Wednesday, 25 June 2014

England - A frank and honest assessment

NB. Apologies for any profanities below. This is a subject which is very close to my heart and I have very strong opinions on it.

Being an England fan is difficult. We very rarely have anything to cheer about despite being the country that invented the beautiful game and introduced it to the world.
It's an unconditional love. It doesn't matter how shit they are, how many times they mess us about, how badly they treat us, we'll always come crawling back. You only have to look at those hardy souls who applauded the team off the pitch last night against Costa Rica.

England players given standing ovation after lacklustre display
Every tournament that comes and goes we have thousand of loyal fans who spend a fortune and put every other thing in their life on hold to travel the breadth of the planet to roar our boys on. You just know that they'll be doing it again in France '16 and Russia '18, should we qualify (definitely not a given).
And they do it because we believe. We always believe. Every single tournament, deep down we fool ourselves into thinking 'whatif...?'
This time around expectation was lower than normal (which we were told would work in our favour), but surely I wasn't alone in thinking we were going to get out of the group, and then who knows what will happen? I'm fairly confident we'd have had enough to get past Greece, but Colombia would have ripped us a new arsehole.

I really like Roy Hodgson, as I've made clear previously. He is a proper gentleman, in the Bobby Robson mould. He conducts himself well, and the players both like him and respect him. He knows the game and has a proven track record of getting the most out of average players (which should be a prefect fit for this job).
Results aside, it looked like he got the preparation for the World Cup spot on from an outsiders point of view. Even his squad selection was basically what most others wanted to see (leaving out Ashley Cole for Leighton Baines was still his biggest mistake). Out with the old, in with the new. We were all relatively happy going into the tournament.
However, I have to admit I'm starting to run out of patience after the displays this World Cup.

Great performance Roy!
The display last night was a disgrace akin to the Algeria match in South Africa 4 years ago in my opinion. There was no fight or desire from the players, very little skill, some dreadful finishing and some quite laughable play from a number of individuals. These were players who were supposed to want to make an impression! And once again all we're hearing from Roy and his coaching staff is how positive it was!

"I take positives - this was a banana skin. To get that display was great since for many it was new. I am pleased at least to have given the fans something to cheer about in terms of our performance."

I am completely fed up of hearing this bullshit. We're not fucking stupid, you can't just tell us it was encouraging and expect us to believe it! We all saw it with our own eyes, it was truly painful to watch.
Even Glenn Hoddle (a man who's views I respect) was saying at half time what a good performance it had been. Sorry, but we must have been watching an entirely different match!?
The past two weeks have just been shit chat about how great everything is. Gary Neville told us in the aftermath of the opening game defeat to Italy that it was the best an England side had played in 15 years. Firstly, where is this 15 years coming from? Secondly, I'd disagree. What about hammering Denmark in Japorea '02? Or beating Argentina in the same tournament? What about Croatia away in qualifying for Euro '08 under the much maligned Steve McClaren? Admittedly there haven't been loads of great performances, but give me a break. We bloody well lost, it doesn't matter how heroic you think we were in the process!

The last really good England team - we could have won it in 2002!
After every tournament we get the same old bollocks about how we're building for X number of years time!! Hodgson has now said that it's going to take this squad six years to fulfil any potential. Where's the fucking progress?! Do we just keep pushing the bar on a few years and turn a blind eye? It's just accepting failure over and over again.

All this tournament has done is made me realise just how shit we actually are and how depressing the situation is. There are literally no positives to take from it in my eyes (Sterling at a push). One point from a possible nine, against the team expected to be the whipping boys of the group.
Yes, Shaw, Sterling, the Ox and Barkley look extremely exciting prospects, and there is still time for Wilshere (though he's got to improve massively!), plus I seriously rate Flanagan and especially Stones (both of whom should have been in the squad at the expense of Jones and Smalling - see my pre World Cup blog), but the rest (Cahill, Rooney, Walcott and Hart aside) are just not up to it!

I'm bored sick of hearing how good Adam Lallana is - I want some fucking proof! He's now played 9 times for England, and I can't remember a single thing he's done? Yes, he had a great season for Southampton, but it just hasn't happened at international level yet.
Hoddle keeps banging on at every given opportunity about what a talent he is and that the rest of the team aren't on his wavelength. Just get a room Glenn.

Lallana - I'm not convinced
And how fucking poor was Sturridge?! Last night in particular, but throughout the tournament if the truth be told. Really disappointing!! He missed so many chances it wasn't funny. I don't remember their keeper ever having to even make a save out of him? Would Suarez or Van Persie kept missing those chances?
The penalty he should have had - a better player would have controlled the ball into the space on his right side, away from the defender and buried it! And then there was a piece of control I'd have been embarrassed to watch on the local park on a Sunday morning in the second half when the ball ricochet to him. He is nowhere near world class as things stand and must improve on his finishing.

Jageilka should be nowhere near another squad, Baines should be back up at best, Henderson (who I thought would be good) might just be a willing runner, I don't know? Johnson should be dropped until he gets his act together. As I said pre tournament, he has been coasting for ages, and his attitude stinks.

As much as I think having Gerrard and/or Lampard around is useful, their time is up now. They have to retire (that said, the game was crying out Frank against Uruguay in my opinion).
Gerrard had a particularly poor tournament, going missing/being over run in both of his matches and making the crucial mistake that led to the knock out blow.

Thanks for everything lads but time's up
Until we as a country become more cynical in our play I genuinely don't think we can compete. The margins are so fine at the top level, every little thing counts, and we need to give ourselves the biggest chance possible. Uruguay are the best possible example of country who will do absolutely anything required to win (as we've seen countless times). And we are far, far too nice.
As the ball broke to the Uruguayan midfielder in the middle of the pitch in the lead up to their first goal, someone should have just chopped him down, both Gerrard and Henderson had the opportunity. Danger evaded, simple as that. Take a booking. Watch any other team, and you'll see them do it, but not us.
Go back to that game against Brazil in 2002. 1-0 up and looking good. Ronaldinho picks the ball up deep into his half and runs half the pitch without being taken out. First Beckham and then Scholes are guilty of feeble challenges that don't end the run. You know the rest.
The Maradona goal (the non cheating one) in Mexico '86 was the same. How many people did he get passed?
I can assure you that every single other country would not allow that to happen, but we are too fair, too honest. Until that changes, these things will continue to happen.
My blood has only just stopped boiling at the sheer naivety of not kicking Suarez out of the game last Thursday. Let's just say if I was on the coaching staff I'd have had certain instructions as to how to deal with him.
Yes, it's not nice, and yes it's probably beyond the edges of the laws of the game. It might not even be in keeping with the Corinthian spirit, but I guarantee you it's only us who see it this way.

I am feeling completely deflated today. What a shit couple of weeks after all the build up, and four years of waiting. I never thought I'd say this, but the rest of the tournament just isn't appealing to me like I thought it would. Gutted isn't the word.
But, despite all this, I love England with all my heart. It doesn't matter what they do to me, I always will.

Can you find any positives? Is there any glimmer of light? Did that really happen?!

Leave your comments below and please follow me on Twitter: @russellheaps

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