Unwise and unnecessary to be too gentle on the lads, just because of their alleged general impressionable yoofness. Don’t forget these people are massively over-remunerated athletes who live in a competitive environment but cannot seem to accept that challenge. Not when it gets big on them.
I’m not typically a hard-hearted sort but it feels like they’ve scudded beyond the range of our sympathy and even if some of them are decent enough blokes they’ve been so Sunday-League hapless we’re entitled to unsheathe the knives.
Lots of what we have seen from England was barely international standard; there may be cultural reasons for that or structural reasons or sociological but that’s where we’re at. I rate the main protagonists (ha! Like they affected anything!) here; the view being of the tournament rather just tonight’s dismal showing. I think I may have been generous.
Hart 5 – unconvincing. Probably our best but this again reflects very low standards elsewhere.
Johnson 5 – ordinary and rarely exposed entirely – which was something of a pleasant surprise.
Cahill 4 – ordinary and occasionally totally duff. Distribution often woeful.
Jagielka 4 – ordinary and rarely looked comfortable. Is actually quickish and reasonably dynamic if poor on the ball. Not here (except the poor on the ball bit). Nerves or just found out?
Baines 5 – offered a glimpse for about fifteen minutes against Uruguay. Otherwise a pale shadow.
Sterling 6 – nearly fabulous against Italy. The one player who can be reasonably satisfied with what he offered. He lifted us but then was garbage against Uruguay, mysteriously.
Gerrard 5 – a significant disappointment again. Could certainly play on in that Liverpool role – deep-lying, strolling about. Hope he doesn’t.
Henderson 5 – okaaaayish because we don’t expect fireworks… but (doing the easy job, remember) barely made any impact.
Rooney 5 – not a total embarrassment. Just ordinary but missed key chances.
Barkley – huge distance away from fulfilling Golden Boy status. Genuinely hope he gets there but this was not the start he would have wanted. Even given that his brief is a high-risk zone, he was disturbingly wasteful.
Lallana 5 – needed to show us something – that fluency, that movement, that composure. Didn’t, really.
Wilshere 4 – may have been unlucky with injuries but may have been lucky to get a further opportunity; which he manifestly didn’t take. We thought he may be the answer 3 years ago; his cuteness and skills seemed set to bring in some new, cultured, contemporary age. May be now that his chance has gone.
Wellbeck 4 – poor and probably the closest to full-on embarrassing at times.
Sturridge 5 – good against Italy. Disappeared, pretty much, against Uruguay, diabolical against Costa Rica.
Need a book or at least another blog but clearly the manager was neither motivational nor tactically bright enough. But the players can’t hide behind that. They appeared marginally less petrified than in South Africa, marginally less rooted but still that central soul-crushingly painful fear of the natural gamble ate away. Only Sterling flew, looking and no doubt feeling in his element. And then he – the real Raheem – was gone again, against Uruguay.
So how do we get players – even ordinary players – to (in that famous phrase) express themselves?
Firstly you choose a superb manager; an inspirational sort, ideally. Then that manager chooses a dynamic blend of characters for his squad. Guys who will turn up, more often than not, when those big questions are asked. (If we again have to stick the label Mentally Strong on this then so be it). Then you work with them and sort a team pattern. If players are not up to being flexible or are not pretty damn comfortable in international fixtures – specifically, if they don’t look comfortable on the ball – you get shot of them. That ease over the pig’s bladder in Munich or Rio or Belfast is a NON-NEGOTIABLE. Wherever they play, positionally. Plainly we still lack that.
Sure there are questions about training methods and percentages of foreign players and all that but dumb maths says we should have enough bodies to gather a competitive international side. (If, for example, Uruguay can.)
I’m not going anywhere near those arguments right now. I’m just going to say that against ordinary opposition we looked (can I use the word literally, please, please?) Hopeless. And therefore I revert to the word crisis; in the knowledge that we have some young talent but a whole load of work to do. If Jones and Smalling (for example) are the future then yeh – a whole load of work.