Saturday, 26 May 2007

God help us

It's that time of year again where there's barely any football news in the papers on a Saturday morning. What's a man to do for entertainment but bemoan this case of affairs on the internet?

In the news there is: Beckham is up for an England recall, in a spectacular U-turn by McClaren that would be a good idea if getting rid of Beckham hadn't been his sole and totemic departure from the ancien regime. As it is, it just makes him look desperate. I hope Beckham really is in the form he's reputed to have found.

Meanwhile, Sven Goran Erikson is the likely next manager of Manchester City. I can't help but have a sneaking suspicion he'll actually do OK. Because while undoubtedly part of England's poor problem over the last few years has been managerial ineptitude, plenty of it is to do with the fact that, actually, our players aren't as good as our newspapers seem to suggest. Better use of the available players would help, for sure, and maybe see us in a semi-final rather than perpetually going out in the quarters. But world cup winners? Even European cup winners? I can't see it.

Take Frank Lampard. An extraordinary amount has been made about the right way to fit him and Gerrard into the same team. Why? Gerrard is one of the two or three genuinely world class players we have, while Lampard, er, isn't. He's a pretty good sub to have at international level, but the idea that should be one of those guaranteed a first-team place is absurd. He scores the occasional great goal and always works for the team, but his passing is woefully inconsistent at international level and his involvement tends to be fairly peripheral too. If this is the standard of our Golden Generation, then we're doing well to consistently reach quarter-finals.

Strikers? Rooney is fairly indisputably brilliant, but he's also wildly inconsistent: if the first twenty minutes of a game don't go his way, you won't see him for the next seventy. Sometimes patience is required at international level. And even with that, he's not a genuine 20-goal-a-season striker - nor is anyone claiming it, but for a brilliant support striker to really count, you need a proper, Gary Lineker, nabbing goalscorer to do the business. Who's doing that? Not Peter Crouch, except against Jamaica. And I doubt we'll ever again see the Michael Owen we saw in 1998. Way back then someone told him he needed to bulk up, put on some strength. So he put on some muscle and now he keeps getting injured under the extra weight, while all the time his pace was his silver bullet. Great work.

Bring on Estonia.

Meanwhile, my club's manager Gareth Southgate has figured out that "it's the small details like where the players are on the field that win you matches". In other words, tactics and formation. God help us.

Nowhere more than football (except perhaps ACE funding applications) is the title of this blog more appropriate.

No comments: