The dream is over for at least another few years – consigned to an early flight home post the Italian slump against Costa Rica.
Tom Sheen’s Independent report http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/worldcup/england-out-of-the-2014-world-cup-what-next-for-the-23-men-in-roy-hodgsons-squad-9553856.html attempts to look at individual players and whether they should stay or go. To be honest, there’s not a lot to disagree with – getting rid of anyone approaching the end of their careers makes a bit of sense – but getting rid of Danny Welbeck shows a major lack of understanding of what he was asked to do and what he’s capable of. In the whole article and in particular that very comment about Welbeck, Sheen highlighted what’s wrong with British football and football journalists.
Football is a team game and this World Cup, more than any other I’ve seen, shows what’s possible if you get the right blend. Look how the likes of Costa Rica, Chile, USA, Algeria & even Australia have performed. Yet we always focus on the individuals and not the collective.
England have played ok so far – certainly better than 2010 in South Africa when pulling your own toenails out seemed preferable to watching the team’s struggles. England has the players to make a good impression on any tournament and the constant suggestion otherwise is ridiculous – would Clint Dempsey, Brian Ruiz, Tim Cahill, Medel – all heroes for their countries get into an England squad – not a chance. It’s the blend that hasn’t been right and that goes right back to every tournament since 1970.
Here’s an example. In 1966 England had a great striker by the name of Jimmy Greaves. Scored for fun. First name on the team sheet and all that. But did he play in the Final ? No ! For the good of the overall team he was left out. A very hard decision for Ramsey to make, but he put the team before the individual and the rest is history. Scroll forward to 2014 and Daniel Sturridge. A gifted player who is regarded as the most natural finisher in the England team. Yet a player known to be “team” challenged as shown with his struggles at Man City and Chelsea – his relative success at Liverpool owes much to the selfless players around him. All of a sudden he has become a first choice pick, yet England have never scored more than one goal from open play when he has started (the only game we scored more came with 2 central defenders scoring from corners). Yes he’ll score the odd goal (over the last 12 months pre-tournament he’d scored the same number of England goals as Danny Welbeck) but the team will suffer because of the way he plays. I’m certain we’d be talking about progression to the next round if Lambert had been playing instead – I’m not saying he’s a better player, but he’d make the team into a better team.
So what next for Roy. Set out the style that will get the most out of our best players – attacking football, high tempo, loads of energy and closing the opposition down quickly – a bit like the Premiership really. Then pick the best team to make that happen. If that means a few better individuals suffer for the good of the team then so be it. He’ll need to be brace, but success will soon follow