Excellent! My reaction to Roy Hodgson’s appointment into the England hot seat (after the initial ‘why isn’t he Harry?’ had died down). Fantastic! My reaction to Hodgson refreshing the England backroom staff with Gary Neville and Dave Watson. Is this a joke? My reaction to Hodgson’s squad selection for the Euros, especially the laughable inclusion of Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll ahead of a never ending list of high performers on the wing and upfront from this season’s Premier League. It couldn’t be the England Football Team without something going horribly wrong. But there’s no pressure on this squad, no one expects, most people don’t even have the belief to see us past the group stage, and this could give England some hope. In a season where Chelsea won the Champions league, Manchester City won the Premier League in two minutes of madness and Southampton secured back to back promotions, the underdog may have its day once again.
Roy Hodsgon, appointed less than a month before the tournament will begin, has a huge job on his hands. But with the pressure that so many other England managers have wilted under somewhat vacant, the weight is off the 64 year old shoulders. In a way, the weak looking squad may reflect this, although it’s a shame he didn’t bring the likes of Crouch, Smalling or Bent. The former West Brom manager has international experience on his side, unlike any of his predecessors, having managed Switzerland, UAE and Finland in the past, whilst also having the respect of the players from his work in the Premier League. He has a habit of taking the underdog to relative success, which would make this role seem perfect for him, but his rushed appointment and lack of time to work with the players means he’s unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the squad.
The Key Man
It would be Wayne Rooney but for his two match suspension meaning he’ll miss the games that will shape England’s tournament. But Steven Gerrard, after being named captain, has the responsibility of guiding this weak side with someone of his trademark talismanic displays. With age not on his side, this may be Gerrard’s last chance to shine at a European Championships and after a nightmare season for Liverpool, he’ll want to succeed even more. A world class tournament from Gerrard could be the difference between success and failure.
The Starting XI
Jones Terry Lescott Cole
Walcott Parker Gerrard Young
Rooney (Carroll whilst he’s suspended)
The Key Game
It goes without saying that if England beat France in their opening game of the tournament, qualification through to the knock-out stages will be very likely. Lose though, and their future in the tournament is as secure as the Greek economy. It really is that big a game. The French team, an interesting mix of the experienced and the young, are being labeled as dark horses to win the Euros and are certainly favourites to get out of Group D. If England can pull of an unlikely victory, it will send out a statement of intent to the rest of the contenders: England are here to win and not just make up the numbers.
How far can they go?
There’s no pressure on an England side for the first time in my life time, which can only be an advantage, (see Denmark and Greece for examples) but a weak squad with few, if any, world class players wont be able to cope with the likes of France, Germany and Spain. Quater-finals at best.