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English Football Still In Disarray

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This time, COS reader Peter has seen a lot of change for England, but everything still ends up the same.

When Steve McClaren was chosen to be the next England manager he was probably the most qualified Englishman for the job. He fits the bill perfectly, he is after all the anti-Eriksson. We will never see his picture flouted all over the papers being accused of romancing women left right and centre.

Instead, like a proper manager, he’s been making the headlines for all the wrong footballing reasons.

Maybe Eriksson’s knack for bedding many women helped distract people from the fact that his sides under-performed but McClaren doesn’t possess such a luxury. The last two big tournaments were supposed to see the golden era of football return to the England national side (although a world cup 40 years ago hardly classifies as a golden era) but both Euro 2004 and Germany 2006 saw lackluster exits to Portugal. It’s hard to imagine a team with Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham, Rooney and Owen couldn’t even make it to the semi finals of a big tournament. People say it’s easy to blame the manager when his players don’t perform but it’s happened so often for the England national team for the last 6 years that you have to look at it from a different angle.

The team selection has not been significantly changed and the system deployed hasn’t been changed since Kevin Keegan left but results have not been too flattering for any of Keegan’ successors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a return to the England fold for Mr. Keegan, far from it, if anyone he was the most scared of bruising big player’s egos.

Holland coach Marco Van Basten has not been scared to drop big names from his squad no matter the reaction. People were shocked when Edgar Davids was omitted from the World Cup squad and even more shocked to see Van Nistelrooy an unused substitute in Holland’s defeat to Portugal in the World Cup. Van Nistelrooy has been subsequently told he has no future with the national team under the current manager even though he is the most prolific Dutch marksman since Van Basten himself. One advantage that Van Basten has is that not only is he one of Holland’s greatest players therefore allowing him a certain freedom of movement but also the Dutch press are slightly more forgiving than their British colleagues.

Admittedly Van Basten doesn’t have the best record for Holland but I don’t think he has the wealth of talent at his disposal that McClaren has.

Everyone has seen that the Gerrard-Lampard partnership doesn’t bring the best out of both players. To his disadvantage Gerrard is much more versatile than Lampard so in an effort to have both play as they are such big names, he has been moved around the park from left wing to up front but ultimately to holding midfielder. When it comes down to it, it’s obvious that Frank Lampard isn’t a big game player.

When was the last time he scored a goal for Chelsea against elite opposition? How many Champions League finals has he scored in? How many cup finals has he single handedly won? If Gerrard and Lampard switched clubs, Gerrard would be in the 30+ goals tally every season and Liverpool would be in danger of relegation. McClaren must drop Lampard and deploy a holding midfielder to fully harness Gerrard’s full potential. Gary Neville is past it on the international stage, pure and simple. He needs to replaced by Micah Richards who is some sort of mix between bull and tank. The kid is powerful, quick and great in the air. He can also shrug Didier Drogba off like he was Andy Johnson. The goalkeeping position should be made up for grabs again because Paul Robinson has been far from convincing and his inability to save penalties may hinder any chances England have of winning a major tournament.

Ultimately Stevie needs to pick the best team and not the best players. In an ideal world the perfect team would be made up of the best players but sadly it’s not that easy. You have to find the correct balance and just putting in all players who play for the big clubs will not cut it. Friendlies are used to check out the latest group of talent but you never know what a player will be like until he is thrown in at the deep end. England need a manager with balls. Controversy will always follow the England manager but if you don’t have the courage of your convictions you’ll get the sack and always ask ‘what would have happened if I’d done this or that?’

England will continue to have mediocre tournaments unless the manager in the hot seat decides to realize that football is and will always be about the team.