So, there you have it England will not taking part in the finals of Euro 2008 and they only have themselves to blame.
When you get a second chance you would be careless not to take it but that’s what England’s qualifying campaign has been from day one, littered with errors and woolly minded thinking on and off the pitch. True they froze last night. Over come with the burden of expectation as if paralysed in the rain with stage (or pitch) fright. Seldom have so many players played so badly in one match. However, the seeds of last night’s sorry conclusion were sown long before yesterday with results such as the draws against Macedonia and Israel.
Of the Liverpool players Crouch scored a decent goal after coolly controlling Beckham’s excellent cross. Opinion seemed to be that, out of the all the England players on the pitch, he acquitted himself the best though quite frankly that is not saying much. Steven Gerrard turned in one of the worst performance I ever seen from him seemingly unable to make an impression his dead ball work in particular failing to make an impact. Scott Carson, still on our books although on loan to Villa, made some excellent saves but obviously the damage had been done with the first goal letting Kranjcar’s seeming harmless long range efforts squirm past him. The pitch? Caught cold? Or just not concentrating on doing the basics? Sadly, I suspect the latter.
What was disappointing about yesterday is the manner of England’s exit. One most not underestimate Croatia who did not come to play sacrificial lambs and ruthlessly exploited England’s disarray however, when faced with the dilemma of going two down after fifteen minutes England, despite hitting back, were unable to really regroup and get a grip. It was as if they were shell shocked, stunned or simply not flexible or organised enough to change or raise their game and fashion some kind of response?
Inevitably attention will turn to Steve McClaren’s and his position as manager. By the time I post this it may have been decided. I’ve gone on record in this blog site stating that I don’t think he was the right man for the job and there’s no point in hitting him when he’s down, the press will no doubt perform this task quiet adequately over the next few days. He had some bad luck with injuries (not helped by fielding players when he didn’t need to such as Owen last Friday) but even allowing for this he has displayed enough in his decision making, man management and tactics to suggest he was not up to the task.
Perhaps the most depressing situation is the absence of any English manager who could effectively take McClaren’s place. Moreover the English players, for all their reputation at club level, have again exposed as one dimensional on the international stage. Seemingly unable to perform as a team in a manner that adds up to the sum of their individual talents, stifled by the traditional, in bred English approach to the game that isn’t always apparent in the more cosmopolitan environment of their club squads? Yet, ironically, there are calls for English football to turn in on itself and entrench these attributes even further by limiting, rather than embracing and learning from, foreign players.
So what of the future? Anyone would think that we’ve never failed to qualify for major tournament before and at least this summer we will be spared the over optimistic, jingoistic nonsense that seems to increase with every tournament we take part in.
No doubt there will be calls for change and there will be allsorts of ideas put forward as to how this can be done. However, I don’t recall there being a radical overhaul when we last failed to qualify for a major tournament and have no reason to suspect that there will be this time. The Premiership is a fat cash cow and the various parties that draw from it have got too much of an interest in maintaining the status quo to be concerned with such wider issues.
Ah well, Newcastle on Saturday !!!