England are not in transition, they are not rebuilding, they are not a ‘young side’ in need of time – they are just rubbish at football.

This is a rant. 

A week prior to the kick-off of England’s Euro 2016 campaign I watched a tremendous BBC documentary regarding the Euro 96 squad that was defeated on penalties by Germany in the semi-finals. A beautiful footballing tale of bravery, organisation, determination of England’s best talent giving their all to end the years of hurt since the famous 66. 

They were unlucky, but they beat The Netherlands, Spain, Scotland and Switzerland on their path to glory, a mean feat indeed.  

Admiring the likes of England legends Shearer, Adams, Gazza and Ince, my excitement for this tournament spilled into cataclysmic levels. As normal with the modern day England fan, my naivety and stupidity is what really made Monday night’s expulsion at the hands of Iceland feel like a punch in the face. The familiar dunderheaded sense of unearned superiority that comes with following England may finally be at an end. 

Such a sense of unearned superiority even found its way into the management staff during the tournament as they decided against pre-watching Iceland play in the flesh, instead taking a boat trip up the Seine. For poor assistant Ray Lewington ‘had not seen Paris,’ and so he and Hodgson departed for steadier waters than they will now return to in England. 

One feels their boat trip could find itself enshrined within other England manager misdemeanours such as Steve McLaren’s ‘wally with a brolly’ episode, or Sven’s fake-sheikh yacht ride. 

Once again the overhyped, overpaid and overindulged England players not only let the country down, but also disgraced it at the same time. What an absolute debacle it was – the lack of basic football skills; a lack of a plan B; bizarre decisions such as taking Dier off, the list goes on.

But we have been here before…  

On July 10th 2014 I penned this article for Kettle Magazine regarding England’s embarrassment in the last World Cup. It bemoaned a lack of passion; a missing footballing identity; another international embarrassment and the hideous realisation that not only are we just not very good at football, but the very nature of our beloved Premier League is what’s crippling us the most. 

Most importantly it crucified this nation’s footballing leader of the past three international tournaments in Roy Hodgson. He had just led England to their WORST ever World Cup. 

Following Monday’s embarrassment, Hodgson immediately resigned with a curiously well-worded and structured speech citing that ‘these things happen’ and that ‘it had been a great journey.’ As par for the course, England were gifted handsomely easy group stages in both World Cup and Euro qualifying rounds. 

It hasn’t been a great journey, Roy. 

The only difference between the forthcoming article and the former article is that in 2014, I believed Raheem Sterling to be the only positive to take from the farce in Brazil.  How times change… 

The Golden Era 

In 2004, England played Ukraine in one of their totally pointless friendlies (you know the ones- where ITV put you through 90 minutes of boring, monotonous Andy Townsend drivel while England kick it around the back four and goalkeeper) and won 3-0 thanks to goals from Beckham, Owen and a young Wright-Phillips, who was making his debut. 

Following the game, the press waxed lyrical about England’s ‘latest crop of new talent’ and even went as far as to say that Wright-Phillips (18), Defoe (21), Jenas (20) and Johnson (19) were going to form one of the greatest ‘young, talented and ambitious’ England squads for years. Now, where have we heard that before? 

After so much promise with our newly crowned ‘golden crop’ of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Stones, Dier, Rashford and co, the boys will be returning to England as pariahs after flattering to deceive once again. Just when the country needed a lift, ey boys? Take a glance at the Brazil boys of 2014 to see how a real team bursting with youthful talent ‘nurtures’ and ‘develops.’ 

People don’t always expect instant success, but was there any signs of development when England were out-thought, outplayed and comprehensively beaten by little old Iceland? Nope…

Hodgson may be quick to burgeon that he was a catalyst for young players appearing in the England set up. He is wrong. 

This is a process that has happened over many years as evidenced in 2004 and we have had better set up teams than this one. A crucial facet of an England team is to utilise the Under-21 system and continue to bring through the country’s youthful talent alongside the experienced professionals. 

Hodgson has not entirely failed in this regard, but shoehorning Dele Alli into the team in a variety of positions threatened to ruin the star’s mercurial talent. After such a promising game in the 3-2 defeat of Germany, the Euros were a sobering experience for the young Spurs midfielder who has played in four different midfield positions since emerging on the international scene. 

Rooney needs to fall on his sword 

Time to retire for our aging face of English football.  With every misplaced pass, touch and cross that accompanied his diabolical evening in Nice, came the louder cries for his retirement from international football. He has served England well, no doubt, but was fortunate to board the plane and seems to be a square peg for a round hole within the current England set up. 

Circumstances pertaining to Rooney’s involvement meant that England switched their well-practiced 4-3-3 formation in order to squeeze the Manchester United man into the line-up. 

Who remembers the impressive 3-2 victory against Germany? Well, we played 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 that night and Rooney was an absentee. From there on, Hodgson had to manufacture a role from somewhere that didn’t mean shifting Kane and Vardy into unfamiliar territory on the wings. Until managers for England start playing players in their correct positions and not picking players on merit rather than name, we will always have fundamental errors. See: Michael Antonio at West Ham, Mark Noble at West Ham etc etc…

Whilst Rooney may have played admirably well in the Russia and Wales games, he was found so desperately wanting against Iceland that the upcoming World Cup must surely be one too many for Rooney. He is playing on borrowed time and should now do the right thing and step aside for a new captain to lead the team. 

