When people are urging Jose to copy Southgate…

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Man United in Southgate’s system
With World Cup fever in full swing, I figured the only way of sneaking a United email into the mailbox would be to stick an England twist on it.

And to that regard, I’m nicking Matt’s idea from Wednesday’s edition, as I’m completely convinced that Southgate’s take on a 352 is tailor made for squeezing every drop of potential out of Mourinho’s current crop.

So, starting at the back:

Talented, ball-playing centre-backs whose inexperience and rash nature would benefit from a central sweeper for back up? Check! (Bailly and Lindelof)

Ready-made wing-backs who have either migrated back from more attacking positions, or have shown glimmers going forwards whilst picking up criticism for their defensive positioning? Check! (Young, Valencia, Shaw)

A single, experienced midfield pivot, and creative attacking midfielders who make things happen further up the pitch, but probably lack the discipline to play a deeper role? Check! (Matic/Fred, Pogba, Lingard)

Out and out forwards who would be far better suited to battling it out for a central position alongside Lukaku rather than being shunted out wide? Check! (Sanchez, Rashford, Soon to be gone Martial….)

And all it would take is Jose becoming tactically flexible, getting over his ego by openly plagiarising another manager’s set up, and throwing caution to the wind by freeing up his creative players at the risk of becoming more open at the back.

“Don’t fly too close to the sun, Icarus.”
Sam, Manchester

Good luck England…from a Scotsman
One of these days Scotland will again go to an international tournament. When that day comes I just hope it’s on merit and not because FIFA has taken a piss on prestige and extended it to a silly number.

In the meantime I hope for tense games, exciting surprises, and some excellent days and nights with pals… and for England to do well.

You’ve got a really likable team at the moment with a decent man for a manager. You play good, occasionally great, football within a suitable system, and look more balanced than any England team has in recent years.

Beyond that, this time more than any could use a lightning rod success for a country to come together. There has been plenty written about the effects a successful football team can have on a country, providing a way to bond and celebrate as one, in spite of a current climate. With every mad thing that’s happening at the moment in the UK, it feels like it could mean so much more than just a successful football tournament if England do well.

Good luck.
Doug (until I Dr Strangelove it and shout for Tunisia) Glasgow

Who will f*** it up for England this time?
My bet is on Rashford conceding a decisive penalty in the q-finals against Brazil.
Vali, Romania

Baby Raheem…
I’m not normally one to get caught up in World Cup Fever, but…I woke up this morning having dreamt that my wife had given birth to our first born (she is not pregnant as far as I know) who we called ‘Raheem’. The dream did get weirder with me carrying the baby home via Highbury where Ian Wright posed for photos, but safe to say I am sticking a fiver on Raheem Sterling to win the golden boot.

Enjoy the Football!
Mark Boulton

What will England look like in 2022?
I love getting ahead of myself. 2018 hasn’t even kicked off and my thoughts drift towards what an England XI plus bench would look like in 2022 (provided England qualify).

Will we see the likes of Sancho, Lookman et al start? Any thoughts?
Taz, LFC

Who gets in?
With the USA, Canada and Mexico jointly holding the 2026 WC. I was wondering who qualifies automatically?

Any one know? Or is that the 48 team tournament so they can all have a free spot?

England to get 2030 WC at last. Hooray! – Maybe UK joint bid would give the other nations a place too????
Al – England! Buntings up, Cars flags are on! Even the pushbike has a flag this year. I don’t care, I love it!

Mr Shannon’s* little pop about the Scots got me wondering about how qualification would work were there four host nations. I can’t quite remember how it worked for the dual-host tournaments but I believe that both “host” nations were given seeding at the tournament proper and hence didn’t need to qualify (and, thanks to the seeding also ended up doing quite well: see Korea, S). Surely, they couldn’t all be seeded, or even given an automatic place? Even with the U.S., Canada and Mexico, it seems a bit ridiculous to have three places lost immediately.

Plus, CONCACAF only get three direct places so do they just not both even having a qualifier over there for 2026? It would be even more mental with the UK – half the seeds gone before anyone has even qualified! Does anyone know how this would work in practice? I assume it was in the bid documents but I can’t find anything (read: haven’t looked).

The Totally Football Show is an excellent podcast, occasionally frequented by D.Storey and hosted by the soothing James Richardson. They’re going to have a show every night there’s games on rounding up what’s happened and giving a bit of chat on the tournament so far. Would recommend for the morning after the night before.
Alex, (Shannon is a rather Irish sounding surname, which would make it a bit odd to be having a pop at your Celtic brothers given the Irish haven’t been at a WC for 16 years either!), Ayr

Not sure if it is too late to jump into the discussion of non-sticker related tournament merch but I remember Panini and Snickers doing a range of pogs for Euro ’96. I know your memory tends to exaggerate things from your childhood but I sweat that I had 427 Bernard Lama pogs.

Love each other
Northern Soul (I am going to root against both teams tonight)

Polish talk
Short note on Poland’s final path to the World Cup. If anyone cares…

We are ranked 8th in the world…yes, that’s Poland the 8th best country in the world. Ha HA HA. Obviously FIFA rankings are bonkers.

In our final games we draw with Chile (ranked 9th!), we were winning this game 2-0, but then our defense, which is suspect, came to its own and we ended up with 2-2. Obviously Lewandowski scored.

Now the draw is actually very good, as our media is not unlike England’s, so you could just start to hear the first chirpings of we will reach the quarters, semis or even further. So no hurrah bullshit.

In our final game we beat Lithuania 4-0. Lithuania is ranked ‘further’ down the order, so this was not unexpected. Lewandowski scores a brace to go ahead as the best scorer in Polish footballing history.

Two conclusions. If Lewandowski continues this, we have a chance to go through the group stages, maybe even give England (or whomever) a go.

But, and this is a big but, we have a problem with set pieces when defending, or defending full stop, so keep an eye on this when watching any games with Poland.

Although, our main defensive mainstay Kamil Glik (from Monaco) miraculously overcame his shoulder injury, so there is hope. And keep an I on the Southampton player Jan Bednarek, he looks like a surprise package.

Hoping we reach Quarter finals as we did in Euro 2016.
Julian (Go Lukaku!) Gdansk

Praise for Tickers
I don’t know where you’ve been hiding Dave Tickner but that was a fantastic write-up on opening games from years hence.

The perfect blend of irreverence and humour that first drew me here many moons ago.

Have him back soon.
Paul (that’s your tenner’s worth, Dave) Glasgow

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