England’s Nightmare Summer

Where do we start? What’s the best possible way to go about the burning wreckage that is the National Football Team? Everyone will have their own personal opinions on what went wrong in a month to forget that your English (Brexit + Euro embarrassment). But one thing is for sure, just changing the manager will NOT solve it. The problem runs far deeper than that.
As soon as Roy Hodgson resigned, it appeared that all the press immediately switched their attention to who would be his replacement. Almost forgetting about the men who had let him down in France this summer.

Not even a week had passed and pictures of Chris Smalling in Bali were surfacing on the Internet. I know if it was me, and I’d had a stinker of a tournament the last thing I’d want to do is go on holiday – I’d want to get myself on that training pitch as soon as possible. These players will have an opportunity to rebuild their reputations in the seasons to follow, but for Roy this will tarnish a long and relatively successful career in Coaching.

After reading a few segments of James Kerr’s book ‘Legacy’ which discusses life principles that the All Blacks pride themselves on, you begin to understand how far English football has strayed.

One particular example was that after winning a World Cup group game against Wales, two senior members of the team picked up long handled brooms and began sweeping the floor of the changing room. Why? Because no one looks after the All Blacks, the All Blacks look after themselves.

A former player stated ‘it’s a form of personal discipline, not relying on things to be given to you’. The book also goes on to suggest that personal discipline in life will lead to having discipline on the pitch. Helps to create the right environment for a team together instead of a team of individuals, very much like the Welsh camp at these European Championships.

But hang a second, could you really see an England football team of the past 10-15 years sweeping the changing rooms after a game? Could you even see a Premier League team sweep the changing rooms for that matter either?

It’s true, we all know it. Footballers are very lucky humans, everything is given to them on a silver platter. Modern day values simply do not apply to the current elite level footballer. Money makes the world tick, and with the current state of the Premier League and with crazy wages, it doesn’t seem that modern day values will re-appear anytime soon. Shame because it could lead to better performances for the National Team.

The book also focuses on how important it is to have leaders and character in a team, where are the leaders for England? Leaders lead with solid performances game after game, not every now and then (Joe Hart). Think Tony Adams in that Arsenal side, true leader who everyone followed. Personally, in a few years time I hope that Eric Dier can be that man. But at the moment we have no true leaders.

The last time England were successful at a major tournament was 1966, think of the leaders and character in that side (Moore, Charlton x 2, Stiles et al.)

I highlighted it in my last post about The Welsh, and how every player had stood up and taken responsibility at some point during the Championships, supposedly something the late great Gary Speed was responsible for. You need to be united as a team to be successful, a team of individuals will always get found out otherwise just like England were.

On a night which will go down as England’s worst ever competitive result in history. Not only were we beaten 2-1 by Iceland but we were also out done on work rate, desire and sheer commitment.

As an England fan, the very least I expect from players representing my country is desire and work rate. Like most reasonable fans, I can excuse the odd poor touch or sliced shot (Taking liberties Mr. Kane!) But to not give 100% for your nation is inexcusable. You watch some of the athletes representing Team GB in a few weeks time in Rio, they’ll show you commitment.

Tournament Ratings Out of 10:

Hart: (3)

A very generous score, would have been lower but fair play to Joe he’ll always face the media whatever the situation. Two absolute howlers during the tournament from a senior figure of the camp. Expect more pressure from Butland and Forster in the future for the No.1 spot.

Walker: (6)

One of England’s better players of the tournament, provided a good outlet against Russia & Wales but like most didn’t turn up against Iceland.

Smalling: (5)

Although he’s improving, goes to highlight the lack of CB’s available to the national team. Long gone the days of Campbell, Ferdinand et al. I get the feeling with Smalling that he’s one of those players who has always got a mistake in him.

Cahill: (4)

Got found wanting too many times, due to lack of pace. Always been good in the air. One of the older ones in the team now, should have been more of a leader for the team and for Smalling next to him then he was.

Rose: (6)

After looking way off the pace for Sunderland a few seasons ago, he’s managed to turn it around. Excellent for Spurs last season, couple of good performances in the group matches. But once again nothing against Iceland.

Dier: (6) 

Arguably one of England’s players of the tournament (But not sure that’s something you want to be saying too loudly!) Big international stage did not faze him at all, immense against Russia capped with a superb free kick. Did his job against Wales, but froze against Iceland and was replaced at HT. Stick with him, big future ahead – England Captain in the making.

