players who should or shouldn’t play, same way you could argue as to who should or shouldn’t be playing at full back. The reality is all we would all pick a team who we would want to see express themselves and entertain us.  Sadly, the man that matters most doesn’t buy into this and what we can expect is another defensive display with 0-0 or 1-0 being his ideal result.

Well until my next instalment I will leave you with a KRO and Come On England – A blues fan on International duty

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