To whom it might concern,

We are in crisis. Established figures from the footballing world have consistently failed to deliver the results England needed, when they were most needed. Our national side has become a laughing stock. Change – real change – is urgently needed. To that end, I offer my candidacy for the position of England first team manager.

I am not experienced in the footballing world (though I won the 2020 Euros on Football Manager with England), but I suggest this might be a good thing. I bring with me no preconceptions, and none of the entitlement that goes with being part of the ‘establishment’. Instead, I am a clean slate, as it were, and a clean slate is what we need.

We have watched as the Spanish and the Germans have redeveloped their game at grassroots level, and it has yielded them incredible results, yet we refuse to anything similar. Instead of dithering, we need to act – clubs must be prepared to absorb short-term pain for long-term success (and a firm system for developing young English players will ultimately benefit our clubs too). It is incomprehensible to me that we would continue to try the same failed ideas and expect different results – that is the very definition of stupidity.

We must build our platform, accepting there will be problems, especially early on, but not getting disheartened by them. With a nucleus of young and skilful players like Alli, Dier, Kane and Rose (not to mention Sturridge, Lallana, Sterling and Rashford), we may yet go somewhere, but we lack meaningful depth. We rely on the reputation of certain players more than we do form. This needs to change. The work to change the very structure of our game has to start now. Clubs – right across the leagues – need incentives to develop English players and get them playing regularly. Money needs to stop being the key driving force of our clubs.

Clubs may not like it, but the Football Association is the final authority on the sport and needs to wield that authority. As manager, I would back such moves and expect the same support in return.

Player egos need to brought under control. I will not pick anyone on the basis of reputation. I will not tolerate anyone thinking they are bigger than the team. Representing the nation and wearing the Three Lions should be a matter of pride and honour. Giving 100% in every game should be a given. If a player – any player – expects to be given an England shirt because they are somehow entitled to it, they will swiftly find themselves out of the squad. If they fail to perform for their clubs, or behave in a manner unbecoming the shirt (for club or country) they will be dropped.

There will be no club cliques when representing England. If this means enforced seating plans at meetings and meals then so be it. If the players don’t like it, they can go home. As I said before, there is no room for egos.

At major tournaments, players will spend a night at the same hotel as travelling fans. They will learn how much it costs to follow England, and the experience of being a supporter. They will see what it means to the fans, who earn but a fraction of what footballers earn, and yet devote it to following their country. They will experience this up close.

They will not be paid to represent England. This notion is abhorrent. They should be playing for the fans and the shirt. Any fees they might otherwise earn will go to charities of their choice. Goal and clean sheet bonuses will likewise go to charity. They will play knowing if they play well it will benefit not only the fans, but people in genuine need.

These changes in attitude are the first steps. Obviously I don’t actually expect to get the job, but I honestly believe these changes in attitude will teach players a bit of much-needed humility and respect. It will teach them togetherness and pride. We need that, more than ever.

To be honest, I am angry right now, and thus, should probably not be writing up this match right now. The flip side to that is that it will be brutally honest.

We were not good enough. The lack of creativity and composure in the final third of the pitch has been a weakness in every game of the tournament thus far, and our delivery from set pieces has been woeful. England fans were booing their team tonight, and with good reason – mad, overhit crosses were never going to cut it against a side that had already demonstrated they could shut teams out.

The tempo was nothing at all like what was seen against Russia and Wales. The verve and style on show in the first two games was lost, replaced by some (yet more) strange decisions from manager Roy Hodgson. Why did Sterling, who had failed to offer anything in the first two games, start? Why was Lallana, who had played well, dropped? Why was Kane brought back in, when he had played poorly against Russia and Wales?

Yet it wasn’t simply a lack of punch that cost England against Iceland. Despite some early promise that brought a penalty and a goal within the first five minutes (Rooney slotting home), the slightest hint of danger and England were in a panic. Iceland equalised within two minutes, when poor awareness and concentration allowed Sigurdsson to tap in from point-blank range.

Rather than keeping focused, England blanched. Expectations of England have never been lower (no one seriously believed they would win the tournament), but surely Iceland would not prevent progress to the quarter-finals? Surely, the players who earn so much and play so well for their clubs would overcome the plucky team from a nation of just 330,000 people?

Nope. On 18 minutes England’s defence reacted far too slowly, failing to close down a swift set of passes, and Sigthorsson, whose shot was nevertheless fairly tame. Somehow, Hart conspired to let it through, despite getting a hand to it, watching as it crossed the line, almost in slow motion.

From the moment Iceland took the lead England ran out of ideas. There was huff, and puff, and plenty of running, but the final ball was lacking in any quality. Try as they might, England could not muster up the invention to unlock Iceland’s stubborn defence (though credit must go to Iceland for their spirit and workrate). Once again Kane was taking set pieces (why Roy, why?), and even the arrival of Vardy could not help England find a way through. Rashford’s late arrival brought a bit of extra energy to proceedings but it was too little, too late. Iceland claimed a huge scalp, whilst England limped out of Euro 2016, tails firmly between legs.

 

Job done, from one perspective. England are through to the knockout stages of Euro 2016 and have therefore met the minimum expected requirement of them in the tournament, but a very different starting lineup for England ultimately did not deliver the incisive performances of the first two games. It would be fair to say this was uninspiring from England, against an average Slovakia side.

England saw the majority of the ball but with a number of changes to the side that started the previous two games, there was always the possibility of a disjointed or unpolished performance and this was exactly what England delivered. There was a lot of huff and puff from the players, but aside from one moment where Lallana should have done better, it’s difficult to recall one clear cut chance in the entire game. There was never any danger of losing the game, but England could not find a way through a well-organised Slovakia side, and not for the first time the lack of an end product has been a problem. With Wales crushing Russia 3-0 to top the group, England may yet end up with an unfavourable 2nd round match-up.

One thing is certain. England will need to raise their game.

England like to be ironic. With a great deal of pessimism the national side jetted off to France to begin a campaign that few had any faith would be a success. This mood was not helped by three laboured, uninspiring friendly wins against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.

Skip to the opening fixture against Russia last night. From early on England (in a 4-3-3 formation with Harry Kane operating as the lone striker and Rooney playing in a more central midfield role) were incisive and playing with a good tempo. The fluency of the passing and movement was a big improvement from the warm-up games, and for the first time in a long time England looked impressive.

Not only were we keeping the ball and using it to good effect, we were pressing the Russians when they had the ball, often winning it back in their half. Lallana had a great chance to put England into a first-half lead when a good bit of play put him into the box, but dragged his shot wide of the far post when it would have been easier to score. Other chances came and went (including a snappy shot from Rooney in the second-half that the keeper knocked onto the bar), until Eric Dier stepped up to take a free kick on the edge of the Russian penalty area.

The rocket of a shot was unstoppable, providing England with a lead their play deserved, some twenty minutes or so from time. Unfortunately the victory was not to be. In stoppage time, Berezutski got his head to Schennikov’s header and looped it over Hart’s head. The draw was one Russia did not deserve, but now England must pick themselves up and redouble their efforts ahead of what is now a crucial game against Wales on Thursday.

Where Roy went wrong

Bafflingly, Hodgson did not deploy Jamie Vardy at any stage during proceedings – on a night where England lined up against a pair of ageing centre backs, surely his pace would have added an extra dimension to England’s attack? Removing Rooney – who had actually played quite well in the centre of midfield – for Wilshere will go down as a mistake. Having Kane take corners is wasteful. Tweaks clearly need to be made, regardless of the positives.

Still, the performance was a lot better and may offer some hope.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36441260

I was reading this article this morning and I decided it had to be shared, because there’s a lot of win in it. It seems to me that we are moving full steam ahead into Euro 2016 without a clear idea of who is starting where, and Hodgson is desperate to play Rooney, even if this means wasting the talents of players who’ve had good seasons.

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I mean, seriously Roy? Players like Kane and Vardy should not be playing out wide where they can do no good. Bench Rooney, start with Kane/Vardy as the partnership up front, and let them continue to do what they’ve been doing all season. This is blindingly obvious to pretty much every England supporter.

Time for the next team profile, and this time I’m looking at the hosts, France.

It’s been 18 years since France hosted (and won) the 1998 World Cup, and 16 years since they triumphed at Euro 2000. Since then, they have been decidedly up and down with their tournament form. In 2002 they crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage, something they would repeat in 2010, but in-between they would reach the 2006 World Cup final, and they were quarter-finalists in Brazil in 2014.

The last time the French hosted the Euros (in 1984) they won it, whilst since their last success they have been quarter-finalists in 2004, out at the group stage in 2008 and out in the quarter finals again in 2012. All of this adds up to France being hard to predict.

Key Players

Much has been made of Juventus star Paul Pogba, who has become a highly rated and sought after midfielder. He is skillful and capable of scoring goals, whilst alongside him could be West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, who has been a revelation this season (as well as something of a dead ball specialist). Patrice Evra (also of Juventus) is an experienced defender whilst Karim Benzema is an accomplished goal scorer for Real Madrid. Joining him upfront could be Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, though Manchester United youngster Anthony Martial has been quite good this season and might get an opportunity.

It would be fair to say that this French side doesn’t stand out in the way previous teams have. They once had the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram and of course Zinedine Zidane in their ranks (to name but a few). I can’t help but think this French side is still developing, and therefore winning the tournament may be a step beyond them. They will be in the latter stages, but they won’t win it.

SpainNationalSide

Spain have a strong recent history in international football, with success coming their way at Euro 08, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. The reigning champions of Europe could well be expected to put on a good show in France, but they are not automatically assured of doing so – not if the previous World Cup is anything to go by.

Spain went out of Brazil 2014 following a 5-1 hammering in their opening game against Holland, and a 2-0 defeat to Chile in their next fixture, which left them unable to get out of the group stages. For a team that brims with experience and talent, this was a horror story, and two years on, they will be anxious to avoid a repeat.

So, who will Spain look at to deliver the goods?

In goal they boast one of the most experienced and highly rated ‘keepers in the world – Iker Casillas. At the time of writing this he has 166 caps for his country, and is also the captain. A veteran of Real Madrid (having left to join Porto at the start of this season), Casillas brims with an understanding of the game at the highest level.

His chief understudy is David De Gea, currently at Manchester United and admired by Real. De Gea has often been the vital difference for an indifferent United and whilst he only has 8 caps, it’s inevitable that he will earn more.

Defensively Spain once again possess a lot of experience. Sergio Ramos has 131 caps, whilst Gerard Piqué has played 76 times for his country, and Jordi Alba has featured 42 times. A number of players have earned caps as Spain seek to broaden their pool of players with international experience, but these three are likely to be the key ones in their back line at the Euros.

It’s in midfield though, that Spain have an embarrassment of riches. Players like Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas (all Barcelona players) and David Silva all have over eighty caps at least, with Fàbregas and Iniesta both with over 100 caps. Their experience – especially playing alongside one another at club level – has given Spain an invaluable platform of creative talent and midfield strength – there are also players like Juan Mata, Koke and Isco, who are all getting more experience all the time.

Up front, Spain have struggled. Their World Cup success in 2010 was built on a number of 1-0 wins that didn’t really see much attacking intent from their strikers, with notable hot and cold forwards like Diego Costa and Fernando Torres failing to deliver. Pedro has scored 16 times in 56 games – not an especially spectacular strike rate – Valencia youngster Paco Alcácer might be one to watch (assuming he makes the squad), as he has six goals in 13 games for Spain.

Prospects

I don’t think Spain will win the tournament. They have some fine players and more importantly, players who are used to working together, but their lack of flexibility and emerging talent caught up to them in Brazil, when they were badly beaten by the Dutch, a result that rocked them and left them unable to lift themselves before a do or die clash with Chile. I would fully expect them to reach at least the quarter-finals, but they are unlikely to go much further.

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