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A pessimist’s guide to England’s World Cup
We know the story by now. England crash out of the World Cup and someone is to blame. The only question is who? Here’s my guide to the most likely England fall guys, ranked in order, starting with the most likely villain.
1. John Stones – Topping my list is the ultimate heart attack centre-back. And he will probably be rusty too.
2. Raheem Sterling – The footy idiot won’t have to do a lot wrong to become the most hated man in England. Shoddy finishing in pressure situations and my top choice for a crucial penalty miss.
3. Gareth Southgate – If only he had picked Andy Carroll, the fool – we needed a Plan B! Everyone knows better than the England manager.
4. Jordan Pickford – Can a 12 year old boy cope with the England World Cup pressure cooker? Looks nervy at times and we have seen recently that he’s prone to a clanger.
5. Dele Alli – Track record of petulance and hot-headedness, particularly when a game isn’t going his way. Will be targeted by opponents.
6. Harry Kane – The weight of expectation is on his shoulders. Could be tournament top scorer, but could just as easily draw a blank and revert to desperate shooting from anywhere and everywhere.
7. Eric Dier – Oh so calm on the ball…oh God no, not there.
8. Harry Maguire – Oh so calm on the ball…oh God no, not there.
9. Phil Jones – Solid and no-nonsense, but a prime candidate to handle in the area or score a stunning own goal. I can see the look of exasperation on his face already.
10. Kyle Walker – Will make mistakes, just a question of whether he can use his pace to get back in time to make up for it.
11. Gary Cahill – Well past his best. Likes to give the ball away in dangerous areas. Not a likely to starter though, so further down the list than he would normally sit.
12. Jamie Vardy – Pressing the ball too hard he picks up his second bookable offence and he’s off, screaming profanities at the referee.
13. Danny Welbeck – The ball breaks for Welbeck, he’s clean through.and he’s bloody fallen over and shanked it into the top tier. Again.
14. Ashley Young – Not too hard to imagine an over-the-top-of-the-ball lunge against a tricky winger who has been getting the better of him.
15. Alexander-Arnold – Young and completely inexperienced at this level. Might be targeted by more savvy and physical opponents as he was by Man U. Will be forgiven, as he is just a baby.
16-23. The rest – Still plenty of potential penalty missers amongst that lot.
Jaymo (Part 2 – ‘readymade excuses’ to follow) LCFC
Looking at the alternative England list this morning, I wondered about players who may be suited to a different position from what they play. For example, John Stones is often mentioned for his ability to play out from the back. Why then doesn’t he try playing as a defensive mid? With Fernandinho aging and him having lost his place this season, if he were clever, surely he should work on adapting?
I’ve always thought that Aaron Ramsay would have made a decent striker as he has a tremendous eye for goal.
Perhaps other readers could suggest alternative positions? Yay, a game!
No stick for Southgate
I’m genuinely surprised by the amount of surprise/alarm that the England squad has generated.
He’s picked a squad that includes players that have been in previous (and recent) squads – a very sensible idea, and one that I’ve been screaming out for for ages.
In the last squad he gave debut opportunities to Mawson, Tarkowski and Cook. The First two, Southgate felt hadn’t made the cut, and the latter made it to the Standby list. But they are the only ones who had a realistic chance to make the squad. Tarkowski is the only one who could feel aggrieved that he is not even on the standby list based on Southgate’s reign so far – but we already have plenty of defenders on the plane.
Your 16 Conclusions stated that the error Southgate made was not including players such as Lascelles or Shelvey into the March squad. As soon as that happened, they were only an outside chance to get into the final WC Squad as I for one would not expect him to pick many – if any – that he has not previously had a decent look at. 1 or Maybe 2 at a stretch – then he picked Alexander-Arnold, leaving little or no room for other newcomers to his squad.
So let’s give him a rest, and give Southgate a bit of credit for not bowing to pressure and including too many new faces to integrate into his plans for that is the route to disjointed perfomances. I’d rather have a team who understands how to play together over one with Shelvey shoehorned in there pinging great passes to players that are not on his wavelength.
The deadline to get in to Southgate’s final squad was actually March 15th, not May 16th as many would have you believe.
All the evidence points to Gareth Southgate being a decent, thoughtful man, and on a personal level I’m glad the response to his squad, such as Daniel Storey’s, has been largely so positive. As Daniel says, his tenure has been far bolder than many believed he ever would be, and he’s achieved good results along the way. I think there might be parallels between his experience of breaking into the England team – he went from getting his first cap in December 1995 to playing every minute of Euro ’96 just half a year later – and the way he has, in the main, even-handedly rewarded form and ignored reputation with this squad announcement. If those similarities extend to how England progress in the tournament, then we’re in for a great summer and he’s in for plenty of well-earned praise.
I do have a gripe, or maybe two. Did Fabian Delph and Phil Jones really pull up enough trees to warrant inclusion as, basically, squad filler? I understand what Delph brings (if Phil Jones didn’t play for United, he’d be nowhere near the squad) but by deciding to bring them along, Southgate has missed out on an opportunity to add options where the squad is weakest, its creativity.
The alternative England squad pointed to a general dearth of difference makers, but surely it’s better to have a player or two that you can take a gamble on – Adam Lallana, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Wilshere, Jadon Sancho, Ademola Lookman – than a known commodity at third-choice left back/defensive midfielder, or fourth-choice centre back?
Taking one of the last two names on my list would also have been an acknowledgement of the England youth teams’ unprecedented success last year, and an encouragement to talented, young English players to seek to further their careers overseas. And while I know none of that is in Southgate’s remit going into a World Cup, and that no one he has left out has an indisputable claim to one of the 23 places, I also know we’re far likelier to be undone by an inability to unlock a packed and determined defence than we are to find ourselves lamenting the absence of the solidity that Delph and Jones bring, but which already abounds in the squad.
