In the summer of 2016 I was in a hotel in Paris during the European Championships. England played Iceland in Nice.
I had the windows open on a warm evening in the capital, and when Iceland won to send Roy Hodgson’s side home in the first round of 16, TV viewers in the bars and cafes near the Gare du Nord burst out laughing.
And that was England then. England was fun for everyone except the English. This was the England where Harry Kane took the corners and Wayne Rooney in midfield.
England were ruthlessly ridiculed after losing to Minnows Island in the round of 16 at Euro 2016
Multiple fans are urging Gareth Southgate to follow up on England’s poor form in the Nations League
On the BBC website, their chief football writer Phil McNulty – the most rational of men – described the defeat as “a hideous embarrassment” and when Hodgson resigned that evening, nobody argued with it.
All of this should be remembered as Gareth Southgate’s England travel to Qatar for this winter’s World Cup.
Yes, England fights. Southgate’s team lost all form at their worst moment and it’s possible to feel the ground shifting beneath their feet. If Southgate remains manager beyond Qatar – whatever happens – some will be very surprised.
And that’s all as it should be. Every manager in top-class sport should be constantly reviewed. Past achievements count somewhat, but not as much as what is actually happening in the present. If Qatar tells us that Southgate has lost his connection, then he leaves.
Only England and San Marino have yet to score in open play at this tournament
But Southgate’s England resume already shows us one appearance in the last four of the 2018 World Cup – losing in extra time – and one in last summer’s Euros final, losing on penalties.
That’s called an ensemble, and the idiots who now claim Southgate should leave immediately – those who deride him as a negative and conservative coach – should put it in the context of what happened in all those years of misery before.
England had friendly draws in Russia and last summer. They have an easy group in Qatar. So maybe Southgate was both a happy manager and a good one.
But coaches don’t construct 22-game unbeaten runs unless they know what they’re doing, and with Southgate at the helm, England have left a side who couldn’t be counted on in major tournaments, like the ones who defeated Germany at Wembley last summer -Stadion and made the country fall in love with Neil Diamond.
But Southgate has guided the Three Lions to a grand final and a semi-final since his arrival
You can try rewriting all of that if you like. You can try to see it through the prism of a manager who refuses to play a back four against the good sides. But I was there at Wembley last summer, just like I was there in Paris. I know what has changed.
Six years is a relatively long time for an international manager. If Southgate is feeling a little weary from all of this, he wouldn’t be the first.
Its win rate is 62 percent, and while that doesn’t say it all, it’s better than most of its predecessors.
It is right to question him now. It is right to vaguely look for alternatives.
But it’s wrong to portray Southgate as something he’s not. It is wrong to sniff at his achievements. England has become a serious footballing nation again under his leadership.
Six years ago in Nice and Paris we would all have accepted that.
The England boss has two months to stop the rot ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Watching a game shouldn’t be scary
When I was growing up in the 1970s, my father briefly stopped taking me to the games.
After a particularly scary afternoon in Bolton throwing bottles and darts, it was decided we were better off at home on Saturdays.
I thought about it after listening to Eric Dier talk about the abuse his friends and family suffered at Premier League games. It has caused them to stop participating.
Eric Dier spoke about the abuse his friends and family suffered at Premier League games
Tottenham defender Dier is a bright bloke who says nothing out of effect. After speaking on the subject at St George’s Park last week, he specifically asked that it not be overdone.
Still, I wondered how bad it could be given how lawless watching football used to be in this country. But then, two days later, upon arrival in Milan, I was standing next to an English fan.
It was 10 a.m. and he was holding an open can of beer and a ring of white cocaine residue around one nostril. Later that day I watched TV footage of the English singing “Ten German Bombers” in the center of town.
I don’t know if my friend from the plane was among them, but it doesn’t matter. Dier was right. English football is busy, both on and off the pitch.
The 28-year-old centre-back played in the Three Lions’ disappointing 1-0 defeat by Italy
Bale makes Wales very dangerous
Gareth Bale fought just as much in America as he did in Madrid. But Wales manager Robert Page will not worry.
The whole point of Bale’s move to Los Angeles FC was to stay fit ahead of the World Cup. Without that carrot he might have retired.
Spending an informative hour with Page last season was understanding how much of what he does is tailored around simply getting the best out of Bale. Every training session is geared towards this.
Gareth Bale continues to look dangerous for Wales despite his somewhat lackluster MLS form
If Bale doesn’t play well in Qatar, Wales will become another underdog nation. If he does, they are very dangerous indeed.
Despite all the obvious evidence, Page believes it will be the latter, and I don’t dispute that.
Krul decision by Van Gaal
Tim Krul has not played for Holland for 15 months and was not recently included in Louis van Gaal’s squad.
After specifically refusing to go to a penalty shoot-out, the veteran was told he would never play for his country again. We suspect Krul already knew that.
Great manager Van Gaal. Strange guy.
Tim Krul was told he would never play for Holland again after refusing to go to penalty practice
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