Alli: (4) 

Superb first season for the 20 year old in The Premier League, but 46 games proved too much for the teenager. Himself and his pal Dier will provide England’s midfield for the next 10 years. Like with Dier, stick with Alli he’ll come good.

Wilshere: (5) 

Not the type of player that you can throw on with 20 minutes to go when your losing, he needs to be playing from the start and dictating play IMO. Big season lies ahead for Jack, he needs to decide if he wants to be a Premier League star or a nightclub promoter. Injuries can’t be helped, but he’s type of player who could benefit from some ‘personal discipline’.

Rooney: (5) 

Seemed as if there was no need for all the pre-tournament speculation about Rooney’s position in the team, slipped into the midfield with ease and looked class against Russia. Followed by perhaps his worst performance in an England shirt against Iceland. Will he be on the plane in 2 years time? You’ll have to ask Mystic Meg that one.

Lallana: (5) 

Corrr. Adam sure does like a cheeky ‘Cruyff Turn’ doesn’t he? Shame he can’t play in an attacking three like the late great Cruyff. Played in all 3 group games and never looked comfortable in a wide 4-3-3. Good utility player for England, but we needed a more dynamic direct player in that position.

Sterling: (3) 

Where to start with Raheem. Two years ago at the World Cup, we thought we had a world beater. Since his move to Manchester City he looks bereft of confidence. Subbed 3 times during the competition. Hopefully Pep has the magic cure.

Sturridge: (5) 

Winning goal against Wales and managed not to get injured during the games he played in. (Added bonus) But when playing in an attacking three, he often came far too deep to collect the ball. Needs to be making those attacking runs on goal, not trying to be the supplier.

Kane: (3) 

Arrived in France as a genuine candidate for the Golden Boot after last seasons achievements with Spurs. Never looked fit enough, left his touch and shooting boots in his locker in London. That dismal free kick against Iceland was the cherry on top of a dismal England Championships. Played a lot last season, and in need of a big rest.

Vardy: (6) 

Should have had more game time in general. IMO should have started against Iceland instead of Kane. Got us back into the game against Wales. Has a knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Rashford: (7)

Created more then any other player against Iceland in 4 minutes. Direct running at defenders, changed the game against Wales when he played in a Three up top. Reminds me of a young Michael Owen when charging towards a defence. Big future ahead.

Hodgson: (3) 

Good changes against Wales which worked in the end, but why did it take so long to make the changes? Clearly stayed with the same principals from the Qualifiers where he achieved 10 out of 10 wins. Should have answered to the media after probably England’s worst ever defeat. For €5million a year, England and Hodgson should have done a lot better. The highest paid manager at the Euros.

What Next? 

Of course, the candidates have been shortlisted. In my opinion, would love to see Eddie Howe given a chance. He not only plays the game in the right way but he also had all of his squad playing for one another in a bid to surviving in the Premier League. That’s what we need with England, togetherness. Experience clearly isn’t on Howe’s side compared to the likes of Sam Allardyce or Wenger but that shouldn’t count against him.

‘Together Stronger’ was The Welsh motto during The Euros and it worked, every team member had something to believe in. We need our ‘Together Stronger’ saying, something the whole country can get behind. But more importantly something which binds the players whilst they are in the England set up together.

I tend to believe there is nothing wrong with The FA’s plan in general with the development of the national side, apart from trying to develop more elite level coaches. (Germany & Spain both have 10 times the amount of UEFA coaches as we do as a nation) The Youth teams have all impressed in recent years, which leads me to believe that the culture and the environment itself is the problem with the national side.

Whoever the FA decide to appoint, if they can fix the culture, character & environment of the team, then and only then could England go well at a major tournament.

As always thanks for reading,




Euro 2016 Update – The Final Four

From the ‘Viking Clap’ to Mats Hummels announcing Germany’s defence wouldn’t be terrified of Will Grigg before the group stage encounter – This European Championship Finals has had everything. That’s with bypassing the complete tragedy that is the English National Team.(That mess needs a separate post dedicated to it!)

In my previous Euro post, I predicated that if Belgium played for one another instead of a team of individuals they should make the semi finals. I’m sure most Welsh fans if they were honest would agree with that too. Even if they do seem to have the wood over them at the moment.

What happened next, was something which will live long in the memory for anyone with Welsh blood.

It would be easy to relate the Welsh heroics in the Championships so far to that of Leicester City’s historic PL title winning season. But certain similarities and qualities make it hard to not too.