The country needs a true leader, one bursting with charisma and belief and not afraid to face the cameras after humiliation and say, “we were terrible, we are sorry,” rather than a load of preempted and media friendly responses like, “we will learn from this.” 

The second man to face the press after Hodgson last night should have been our captain marvel, Wayne Rooney, but where was he? Hiding in the changing rooms. John Terry is the last true England captain, before that Bryan Robson. 

The FA is just as bad as Roy Hodgson 

The FA seems like a place where blokes in suits who know very little about football make a lot of money making stupid decisions and intervening where they are not wanted. Who remembers the £90 England shirts before the World Cup?

The FA have made some compelling decisions over the years, not least to continue with the blatantly out of his depth Roy Hodgson after the World Cup. To add insult to injury, FA boss Greg Dyke decided to make comment on Hodgson’s future DURING this Euros- a strange decision, indeed. To crank up the heat in the pressure cooker that was already in overdrive since England finished second in the group seemed slightly harsh on Roy, who continued to look lost in the dugout. 

When asked what Hodgson needed to do to have his contract renewed, Dyke said:

“Quarter-final if we have played really well, hit one of the best sides and lose or go out on penalties. That is the sort of discussion that will go on.”

What a truly bizarre comment to make. Smacking of a defeatist attitude, comments such as this show how far English football has fallen. If Dyke can’t see that discussing the manager’s position during a tournament is wrong, then he is more of a fool than I first thought. 

The FA should be the hub of English football, where some of England’s finest ex-footballers and football people are hired to make all the FOOTBALL decisions. Not businessmen in suits.  

An interesting fact: 

Iceland has one Uefa B licence coach for every 825th member of the population. In England that number rises to one per 11,000. 

So what does our multi-million pound football organisation do all year round? Are we even bothered about improving our excruciatingly dilapidated grassroots system? 

Will we ever get this right?

FA jobs for the boys 

The suits at the FA will be lining up another Hodgson-esque bloke to wear the suit and the FA blazer with style, if you get what I’m saying. They will hire another ‘yes man’ to take the reigns, and one who won’t rock the boat or question the FA. Typically, Gareth Southgate is an early favourite to take the job. He is like a mini-Hodgson. 

Should he inevitably get the job, I will put down on record now to say that in four years time we will be just as hacked off about the state of England’s football team as we are now. The man was responsible for Middlesbrough’s most tragic and most expensive signing ever- Alfonso Alves- and whilst he might have done good work with the under 21’s, it is no time for an untested coach to be assigned to steady a ship that is on the verge of capsizing. Southgate won’t provide the oak-tree sturdiness that England requires right now.

“They have sold a Skoda for a Lamborghini, the English Premier League is average and a fraud”

Didi Hamann

England’s defeat to Iceland should have been predicted. Iceland is a nation with arguably the best youth coaching set-up in the world, football’s greatest first-world overachievers and possess a manager who used the qualifying campaign to structure himself a TEAM predominantly from the Icelandic league.

They faced an English set of individuals continually harking back to the ‘greatest league in the world- the Premier League’.  Home to the quick-fix leviathan of waste and mangled talent that is English football- a Premier League where players are fast-tracked on a conveyor belt of talent rather than meticulously crafted and made. 

This was our hotbed of talent: where Harry Kane takes free kicks and shanks them explicitly wide, where players like Wilshere fail to control basic passes, and Joe Hart, our ‘greatest keeper for years’ lets two absolute howlers in.  

All this money being funnelled from TV rights is exposing the division for its crude commercial interests, a far cry from its suffering but traditional lower league system that see a mere and completely insulting 5% of the billions. 

If Premier League clubs were instructed to field a quota of English players, they might start coaching them more seriously rather than loaning all of their hoarded young’uns out to lower league clubs until their 25. 

They might also think twice about setting up a ridiculous U21 cup competition aligned with the Johnston’s Paint Trophy. If Premier League bosses want to mess around with their league, go for it, but don’t ruin the one thing that is fundamentally great about English football’s lower league echelons. 

Hamann is right- the Premier League is average and a vacuum for impatience, narrow-mindedness and a lack of foresight. We force our supporters to pay in excess of £50 to watch it and wonder why the average man is being forced away from our once proud working class sport. In damning comparison to German football and their impressive involvement of supporters, we are a far cry from being a flagpole for what is good about football. The real tragedy here is the continuing obsession for young persons to support a club miles from their homeland, just to say: ‘I support a Premier League club.’

Maybe herein lies the problem- the British football supporter is too transfixed on glory and instant success to realise the true beauty in development, years of hard-work and suffering before the utter elation of unexpected but unbridled success.  

Rec2143 by ivannasee-somebutts

To conclude

Iceland has 40,000 males of footballing age. We have more than that in prison. 

Iceland’s coach is a part-time dentist; Roy Hodgson earned 4 million this year. 

Congratulations to Iceland, who played a tremendous game and totally dismantled England from minute one through to the end. 

Their manager masterfully set his team up and nullified England’s attempts to stretch them with overlapping wingbacks. They rendered Walker and Rose complete passengers in the match. 

England conceded from a throw-in seconds after going ahead, despite persistent warning from pundits about the Icelandic quality from throw-ins. 

Iceland were prepared, England were not. 

It is time to accept that England are not in transition, are not rebuilding, and are not a ‘young side’ in need of time. 

They are just not very good at football.