Thursday, November 22, 2007

Before and after

Before… those who say Steve McClaren has been given a lifeline by Israel beating Russia are wrong. I’m no fan of McClaren, but the fact that England need to draw with Croatia in their final match is merely a scheduling anomaly. The only way to ensure qualification remains in your hands is to win every game; a feat no team in Europe achieved. If the schedule of games were rearranged and the results were the same; which given that the minor highs and lows – injuries, bad decisions – even themselves out, is a reasonable assumption; then the outcome would be the same. The man can’t be judged until it’s all over…

And after… It’s all over and Jesus, how many chances did you need? How many mistakes can you make? McClaren inherits a team from Sven Goran Eriksson that is amongst the top 8 in the world. Rather than tweaking, he bows to the media hysteria shows that he’s his own man and drops the captain David Beckham.

After a number of bad results he finds himself having to pick in-form Beckham and ultimately reassembles the team Eriksson created. Results improve. Injuries return and it falls apart again. Lead against Russia, qualification beckons – lose to Russia. Israel beat Russia, qualification beckons – go two down to Croatia. Manage to get back to 2-2, qualification beckons – concede another goal. And out you must go.

In reality he screwed up against Macedonia when he was still showing the world he was being his own man. When they were getting bogged down in that game, they needed a player who could change a game with one pass… and Beckham was in Madrid.

The domination of the so-called Golden Generation disguises how weak this generation of England players are. Which is mind-boggling coming from the richest football country in the world. Although maybe we should get real – this isn’t an English league, it’s a global brand. Don’t be surprised to see a Premiership game staged in China or the US soon.

And what of the Golden Generation? They’re great players for their clubs. But the role they play is as the iconic battling bulldog whilst the Carlos Kick-a-bouts do all the fancy stuff. Modern club sides are like that; they take the best qualities from the countries around the world and blend them into a team. The English players bring English qualities; put them all together its just one boorish headless mob which the more technically able intelligent countries can just play around.

Eriksson got that and tried to slow everything down, but that was viewed as having a lack of passion - McClaren just didn’t get and turned England into a pub team. It was so badly exposed last night; I could do no more than laugh at every farcical turn.


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