The majority of Football fans pre tournament would have guessed that England; The perennial underachievers, would have finished top of Group B. Leaving Slovakia / Russia & Wales to fight it out for runner up spot.

Why it hasn’t been just a case of the BALES for WALES

You’d be forgiven if before the Euro’s started you were under the impression that Gareth Bale was the only man who could make the national team tick. It’s true, the Two time Champions League Winner was immense during Wales’s qualification period, and has provided some ‘star man’ moments during the tournament. But there is a lot more to the Welsh team than meets the eye, but I’ll go into that later on during the preview of the Semi Final.

Throughout qualification for Euro 2016, Coleman’s dragons quietly went about their business dismantling the likes of Belgium and Israel. Taking confidence and belief from every game and being urged on by a fully packed Cardiff City Stadium (apparently it was electric isn’t that right Jasper?).
It’s this confidence and belief from qualifying which helped them to top the group (1st time debuting team at Championships to do so, since Sweden in 1992) and also catapult themselves into the Semi’s tomorrow night against Portugal.

The Welsh boys have not feared any team yet throughout the tournament, and they won’t begin to now. Every player in the Welsh squad has bought into the team ethos 100%, you can see every player is playing for the team. On paper Bale & Ramsey might be the big names, but not when it comes to Game Day. Every played has played their part to get Wales to the Semi Final.

Whatever happens tomorrow night in Lyon, the Welsh team should be coming home to a hero’s welcome later this summer. I wonder what impact the last few weeks will have on Football participation levels in Wales? Perhaps it leads to more kids wanting to kick a football rather than catch a rugby ball?

Semi Final No. 1

Portugal Vs Wales (Stade de Lyon)

Portugal will go into tomorrow nights Semi Final as the bookies favourite but not by much IMO. They looked on their way out in the group stages, but managed the mother of all come- backs and equalise 3 times against Hungary with special thanks to National Hero – Cristiano Ronaldo.

The only team to progress to the knockout stage without winning a game – hardly striking fear into the opposition is it. Perhaps Croatia took them for granted in the last 16? Croatia looked very tasty during the Group Stages especially beating Spain, I thought they were going to be a force.


As the figures lie at the moment, Portugal have the 2nd best possession statistics during the tournament with 87% of passes completed and 54% of general possession. How will this fare against the 2nd best attacking nation so far of the tournament. Wales have scored 10 goals so far from 59 attempts in their 5 games at Euro 2016.

IMO – Portugal will try and dictate the tempo of the game from the start, Fernando Santos will be hoping his team don’t carry on with being wasteful in front of goal. Now that we are at the business end of the competition.

On the other hand, Wales will be more than content to let Portugal have as much of the ball as they like, as long as the superb Joe Allen (Sorry, Welsh Pirlo!) and Bad Dad Dancing King Joe Ledley (Save the dancing for your postponed Wedding, Joe!) are on hand to sniff out any danger.

The Three centre back system has worked well for Chris Coleman so far, with the colossus that is Ashley Williams yet again stepping up, how is he not at ‘A Top 6 club?’ Mangala who?!
This Welsh team have proven they are a real attacking threat from counter attacks, helped by the use of Neil Taylor & Chris Gunter dominating the flanks. Crossing in particular has been a positive, perfectly illustrated with Sam Vokes’s goal in the 3-1 victory over Belgium in the Quarters.

Tomorrow night might just be decided from a set piece. With Bale getting more serve on a freekick than an Andy Murray slice, he’s always going to be a threat. Also with James Collins coming in for the suspended Ben Davies, it adds extra height alongside Ashley Williams to attack corners with.

One thing for sure Aaron ‘Rambo’ Ramsey will be hugely missed in the No.10 position for Wales, he currently tops the Assist charts at the moment with 4. Andy King will be hoping for more success like he had last season with Leicester.

It takes a full team performance to make it through the Semi’s into a major European Final, part of the reason why it won’t just be Bale Vs Ronaldo. But instead more about who can bring the best out of their team mates. Not a night for an individual.

Verdict: I’m not about to stop the Welsh party bus! In my opinion, Dean Saunders your parking fine is about to get a little bit more expensive!

Semi Final No. 2

Germany Vs France (Stade Velodrome, Marseille)

Arguably a match up which should have been saved for the Final come July 11th. This has the potential to bring football to its very purest form; Attack Vs Defence. Forget the tactics and the individual player instructions for a second. We have the best attacking team of the tournament playing against the best defensive team of the tournament.

