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Monday, 11 June 2012

England: 46 years of hurt and there will probably be a few more too


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Sqf Gstevens general

So another tournament for England, another chance for our much lauded players to show the world just how good they are on one of the biggest stages of all. Yet for once we aren't among the favourites and the whole country is hoping for some good results rather than expecting good results as we all usually do.

So much has changed in just a few short years. We have gone from believing that our players rate up there with the best to realising that actually if a team of players can't manage a few consecutive short passes then they may actually not be all they were cracked up to be.

So what has changed? On the pitch, not much. We have been a very average side for a long time. It is off the pitch and in the eyes of the fans and Press where the changes have taken place. For so long our sides have dominated European club football and on a weekly basis supplied us with the most exciting brand of football in the world. The only issue there is that these club's best players do not qualify for the English national side. We can't pick Ronaldo, Henry, Giggs, Drogba, Torres etc. We make do with Downing, Milner, Parker and Co. While they are all capable players, I don't expect them to blow anyone away at the Euros.

I have a touch of sympathy for Stewart Downing. Every paper I pick up seems to mention that he cost £20 million and didn't help himself to an assist or goal all season. However, I was told by a friend, so I can't confirm it's accuracy, that he was one of the highest players in the assists chart the season prior and that he actually created more chances for team-mates than any other wide player last season only to watch Suarez, