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When it comes to assessing the current England situation, it’s impossible to know where to begin. Firstly, there was the disaster in France. From start to finish, the whole tournament was a joke, from conceding softly in the last minute to Russia, scraping past Wales and drawing a blank against Slovakia. Luckily we thought we were handed an easy passage to the quarters when we were given Iceland in the last 16, a country with a population the size of Leicester. Oh how wrong we were. Iceland played like Leicester and toppled us, giving us our lowest moment in England’s footballing history. The result was even more damaging by the fact that we were outfought, out battled and out played by the minnows from Scandinavia, and truthfully the 2-1 result did England justice.
Out goes Hodgson and in comes the saviour, the man every team seem to turn to when faced with crisis, Big Sam Allardyce. A man who has craved the England job since what seems like before time itself.
Sam promised wholesale changes and an instant improvement in performances. On his debut match against Slovakia, the ten men of Slovakia I’ll remind you, England had to rely on a last minute goal from, perhaps our best and most important player, Adam Lallana to claim the three points. A far from vintage performance, but Sam can boast a winning start. It looked like England had finally found a manager who, one way or another, will grind out the right results and put us back on track.
But the drama doesn’t stop there. It’s England so of course nothing is as simple as that. Enter the Telegraph newspaper scandal. We will never quite know the full details of this, but it involves Sam Allardyce being filmed slating the FA, Gary Neville and Roy Hodgson, as well as taking a bribe to tell businessmen how to bend the rules of the FA’s transfer policy, all whilst admitting to using third party ownership. Despite, technically, being the most successful England manager of all time with his 100% win record, Sam Allardyce left his post in disgrace, and for the second time in under 100 days, the FA found themselves once again looking for a new manager.
The man they turned to? The relatively unknown Gareth Southgate, a man perhaps best known for his penalty miss in Italia 90.
The appointment of Southgate on a temporary basis is arguably a good choice. The FA have moved away from their previous style of appointment, an aging man who is towards the tail end of the career, reflected by Capello, Hodgson and Allardyce, and towards a young, ambitious manager who knows the current England youth. Although an uninspiring choice, I feel that out of the choices available, it’s the only option that makes sense.
We’ve gone for the foreign approach in Capello, and we all know the outcomes of that, so that rules out looking abroad. Glen Hoddle was a name that was banded about left right and centre but he’s had his go. Other names like Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche are no way going to leave a promising club career behind to tarnish their reputation just yet. Hence why Southgate, a man who was of course successful with the Under 21’s, is the only real option.
Although his first two games as a manager have been rather underwhelming, time will tell whether he is the man to take us into Russia 2018. The first, and perhaps biggest decision he will ever make, regards a certain Wayne Rooney. You can argue that the media have been a tad harsh on England’s all-time record goal scorer, but I feel the criticism is more than justified. In the striker role, Rooney is way behind Sturridge, Kane, Rashford, Vardy and Welbeck in the pecking order. In the attacking midfield role, Dele, Lallana, Barkley and Sterling are way ahead of him. And there is no way he should be playing in holding midfield. I think it’s time for him to either accept his status as a squad player, or just hang up his international boots and allow the younger generation, backed by a young and fresh manager, to have their turn in bringing some glory for England.
Southgate’s first real test comes in November, against arch-rivals Scotland. In the FA’s eyes; beat Scotland and the job is yours. Ditch Rooney, start Rashford, and England should breeze past Scotland.
But, having had 3 managers in under 100 days, a humiliation to Iceland, a blank with Slovenia, an unproven manager and an under-fire captain, there have been worse times for the Scots to face England. Don’t be surprised to see Scotland win, which would just sum up the summer that England have had.
Things can only get better, can’t they?