Every supporter in the world is entitled to their own preference, some might enjoy a defensively solid performance. Whereas others might gain a thrill from a team hammering an opposition’s goal with waves of attacks. No one opinion is right.

The Stats:

FRA: 11 Goals / 87 attempts / 29 on Target / 31 off Target / 27 Blocked


GER: 1 Goal conceded / Passes Completion 91% / Possession 63%

If you didn’t believe me beforehand that this will be a game of Attack Vs Defence, perhaps you will do after viewing those statistics.

I have to admit during the Group Stages, I didn’t think Germany were the force they have been in the past. A 0-0 draw with Poland and only a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland didn’t make pretty reading for Joachim Löw, but they got the job done and progressed to the last 16.

A much more clinical performance against Slovakia and once again they look like the unstoppable World Champions from two years ago. The Quarter Final against Italy, should have been over by the 90, but for a moment of madness from Boateng.

But who are kidding, it was never in doubt was it? The Germans just don’t lose penalty shootout. Ever.

In all forms of Sport, coaches plan for their athletes to taper before a competition so that they can hit peak performance level during a competition. It would appear that Löw’s taper has worked perfectly. Germany looking dangerous. Anyone else got a case of Déjà vu?
As for France, without playing sensational football thus far they find themselves through to the Semi’s. When teams try and attack France, it would seem this is when France are at their most dangerous – prime example being the Quarter Final against Iceland which finished up 5-2.

I tipped France before the tournament to challenge for the European crown, because of their attacking style compounded with the sheer ability in midfield. So far it hasn’t been all guns blazing, the first half of the ROI game was dismal for example.

If France can engage Germany during the semi – final, it will benefit France. The more open the game becomes the more it drifts into France ‘s favour in my opinion. If it’s cagey and being decided in moments of 50/50 challenges the pendulum swings back towards Germany.

Key Battle:

Is it any wonder that Germany have almost 1000 more completed passes than the next closest team behind them in the possession stats, when they possess Toni Kroos in the heart of their midfield. The Madrid man has been running the show for Germany so far during this summer’s Championships and will hope for more of the same come Thursday evening.

Clearly either Matuidi or Pogba will be given the job of closing Kroos down, but which one of them? If it was me, Matuidi is the engine room and should be given the opportunity, whilst Pogba focuses on breaking towards the opposition goal. Chances won’t come easily against the World Champions, so Pogba needs to be ready to lead the counter attack.

Verdict: I’m going to stick with my pre-tournament pick of France; SkyBet have Griezmann as odds on to win the Golden Boot and I think he’ll nick the winner against Germany.

Thanks for reading as always folks,


Euro 2016: Time for France to Deliver 

So here we are then. A continuous football feast is upon us, Hallelujah. Who knows what lies ahead for the twenty four teams participating in this month’s European Championships. Can Northern Ireland or Turkey emerge as dark horses and cause some surprises? Will it be the Zlatan show? Do England really stand a chance under Roy?

All questions will be answered in good time.

One thing that is for sure is that the hosts France; are a force to be reckoned with this time round. A decade has passed since Les Bleus last creditable performance in a major tournament losing on penalties to Italy in the 2006 World Cup Final; Head’s gone for Zidane!

Didier Deschamps will have been in charge of the National Team for 4 years in July, here’s why in my opinion he could well be celebrating in style.

It’s no secret that France as a nation is struggling at the moment. With the constant threat of terrorism which has left the country on red alert since the tragedy in Paris last November.

As a passionate Englishman it is of course built into my DNA to not want France to succeed at Euro 2016. But as a Human concerned with the safety of others, I hope that the French put in some solid performances in the group games. Of course footballers are not miracle workers, but a strong campaign at Euro 2016 might help to unite a broken nation.

As hosts of the Championships, France have been placed in Group A alongside Albania, Romania & Switzerland. This is not a group of death, France should be topping the group with ease. Antoine Griezmann could find himself with the Golden Boot before the next round has even begun.

Right then, now that I have touched on the serious aspect as to why it would be good to see France succeed. Let’s get into the pure footballing reasons why France should go far over the next month.

Deschamps is expected to set his side out in a 4-3-3 formation allowing for upmost flexibility and creativity. I’ll discuss Griezmann, Payet et al later on, France’s strength lies in their midfield so that’s where I’ll start.

