And so another England game is consigned to the history books. It is a sign of just how little is expected of England that this morning, the press is writing up this performance as ‘reinvigorating.’ Indeed, much of the press coverage seems to see it as a return to some sort of form.
This is pure delusion.
The game was a bore-fest, England do bore-fest very well, so in that sense it was a return to form. Most fans no longer expect a scintillating, high speed attacking performance from their national side, those that do should be strapped into straight jackets and fed Thorazine.
By now everyone is familiar with England’s malaise. Always too static and unimaginative to break open defences, they have neither real pace nor much creativity. They midfield is dysfunctional because of Lampard’s puzzling continuing presence despite his best efforts to play bad enough to be dropped. Defensively we are solid but lack pace. And we have no classy strikers who even look remotely like scoring. I’m no fan of Owen at the best of times but all this utter bollocks about ‘getting another game under his belt’ as some sort of positive is pure hokum. Since when did we use the England team as some sort of physiotherapy recovery service for crocked players? If he’s not up to speed – and he’s way off – then he shouldn’t be playing until he is. The England side for too long has been a home for people who used to be good and who we’re just hoping can be good at least one more time. It’s pathetic, and smacks of weak management as well as a very shallow pool of talent to choose from. And we all know why that is.
Beckham’s return was welcomed by many fans, and he duly delivered, as he almost always does. In a team of 5 out of 10’ers, Beckham’s 7 out 10 performances stand out. Last night was no different. This doesn’t mean he’s a world beater, but it does mean he’s worth his inclusion. If he hadn’t been playing we’d have lost 1-0 because there was simply no way we were going to score from open play. And that’s what Beckham has done for England throughout his career as captain. He saved our asses by a sweetly hit free kick. No one on that pitch or on the bench would have hit that free kick so exquisitely for Terry to nod in. We shouldn’t forget all the set plays he took that were over hit and didn’t get past the first man either – there’s no virtue in trying to make out he’s a genius of unrivalled stature, but he plays better than any other player who pulls on the England shirt.
With England’s paucity of talent available combined with an uninspiring, vacillating and weak manager who seems not to know his own mind from game to game, there is no reason to expect anything other than mediocrity from England. Fans have given up expecting more. What I continue to fail to understand is why, given the failing nature of the side, the same players keep being picked. A team that performs well does not have to have the 11 best players in the country in it. That’s obviously not how football works. Recent tournaments have shown the side that is full of the best players doesn’t always win. It is the unity and organisation of the team that matters. We so obviously don’t have unity or understanding that some radical selection decisions would do no harm. Just playing Lampard time and time again when he’s doing nothing – he was utterly anonymous last night apart from when he failed to control the ball, is simply pointless.
Failure to win in Estonia on Wednesday will lead to McClaren being sacked and quite possibly, Paul Jewell, the conveniently unemployed ex-Wigan manager taking over. However, that would be too exciting. The England bore-fest tradition demands hanging on in quiet desperation. We should therefore expect a dreadful performance, slow, heavy footed and lacking in imagination mixed up with a handful of defensive cock-ups. But there will be a set play, Beckham will put a great ball in and someone will score and we’ll scrape through by the odd goal. It will be just enough to keep McClaren his job and no where near enough to make England fall back in love with the national side or abate the widespread notion that McClaren is a second rate manager adrift in a sea of largely average but self deluded talent.
It’s gone beyond being annoying. It’s gone beyond being frustrating. It’s worse than that. It’s just really, really, fucking boring. And that is England’s greatest sin.
John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.