Will (Sod it, get rid of lovely Welbz too, and bring Lallana, Shelvey and Lookman) O’Doherty
Laughing at Liverpool claiming England credit
I actually agree with KC that Liverpool have a good English core to their team and that’s a positive for them.
Having said that, I can’t be alone in laughing to myself at someone citing one player who is not good enough (his words), one player who is retired (did he retire before he joined Liverpool? Can’t be bothered to check) and three players who he admits aren’t in the team because of poor (or even horrendous – again, his words) seasons! That’s five sevenths of his theory based on players who are either available but not selected or have chosen to never play for England again!
If we accept that logic, I would argue that each and every other team in football who has British players that aren’t good enough for the squad (of which there are many), is doing exactly as much for the home nations, thank you very much.
…KC asks this morning if there is another team doing as much for the Home Nations as Liverpool… if he casts his eye just half a mile across Stanley Park he will find his answer and not just with established international but some great prospects for the future. With players that have played for the 1st team this year Everton could get a full starting 11 of ENGLISH players never mind Home Nations playing a 5-4-1 formation:
Pickford (GK) 2 Caps
Baines (LWB) 30 Caps
Jagielka (CB) 40 Caps
Keane (CB) 4 Caps
Holgate (CB) 0 Caps
Kenny (RWB) 0 Caps (U20 World Cup Winner)
Lookman (LM) 0 Caps (U20 World Cup Winner)
Rooney (CM) 119 Caps
Davies (CM) 0 Caps
Walcott (RM) 47 Caps
Calvert – Lewin (FW) 0 Caps (U20 World Cup Winner)
Then we have McCarthy, Coleman and Williams who are Home Nation internationals, with some very good young Home Nations players out on loan such as Dowell, Pennington, Browning, Galloway and a few more. I haven’t checked other clubs but can anyone else filed a starting 11 of English players that have played minutes for the 1st team this season??
Kev (Irishman thinking this Everton 11 is better than the 11 England might start with in Russia)
…Interesting perception from KC (they all would have hoped for first team and squad place at the start of the season) claiming that Liverpool are doing a lot for the England team.
Gives examples of…
Gomez – fair enough, but is he really better than Trippier?
Clyne – who has been very poor?
Milner – who retired from English football before he signed for Liverpool.
Ox – signed this season after being developed at Arsenal.
Solanke – Not good enough for England by his own admission
Sturridge – Loaned out to West Brom because he was crocked – got crocked.
Lallana – fair enough.
I’m not suggesting that Liverpool aren’t contributing to what looks like an exciting England squad, but let’s not get carried away.
Jack (How did Danny Welbeck make that squad?) Belfast
…KC, yes. Here are a list of teams that are doing more for England than Liverpool.
Not only do these teams have more players in the squad than Liverpool, they also have lots of players who also aren’t going to the World Cup for various reasons. In fact, if we’re counting retired and not good enough as reasons yet strangely somehow still counting that as a positive contribution to British football then maybe Notts County too?
It might be too hot and I might be too crabby but surely this is peak Liverpool fan?
England for the English
Joe asks why we have a ‘stupid rule’ that insists that players who play for England are actually English. Do I even need to answer that? Is it too much to ask that players that represent their country actually have some connection to the place, other than having lived there?
Other countries may bend the rules (very rarely) but that doesn’t mean that everyone should. I mean Mikel Arteta playing for England? It’s laughable.
Let’s try to keep international football meaningful and that means having relatives from that country, being born there or growing up there. Indeed, Camoranesi and Klose, mentioned by Joe, don’t even fit the bill here. Camoranesi had Italian relatives and therefore dual citizenship and Klose’s father was German!
I can’t speak for rugby but the cricket comparison doesn’t really stand up either. All the recent foreign-born players I can think of would qualify under FA rules. Stokes (5 years education), Pietersen (mother), Jordan (grandparents), Trott (grandparent), Strauss (education), Roy (education), Prior (father), Kieswetter (mother), Ballance (grandparents). In fact, read about Jofra Archer and you’ll see that qualifying for England in cricket is harder than doing so in football.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…I have also wondered why in football there are only a few players who don’t play for their national team. I can only think of Deco and Costa.
However, the English are so universally hated that many people choose to play for the country of their grandparents or parents.
Growing up my next door neighbours had an Irish grandad. However, the dad, the son and now the grandson have all been forced to support Ireland.
I take issue with this because my great grandad is Irish and I don’t feel Irish at all. I am English, because that’s where I grew up.
It annoys me that people do this as it encourages segregation. When I see lots of English kids choosing to play for another country it saddens me because they either a) don’t feel a part of the country b) aren’t good enough for England or c) want to play the victim.
So I’d like to ask the mailbox, why do you think that so many kids opt out of being English when it’s a country that they’ve grown up in and made many friends with? Is being English just not exotic enough?
Fat Man Scouse
Simeone no better than Jose
Sorry – did Atletico steal in and win the league when no-one was watching.
Simeone’s Atletico have won the Europa League – the same trophy United won last year, while they’ve finished second – the same position as United – not to mention United could join us with most FA Cup wins this weekend.
I don’t like Jose and find Simeone infinitely the more likeable character but why would United replace one boremaster for another, especially as they wont offer much of an improvement.
City have the best facilities, the best squad and the best manager – they’re also loaded – United have done the best they could – Simeone wouldn’t have changed any of that.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London