There isn’t any other team at this summer’s Championships which has an engine room quite like France. The talent is staggering, the list is endless. Use whatever superlatives you like.

Matuidi, Kanté and of course Pogba are all tough tackling colossal players on the pitch. They dominate games from the first to the last minute, it would also appear that they have an unlimited energy source too (Jealous!). So IMO it’ll be 2 out of 3 who start . Recently Deschamps had been starting Cabaye as a defensive midfielder who can spot a pass and help pull creative strings sitting behind Pogba & Matuidi.

It would be very easy for the national manager to stick to arguably the best midfielder in world football at the moment in Pogba and the very reliable Matuidi. So credit must go to Premier League winner Kanté for having the season of his life and playing himself into Deschamps plans.

‘Polpo Pogba’ (Paul The Octopus) as he is affectionately known back in Italy to the Juventus supporters, is on the verge of having the tournament of his life. He is one of the most complete midfielders France and Europe have seen in a decade, since the retirement of Zinedine Zidane. With his explosive nature, he’s capable of turning defence into attack within seconds, either with extraordinary vision or just with the ball at his feet. He is undoubtedly a weapon and will only continue to get better with experience. The architect of the French National team for the next 10 years.

I briefly touched on Antoine Griezmann earlier on but the Madrid front man is clearly a striker bang in form. 44 goals in the past two seasons with Atlético shows he’s a Forward France can depend on during the Euros.

Who joins Griezmann in the front 3 is up for debate, personally I would like to see a Front 3 of Martial and Payet on the wings with Griezmann played through the middle. This would obviously lead to Oliver Giroud being demoted to the bench, which in this current climate would be the preferred decision from many of Les Bleus fans.

With a three of Payet, Griezmann and the ever impressive Martial it would allow a Front 3 to continuously interchange with one another for the full game pulling opposing players out of position and creating space. In my opinion, Giroud wouldn’t benefit the team, he’s a superb target man for the French but it doesn’t allow completely free flowing football when he’s in the team.

On a side note too, with Payet in the team they have arguably one of the most dangerous men in World Football from a dead ball situation. Some of the free kicks Payet has scored over the last year have been sensational, I’m sure given the opportunity he’ll continue his hot steak at the Championships too.

We won’t have long to wait to see how the French line up against Romania on Friday evening and more importantly how they deal with a expectant French crowd. I feel this time, they might deliver.

Thanks for reading,


Pochettino: England’s Secret Weapon

When Pochettino arrived to these shores back in January 2013, few would have known the credentials of the Argentinian who didn’t speak a word of English. Some might have remembered him, as the Centre Back who upended Michael Owen during the 2002 World Cup.pochettino-argentina

To begin with, his time in England was not easy. Pochettino’s appointment had become a concern for the league itself, another foreign manager replacing a British manager. Being a Saints fan myself, I can recall the opinion of Pochettino and the board who had been so quick to sack Nigel Adkins. Adkins was a real fans favourite, why wouldn’t he be? He’d taken Southampton back to the promised land with back to back promotions and a mid table position in the Premier League.

Adkins didn’t represent a manager who deserved to be sacked, in fact his last game was a 2-2 draw away at Stamford Bridge. Hardly relegation form. Pochettino knew he would have to hit the ground running when he arrived.

Of course as we all know now the change in management proved to be a success story, and Southampton became a very formidable opponent over the course of the next 18 months. Their success was built on being worked non stop during training sessions. Mauricio by all accounts would get so engrossed in training sessions, that players would have to bring portable clocks out with them so that he could be reminded of running overtime.

In a nutshell, Pochettino prides himself on his teams being fitter than opponents. He instructs his players to continually keep opposing players under pressure as much as possible. Pressure the opposition into making a mistake, and then be physically fit enough to be able to use the ball correctly when it comes to attacking. mauricio-pochettino

Okay, thats enough looking into the history and tactics of the man. Let’s get back on track about what this is really about – his contribution to the current English national side.

After one of the most exciting England performances in recent times on Saturday night against the World Champions in Berlin. It could be very easy to level all the credit to Roy Hodgson and forget about input from anyone else. But a pattern of players names began to consist all across the pitch during the 90 minutes, made it impossible to do so. The same players kept cropping up either via commentators or pundits praising individuals.

The likes of Rose, Dier, Alli and of course Kane all impressed in the win against Germany, and will be hoping to secure their position in the starting 11 over the up and coming friendlies.

For me, Danny Rose particularly stepped up. An abundance of stamina alongside a defensively strong mindset, meant Rose could defend primarily but also be a key member to pushing further into the opponents half; just how Pochettino likes his players to function.

If we take a moment away from the resilient England performance itself on Saturday evening and look at some of the players the Tottenham Head Coach has worked with during his time in England;

From Tottenham: Alli, Dier, Rose, Kane, Mason, Walker, Townsend,

From Southampton: Ward – Prowse, Lambert, Lallana, Shaw, Rodriquez, Chambers

Yes, I’ve seen it levelled at other writers who have tried to discuss this subject, that these were already key established players at Southampton. Or that these two clubs in particular have always produced talented footballers. Even if that is the case, Mauricio Pochettino has certainly helped to develop a platform for players to be able to express themselves on the pitch whilst also still remembering their pressing responsibilities.

The once Espanyol manager is even attracting praise from one of the most respected managers ever to have graced the game. With Sir Alex Ferguson suggesting that, Pochettino is now the best manager in the top English division.

I believe that the primarily reason England fans should be appreciative towards Pochettino, is that not only has he identified young english talent such as Dier & Alli. He’s also allowed it to succeed at a First Team level. It would have been very easy for Dier to have been dropped at the beginning of his Spurs career, when he was labelled to immobile to play at Centre Half. Fast forward several months on, Dier has blossomed looking at ease playing as a Defensive midfielder against some of Europe’s elite.

Harry KanePlayers need time and trust from their manager to be able to succeed especially young players, they may be fearless but could be prone to becoming unconfident if costly mistakes take place. Another example is Harry Kane, after his purple patch last season, it took Kane several games to get going this season. Did he get dropped? No Mauricio stuck by his man, and now both Tottenham and England are gaining from that decision.

The fact Spurs have resisted the urge to go and sign more experienced bigger known ‘superstars’ is a testament to Pochettino and his approach to help develop club talent instead. Especially in a time where money is no object to clubs such as Spurs who currently sit 2nd in the Premier League.

If we want to have real success at International level like Spain & Germany have had in recent times, Mauricio’s approach of incorporating english talent should become a must for other clubs too.

It was evident that the core of players who performed well in Saturday nights victory were mainly Tottenham players. Why? They’re used to playing with one another over an extend string of games and have taken that forward to International level too.

England v France - International Friendly

Dele Alli has had a remarkable season, playing with complete freedom. His link up play with Kane has been a particular highlight. But could you imagine Alli being given the same amount of first team game time if he’d of signed for Man City or Arsenal? I can’t. Undoubtedly that would have impacted his chances with the national side. So a player who definitely needs to start at the European Championships in the summer, would have been lucky to have made the squad!

The FA need to take note!

Thanks for reading!


England’s Euro Prep: Let’s get it right

Last Thursday saw Roy Hodgson announce his 24 man squad for the two friendlies against Germany and with the Netherlands to follow. Which is sure to see players giving their all to try to impress with the European Championships now under 80 days away.

With how the Premier League has surprised all this season, Leicester City on fire at the top of the league & Manchester City fighting hard to gain a Champions League spot. You could have expected to see an array of players called up to the England Squad for the first time, richly deserved in my opinion.

Players such as; Noble, Creswell, Simpson, Albrighton & Deeney can count themselves unlucky not to be given an opportunity in The Three Lions shirt.

The majority of Roy’s latest squad selection I would suggest is well-chosen, but there are certain players who have made the squad on purely reputation alone. Prime example Theo Walcott. It would appear Theo has been picked to play in a Forward capacity. Does 8 goals in 34 appearances this season really justify a place in the squad over Watford’s captain Deeney?

Two contributing factors to West Ham challenging for a Champions League spot this season are down to the form of their captain Mark Noble and the ever impressive Aaron Creswell.

I’ll start with the latter first, after the retirement of arguably the greatest Left Back England has ever produced in Ashley Cole. Supporters may have been worried about who would fill the huge void left by Cole, they needn’t be. Over the last 12 months we have seen an abundance of English Talent at Left Back show promise. With all players fully fit, I would suggest that Shaw remains the favourite to start, but that won’t be the case later this summer due to a horrific double leg break.

