28 Jun 2016 10:41:29
What the hell happened last night? I've slept on it, I've tried to rationalise it and I'm still no closer to figuring out how England are out of Euro 16. I'll accept the jokes with good grace, the quips about England fans over estimating the quality of our team, it is right and proper that we are the world's punchline again.

But this is something different, make no mistake, not a single Iceland player would make our squad let alone bother our first team, they are a team at a much lower level than England. Last night was a culmination of England's latest abject tournament failure. In 4 games we scored 4 goals against some of the worst teams at the tournament. If we look at those goals only Sturridge's involved any real quality, Dier scored a decent free kick, Vardy's was opportunistic and the penalty, although fair, was a very soft one to give away. At the other end we've also conceded 4 with all 4 involving serious England mistakes.

This simply doesn't make sense. I entered this tournament with real optimism and I will argue till I'm blue in the face that it wasn't misplaced. Qualification went as well as it possibly could, we were free scoring and tight at the back, the fact that it was a soft group isn't really relevant, every group was soft and we were worthy of the best record in Europe. In the warm up games we showed that we were capable of mixing with the best, we may have lost to Spain and Holland but we beat Germany, France and Portugal. In our squad we had two strikers who had scored over 20 goals in the PL and another who, when fit, is better than both of them. We had a young squad full of talent and genuine competition for places. Everything was set up for us to have our best tournament since 1996.

And then the worst England performance I have ever seen happened. Players completely incapable of doing things they should do in their sleep failed. Short passes misplaced, long passes knocked out of play, players tripping over the ball, a keeper letting the ball squirm through his hands and a complete and utter failure to even threaten to score. Iceland were fine, they were limited but organised and took the gifts England offered them but this wasn't a great underdog performance, they simply had to be competent and wait out 90 minutes of England flapping against them.

So what did go wrong, the obvious answer is Hodgson. He messed with a formula that was working and turned it into something stagnant. The arguments about Rooney will go on for years but moving him into midfield will go down in history as a horrible mistake. His performances in midfield were OK (except for last night) but England needed him to be better than OK and he couldn't provide the leadership and drive that England needed from the heart of the team. Whether it was this mistake that led to all the others is debatable but, with the possible exception of Dier, no one emerges from this tournament with credit. Sturridge looked disconnected, Kane barely touched the ball except when he was taking free kicks, Alli didn't take his chance to emerge as a world star, Sterling looks a shadow of the player he was a couple of years ago, Wilshire promised much and delivered nothing, Barkley didn't even get on the pitch and then there's the defence who completely fluffed their lines every time they were actually asked to defend.

So what next? I maintain that this squad has talent, it may not be at the level of France '00 or Spain '10 but it's good enough to get to the latter stages of the next 3 tournaments. We need a manager who can competently put a team together and pick players to suit a style of play and not the other way round. Sadly there's no suitable candidate so we'll have to rely on dumb luck. I will go on following England and I will look forward to the World Cup, I'm sure that in 22 months I'll even be excited again. But for now, I'm simply gutted at having to talk, once again, about what could have been.


1.) 02 Jul 2016
02 Jul 2016 08:08:32
Yes, we need a manager that picks a team with a style of play which suits the players chosen and consistency in selection.

I would take issue with some of the so called star players having the necessary talent. They have failed to deliver in the matches that matter against good quality or well organized opposition.

May I suggest that there are some capable managers out there, it just happens that at the FA unless you match their cosy yes man mentality, you will not be given the managers job.

My choice would be big Sam Allardyce who usually gets the best out of some ordinary players - Just like Wales and Iceland have done. What would he achieve with even better players? Wouldn't you agree.