The S J Chandos Column
Shock-horror, England prematurely exit a major international competition! Just why is anyone remotely surprised? It is the latest in a series of failures and it’s causes can be laid squarely at the door of the Manager. There was a failure to pick players in form and half fit players (like Wilshire and Sturridge) were taken instead, badly out of touch players (such as Sterling) were selected and favouritism promoted, with the inference that squad selection was effectively a closed shop.
England’s failure is a failure of management, organisation and leadership. Who can really deny that? Yet, at his Nice press conference Hodgson perpetuated myth. According to him, the defeat was a surprise, which he did not see coming. The questions not posed to him by the media were: why did he pick players who had such mediocre seasons (like Milner and Henderson) and others (such as Wilshire and Sturridge) whose seasons were ruined by injury? Why did he ignore players who had an outstanding 2015/16 season, like Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell, Andros Townsend, Michael Carrick and, even, Jermaine Defoe? Why the slavish loyalty to the disappointing Spurs nucleus of his squad, which so abjectly let England down? And why keep faith with Wayne Rooney, who (in terms of his personal performances) has always disappointed at major tournaments and is clearly not England Captain material?
Hodgson did not see this coming? There were no outstanding performances from England, we had disappointing draws with Russia and Slovakia; struggled to beat Wales, before losing to mighty Iceland. Do those results not indicate that there were some serious problems? The truth is that England’s selection policy and team tactics were totally inadequate and there was a deficit of leadership from the management team and, by extension, on the actual field of play. Where was the adjustment of tactics to turn the match in our favour and the dynamic captain who could rally the players and bring the best out of the team? Where indeed?
There are some talented individuals in the squad, such as Clyne, Stones, Barkley, Dier, Lallana, Sterling and Rashford. And hopefully this can be further supplemented by the addition of Butland, Shaw, Cresswell, Oxled-Chamberlain and others currently coming through the ranks, such as Reece Oxford. While out of favour players like Carroll and Townsend must be brought back in from the cold and others, such as Antonio, given an opportunity to prove themselves at international level.
Somehow, the FA need to find an inspirational manager, who has the tactical nous to play effective systems, forge England’s talented individuals in to an cohesive unit and promote an excellent team spirit/ethos. As for the captaincy, why not appoint an outstanding club skipper to the role? In fact, someone very much like our own Mark Noble! Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Perhaps this will finally prove to be Mark Noble’s opportunity to step up to the plate for England?