Bertrand is an adaptable defender who’s blossomed under Ronald Koeman, he’s deputised well as a ball playing Centre Back at times too this season when needed. Danny Rose has had a cracking season enjoying life under Pochettino and has significantly improved especially with defensive responsibilities and become a key figure for Spurs. img_1040

But so has Creswell, the 26 year old full back is known for his attacking bursts down the left side. Which is how Roy likes to play – Counter Attacking Football. Manchester City & Chelsea have both been rumoured to bidding of up to £25m for securing his services. Indeed there is a pecking order, but on player form this season it would suggest that Creswell deserves a shot as much as Bertrand & Rose do.

Mark Noble is in a similar situation to his club team-mate. As Danny Murphy suggested recently on TalkSPORT, that he can understand why Noble hasn’t been picked for the squad. ‘Roy will know how he’s going to play in that midfield, so he’ll choose the players who can fill the roles he has in mind’.

Murphy goes on to talk about other midfielders in the squad, suggesting that Henderson can play both attacking and defensive, whereas Alli has the attributes to play all across the midfield.

You would have to suggest that players such as Henderson & Milner who haven’t performed consistently this league campaign like Noble has, have been picked for their past tournament experience and are players Hodgson knows he can rely on.

On a different note, Danny Drinkwater has been superb this season and throughly deserves his call up.

Why hasn’t Albrighton been rewarded for his contribution to Leicester City’s title challenge for a call up for the injured Raheem Sterling?

Potential England Line Ups for Friendlies:

I have taken into consideration with recent injuries to Hart & Sterling into account and used the 2 most familiar England formations in recent times.


In my opinion, this is the current England squads strongest line up. Stones and Smalling are the future for England, especially Stones. The defence should be built around him. I’ve been impressed with Walker recently, MOTD 2 portrayed him in a great light last Sunday evening with a stellar performance against Bournemouth (Defensively strong and attacking with direct positivity).

What a find Eric Dier is turning out to be for Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. Let’s hope he can continue his fine form in an England shirt too. Drinkwater is an ever improving player, having the season of his life and fully deserves his opportunity at International level.

The only change which I’ve been enforced to make is to play Walcott on the wing instead of my preferred option of Raheem Sterling. Although Walcott’s conversion rate is poor, his speed can’t be ignored and would give all international full backs a scare if in a 1 V 1 situation.

Dele Alli has to start in the summer in my opinion, many question his temperament but he’s the golden boy of english football at the moment. I see him as a package deal alongside Harry Kane. Harry might score the goals at Spurs, but Alli is the one pulling the strings. It’s a partnership which has a lot of potential to be a success at a world football stage.

For two players who haven’t even played a whole season with one another yet, the partnership they have formed at Spurs would appear telepathic.

Vardy to rotate with Kane, deserves an opportunity to play through the middle for a full 90 minutes.

Is it a surprise that the spine of the team is made up of Tottenham players? (Walker, Dier, Alli & Kane) Tottenham are playing some great counter attacking football at the moment whilst keeping it tight at the back too. Something Roy could look to implement.

Alternative formation:

This formation explores the theory that ‘Attacking is the best form of defence’ approach. Vardy is known for his ability to close down defenders and put pressure on the opposition for the full 90. Kane & Sturridge would need to follow suit for this formation to work.

It also allows for more stability in midfield with Alli sitting more than in the 4-2-3-1. Henderson / Milner brings a wealth of experience to the team too.


In recent times, the core England players have come from the ‘big 4 teams’ in my opinion we should be looking at Tottenham as a major asset to the English National Team. They consistently play with an English core and it’s paying off so far for them this season. Let’s take advantage of it at an International stage.

With this in mind, we do have key players to come back such as Hart, Sterling and of course our captain Rooney. Good luck Roy!

Thanks for reading,


Money can’t buy you into Europe’s Elite

World football seems to be lost in the shadows, leagues are becoming predictable. Spectators crave the headlines of an underdog coming out on top even more so than in the past.

Ligue 1 is all but over, with PSG massing an almost laughable 23 point lead at the top of the table. Barcelona will almost certainly be crowned La Liga  champions for the 24th time in their illustrious history. Bayern Munich as per usual lead the German Bundesliga ahead of Dortmund by 5 points due to Pep’s Bayern easing into autopilot mode.

With this in mind, The Premier League is without question the most exciting league in World Football. Where else would you find entertainment like this current season has produced. Leicester City survived relegation by a whisker last season, the very next season they find themselves 9 games away from the unthinkable; Premier League Champions.

