Good luck

June 30, 2010

Good luck to the remaining teams, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Holland, Paraguay, Spain and Uruguay. We will be watching the final stages with interest. Last but not least, well done to South Africa for organising such a great tournament.

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The last post

June 30, 2010

Well, the dust is settling, the team have arrived back and the country is not happy. Fabio Capello takes a lot of criticism. His standard of English, his tactics, his squad selection, his team selection, his substitutions and last but not least his nationality. The players do not fare much better, with the major criticisms of lack of effort and being too comfortable in their lifestyles. The FA come in for scrutiny too, not least with their decision to renew the manager’s contract before the tournament, and thus being liable for a big pay off should they seek to replace the manager. With Capello showing no inclination to resign there is a sticky situation to be resolved.

Excuses have been put forward such as tiredness due to the domestic season, but this does not ring so true when we see overseas players in the Premiership performing well at the World Cup. For whatever reason the World Cup finals were a disaster for the national team. Maybe we do need a winter break, but it is not certain that is the answer.

Certainly the feeling of the country is that it is time to start anew. New manager, new players and new attitudes. An English manager seems to be the preference amongst the fans. Let’s build a young team, selecting players that will still be in their twenties in 2014. It remains to be seen how the England team’s performance will impact the national game as a whole, one thing is for sure, there are alot of football fans that are very disappointed and let down by this latest chapter in the national team’s history. We qualified well, but when the time to produce and deliver came, nothing happened. Two draws, one win and our worst ever World Cup defeat… that was our World Cup.

Germany 4 England 1

June 27, 2010

Quite simply outplayed. The match will I am certain be available to view should you wish to see it. Yes, England had a goal disallowed, and yes it could have been a turning point. If a team goes in at half time, hard done by and competitive, then there is a reason to battle. That the battle never materialised is perhaps the saddest point of the game. Instead Germany scored, deservedly two more goals. England’s World Cup is over.

What the future holds is anybody’s guess. A root and branch review has to be conducted. Perhaps a new way of managing the team? The players are selected on a match by match basis , why not the manager? Redknapp, Hodgson, Allardyce all contributing their thoughts on a match by match basis.

If we should learn anything from this game, it is the fact that we need to rebuild. The current crop are finished. Let’s build a young new team without the baggage of the so called “golden generation”. In many ways, it is good to know that up and coming football players are untarnished by this challenge, the future is Joe Hart, Adam Johnson, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and yet to be known players. Bring in the experienced players when needed but build the team around young players who want to play for England. It is harsh but true the England challange never materialised. What the future holds is anybody’s guess, will Capello resign? (it would be the honourable thing to do, and if so, let us review the whole way that we pick the national team). What we do need is a fundamental change of ideas. Capello is perhaps too conservative, and as a nation perhaps we are too.

In the final analysis we will all look for reasons for our latest failure, but quite simply, nobody wanted to go out, seize the moment and make it happen. Until this happens we will lose competitive football matches.

The stage is set for Wayne

June 25, 2010

Lineker, Shearer, Owen. These three names have led the England line and have been at one time the main striker for the national team. Finding these outstanding players the partner they need up front has not always been straightforward. For Lineker it was Beardsley, for Shearer it was Sheringham and for Owen it was Heskey. With the age differences and the changing of times the England front line has always been a bit problematic and the players have overlapped in squad selections. Nonetheless the names Lineker, Shearer and Owen represent three distinct eras of England centre forward.

In January 2003, the first choice was Michael Owen. Heskey had done well with him upfront, but the feeling was we needed a different approach. At the time James Beattie was a prolific goalscorer and his name was bandied about. There was another name…Wayne Rooney, a gifted young teenage football player who was in as much as any person can be, born to play the beautiful game. By Euro 2004, Rooney was Owen’s strike partner. Since that time Rooney has become the unchallenged number one England striker and as per historical precedent, finding him the right partner has been the problem. If in 2004, it had been said the Heskey would be Rooney’s strike partner in the 2010 World Cup finals, it would be fair to say that most people would not have believed it.

Jermain Defoe chosen to become Rooney’s strike partner for the Slovenia game last Wednesday, is now the third player to play upfront up with him this World Cup. Heskey started twice, Crouch has come on and now Defoe seems to be the starting choice. Certainly the choice of Defoe produces a different focus than the choice of an out and out target man to partner Rooney.

Rooney’s World Cup has been patchy so far. He has not impressed and the objective observer would wonder how he could be compared to Lionel Mess and Christiano Ronaldo as the three most gifted players in the tournament? With a maximum of four games left to play in the 2010 World Cup the stage is set for Rooney to take the spotlight. It is an opportunity he should not miss.

The nation knows Rooney well. We have seen the teenager grow into a man, we have seen the petulant side of his character, we have seen the anger and the frustration and we have seen him sometimes be anonymous for club and country. We also have seen the most naturally gifted football player in the English game, we have seen a player with guts and determination and the courage and panache to score goals of sublime quality. We have seen tireless work rates and wonderful team work in creating goals. Rooney is essentially a fantastic player. The world has not seen it yet in this World Cup.

