England, my England?

Even as a youngster, I worried that 1990 might be the pinnacle. 1996 came close, maybe because it was on our doorstep, but 1990? So close.

germania_ovest_italia_90_matthauslittbarski
Oh yeh, rub it in Lothar…

At a push, I could probably name most of the team from that era. Ditto 1996. Ask me in 20+ years time who Gareth Southgate selected in his opening squad and I’ll probably struggle to make a 5-a-side team.

I’m not one of these club > country people – they’re too different beasts and I can support both without harming the other. One is by choice, one is by birth, but they’re still independent.

I just can’t help not liking England very much at the moment. I’ll cheer them on and want them to do well, but I just can’t tell what they stand for.

When I wrote last week for The Eagle’s Beak about what next for England, I was sincere in my comments that I thought Allardyce might be what England had needed – a kick in the pants and an identity. I wasn’t excited so much about the brand of football we might see, but I was excited we might have a new era.

With Sam gone, Southgate has come in for the interim period. It’s no surprise that he’s stuck with similar names to his predecessors for his first squad, but he had some decisions to make where he could’ve made a statement.

If I was Southgate, I’d see this as a great chance to push a claim for the job permanently – whether that be now, or in the future.

The injury situation gave him an opportunity to try some things out, bring in some new names, but keeping the bulk of the squad unchanged. Drinkwater, Lallana, Clyne, Kane, Butland, Shaw are all injured and spots were open.

The additions of Lingard, Antonio and Rashford, setting aside club allegiances, are considered and forward-looking. Add to that the returns to form and fitness of players like Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain and it’s not too bad. I would argue though, had Oxlade-Chamberlain been at a smaller club, he’d not be considered.

The headline grabber though, for all the wrong reasons, was Glen Johnson. Of Stoke. Who have conceded 16 goals in 7 games. Who was pulled apart by the Palace wingers a couple of weeks ago. Who forgot how to defend the moment he joined Liverpool. Who… you get the point.

glen-johnson-632059
Solid member of Stoke’s top defence.

The trouble is here, not so much Johnson himself, but who is next in line? We can only hope Kyle Walker stays fit, and Clyne returns soon, but where is the depth and competition coming from?

(And of course, now, as I post this, Glen Johnson has pulled out injured!)

Perhaps we just need to be honest with ourselves and realise England’s level – we’re a well-above-average nation, able to compete once in a while with the top table, but never have that quality to go above, beyond, beat Germany on penalties and win a trophy.

Maybe that’s My England.

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