Of course with great entertainment comes great rewards, and with all clubs who have made it to the dizzy heights of the Premier League in the past 8 seasons. Have received sky high payments regardless of position in the league. (Rock bottom of the league, Villa predicted to receive almost £100m for their dismal season this year).

Fig 1.) Income Premier League Clubs received in 2014/15 season.


But has the money created by television revenue become a ‘double edged sword’ for Premier League clubs participating in Europe’s Elite competition? Statistics would suggest so.

With the abundance of wealth all BPL clubs generate, especially the notable high performing clubs who regularly qualify for the CL. It would appear that clubs have forgotten their roots they once started from.

The BPL has always been known as an multi international league, with an array of talent from all over the globe. But this international talent in the past has always been alongside a core of British players who helped to establish the backbone and essence of a club.

In recent years, we’ve had players such as John Terry, Ashley Cole & Frank Lampard provide the spine of a mostly foreign team at Chelsea. Or Steven Gerrard & Jamie Carragher maintaining the passion it takes to play for Liverpool.

It would appear in today’s world with the financial firepower clubs possess, homegrown talent unfortunately won’t get a chance to shine unless individuals are dubbed as a ‘wonderkid’.

Would players like the Neville brothers have been given a chance to shine in today’s English _51075622_neville5top tier? Or would United have sent them out on loan or even sold them? As they were’t ‘skilful enough’ or ‘couldn’t accelerate quick enough’. Two stalwarts of the BPL who went on to have great success during their careers at both club and international level. With Gary considered to being one of the greatest right backs the BPL has seen.


Alarm bells should be ringing – in this season’s UEFA Champions League, only 13 English players were registered to compete, that number is staggeringly low. Lower than Israel & Belarus in fact. Spain have 59 representatives whilst Germany have 38. ‘We are miles behind the likes of Spain & Germany’ – words of Greg Dyke.

How on earth do we expect to be competitive as a nation at World Cups or Euro’s, if only our very best players are getting big game experience and playing against Europe’s elite. To put that more into context – Manchester United had 9 Englishmen in the  match squad to face Bayern in the 1999 Final.

This season’s statistics in the Champions League read as follows;

Clubs No of Internationals Home Grown Players
Manchester City  9 3
Barcelona 10 7
Bayern Munich 10 9
Athletico Madrid  9 7
Chelsea 10 3
Arsenal 11 5

Fig 2.) Above shows the amount of different internationals that have played for a club this season and also the number of players of that club’s nationality who have represented them.

As the graph suggests, english clubs are severely lacking in english players.

Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse had it spot on with this sketch back in 2008 which sums up what a changing room in a top Premier League team must really be like in todays game at times!


2007/08 season saw English football conquer Europe’s Elite. Two english teams in the final, (Chelsea Vs Manchester United) Liverpool made it to the Semi final and Arsenal progressed to the Quarter Finals

Fig 3.)


British Players in Starting or Squad for 2007/08:

  • Chelsea – 4 starting players
  • Manchester United – 8 in squad
  • Liverpool – 5 in squad
  • Arsenal – 1 in squad

8 players in Man United’s squad a stark difference to the squads in present english teams.

I can reel off statistics about possession, only 1 english club has made it into the top 5 possession rankings on one occasion in the last 5 years. Or that in the group stages of this season’s competition, Chelsea and Man United constructed 31.5 & 29 inaccurate long balls per 90 minutes respectively. In comparison to PSG’s 16.5 & Bayern’s 15.5.

But to an extent these stats become meaningless, but what should be taken away from them is that Premier League players aren’t getting enough time playing with one another. Before they become either sold or another player replaces them. Professionals have to practice together to then be able to produce magic on the pitch. E.g. Barcelona Tika Taka.

English players need to seize the opportunity and become first team regulars and help dictate how the team plays it’s football. With an array of international talent on show, it can become confusing for players to fully understand what the club’s philosophy is.

Players of past era’s such as Scholes or Ferdinand would demand for supporting players to raise the game and play ‘The Manchester United way’. Will we ever see Manchester United beat a club of Roma’s calibre 7-1 again?

In conclusion, English football needs to find it’s identify once again. If we are ever going to become a threat at world football level again. We have great talent being produced by academies across the country but these players need to be given the chance to shine. Not just in friendlies or when a team is up 4-0, they need the experience of playing in a pressurised environment constantly.

Not for one second, am I against foreign players playing in the Premier League. They have without doubt made the league more exciting and a pleasure to watch, but a better balance needs to be struck between the two.


Thanks for reading,