As an England fan who’d witnessed the World Cup first-hand in South Africa, I really should’ve known better but I couldn’t help but get sucked in again.
I think it was John Cleese who summed it up best: ” It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand … “
Roy Hodgson: good man, good motivator, good man-motivator.
Good at making substitutions. Good at fostering togetherness in just about every side he ever managed: even Internazionale. But tactically he’s so rigid. Two banks of four. One in the hole, one up top. Two up top. So that’s … er … two tactics ?
It’s just not how football’s played anymore.
The squad did surprisingly well, I thought, especially given the build-up to the tournament and the lack of three or four big name players who you feel could’ve made all the difference.
For me, the defence – typically in a Hodgson side – looked very organised and hard to break down. Joe Hart was imperious between the sticks and will one day become the best in the world (when Casillas hangs up his gloves … so it could be a while yet). Glen Johnson and John Terry, two players I’ve never really rated, really can defend. Johnson’s always been good going forwards, but he’s been a revelation at the back this time round, while Terry’s arguably been our best player alongside Gerrard. Ashley Cole had a fairly subdued tournament by his exceptionally high standards, mainly due to a recurring leg injury, and will have to wait for his 100th cap now that we’re out. Joleon Lescott was steady but unspectacular. He won’t play much in the WC2014 games anyway, once a few other players are fit.
In midfield, Stevie G was excellent and finally looked at his best in an England shirt. Alongside him Parker was okay, but I don’t think there would’ve been much between him or Gareth Barry had he made the trip. Ashley Young was a massive disappointment though – going into the tournament in a rich vein of form, I don’t know if it was the change of formation or the pressure or what but he was a shadow of the Man United player we all love to hate. On the other flank, Mr Ronseal: James Milner. I love him and think he’s severely under-valued by England fans. He also makes Johnson look a better player in the same way Beckham made Gary Neville look like an international full-back for all those years. Walcott did what Walcott does: play well off the bench. The Ox was good for his age but patently not ready to start a game at this level just yet, which begs the question: why take Downing if you don’t rate him either ? Speaking of dead wood, I felt for Jermain Defoe as he really should’ve had more game time. Andy Carroll has the bewildering ability of being able to slow down time when he’s on the ball … I don’t know how he does it, but he looks like he’s running through fudge when he’s dribbling. But he is the best player in the world at cushioning the ball on his chest. Man, he must have a fair old forest of fur under that shirt, the way he caresses a football to the ground with just a flick of his pecs …
Danny Welbeck is another player who looks like he could do with a bit longer in the oven. This tournament was great for his progress, but I can’t help thinking it was too much, too soon for him.
The players that we missed ?
Well, for differing reasons I think Gary Cahill, Jack Rodwell, Jack Wilshere, Micah Richards, Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker and Adam Johnson should all come back into the squad as soon as they’re available. While those most at risk include Phil Jones (unless he suddenly starts playing centre-back for Man Utd), Phil Jagielka, Martin Kelly, Jordan Henderson, Stuart Downing, Parker and Defoe, all of whom I believe will have played their last games for England.
Having said all that, every player who misses a tournament is always much better than those who actually make it … unless, of course, they win the bloody thing.
… with perhaps the only shining light, technically, will be the return of one Joe Cole on the left wing, following his triumphant resurrection at Liverpool, under Brendan Rogers (and I still can’t believe that, either), despite his excellent season playing for the French champions, Lille. The fact he’s called “L’Anglais” in France means nothing to us as the entire nation shoves its collective head in the sand when it comes to our boys playing overseas, don’t we ?
Oh, how we could’ve done with little Joey on the bench against Italy, eh ?
But no … we had Stuart Downing, Phil Jones and Martin Kelly.
I am actually a fan of Mr Hodgson and am certain of qualification from a fairly easy group. I don’t think anyone from it will actually beat us and we’ll probably have the lowest goals against tally of all the nations that make it to Brazil … but then I wouldn’t wonder if we have the least number of goals scored to get through, as well.
Still, it may not be pretty and it may not be sexy, but Roy’s boys will get us there by grinding the opposition into submission.
And then when we’re in Brazil ?
Well, it’s a plucky exit in the quarter-finals on penalties, obviously …