There is something special about the nation’s relationship with Rooney. It is amazing how much leniency he is treated with, the sending off in World Cup 2006 in Germany against Portugal, saw Sven ask the media not to crucify Rooney, and give him the chance to flourish, as his undoubted talent should be nurtured. There is the occassional display of petulance as displayed when Rooney left the pitch after the dismal 0-0 draw against Algeria however the nation has kept it’s pact with Rooney. He is a popular guy and we have seen him mature as a person. We essentially like him and forgive his faults understanding that perhaps we put too much pressure on him.

Well the time has come for Rooney. He is now twenty four and should be at the height of his footballing abilities. There is no guarantee he will be in the next world cup, and whilst it is not fair to pin the nation’s hopes squarely on the shoulders of Rooney, it is fair to hope that he will produce the performance that we know he is capable of and that the rest of the world can watch in awe.

Well, the stage is set for the Rooney performance. If Wayne can be relaxed, enjoy the experience, be focused on his abilities, maintain a cool head and most importantly realise his natural ability (that does include his name in the same breath as the current world’s best players) and link up with Defoe effectively, we may have stumbled upon the most potent strike force that between them have the qualities of Lineker for poaching goals, the power of Shearer, the guile of Beardsley, the pace of Owen and the thought and composure of Sheringham. Certainly if we are to progress these qualities will be needed. Wayne the stage is set for you, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will put in the performance that will excite the world. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Germany on Sunday

June 24, 2010

By the fact we are runners up in the group we find ourselves in the difficult half of the draw. If we make it past Germany, we will face Argentina or Mexico in the quarter finals. The USA, the group winners have to contend with Ghana, and then the winners of Uruguay and South Korea. That we got out of the group is good, but let’s realise we have given ourselves a lot to do. We are ranked 8th in the World, to realise our World ranking we have to make it to the quarter finals.

Germany are a work in progress and have some good players and of course the indominatable German spirit. It will be a tough game. Whilst we celebrate our victory yesterday, we should not get carried away. Progress from the group was of course the major aim in the first phase. To not make it as group winners can be seen as a failure. Not a major failure but nonetheless we find ourselves with the prospect of playing some very tough teams. If we are to progress, the players and the manager will have to step up a gear and play some World class football. Without being over optimistic, the bar has been raised, but it is not beyond our capabilities. We will have to see the England team that we believe exists and can take on the best, and most importantly win. A winning attitude has to prevail.

England 1 Slovenia 0

June 23, 2010

After a nervy start in Port Elizabeth England gradually got into the game and the confidence began to come through. A goal by Defoe after twenty minutes set the pattern of the game. England looked for a second throughout the game, it was not to come, and there was always the possibility of Slovenia equalising. England did dominate the game in terms of possession and overall threat. The last few minutes were pretty nervy and mention should be made of the defence. They played very well, Terry and especially Upson making heroic blocks to prevent Slovenia from getting a late equaliser. Joe Cole came on for Wayne Rooney, and late on Heskey came on for Defoe.

Due to the USA defeating Algeria, Slovenia are eliminated and England go through as group runners up. So we’ve got our win, we’ve seen Joe Cole come on and the team spirit seemed to be there. We await our opponents for Sunday afternoon’s game in Bloemfontein.

Team selected for Slovenia match

June 23, 2010

England starting XI: David James; Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson, John Terry, Ashley Cole; James Milner, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard; Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe

Still no Joe Cole. Heskey makes way for Defoe, Upson in for the suspended Carragher and Milner in for Aaron Lennon. Will Milner play on the right or left? Really not sure about this team.

The day of reckoning

June 23, 2010

This afternoon will determine whether the team will be staying in South Afica or on their way home. The team selection is cause for discussion, Heskey? Joe Cole? Upson to partner Terry? Will Milner make another start? Come on England, let’s get this right and enter the last 16 of the tournament.

All red tomorrow

June 22, 2010

England will be wearing an all red strip tomorrow for the game against Slovenia tomorrow.

The group is stronger than the individual

June 22, 2010

The question of the atmosphere in the England camp has been the talk of the papers. John Terry has said;

“I went into yesterday’s press conference with the intention of being honest. I was asked a question about Joe Cole and maybe I went too far. But it was never my intention to upset the manager or the players and if I did upset anyone, I apologise.

“I have told the manager he has my total support and I don’t believe I have been a disruptive influence in the camp.”

Frank Lampard was the player chosen for yesterday’s press conference and he did a good job of explaining that basically there is no great rift in the camp, that John Terry was just expressing his passion, and that Fabio Capello has the full support of the squad. It has been suggested that of course players talk about the games and of course they might express opinions, that is normal in any work place. The media certainly are trying to paint a picture of Terry as some sort of Machiavellian figure organising some sort of coup d’etat, motivated by the stripping of the captaincy last February. Basically I am not sure that John Terry is so politically motivated. He is the captain of his club Chelsea and is used to being a mouthpiece for the players. Fabio Capello has described Terry’s comments as a “big mistake” and reminds us that the group is stronger than the individual.

It might be a good thing that this situation has occurred, at the very least it might alleviate any boredom as the players pick over the papers and see the next installment of the soap opera that they are participating in, albeit unwillingly. It could also bring together a togetherness brought about by events. The ‘us against the world’ attitude does serve some teams well. Tomorrow’s game could change the mood completely.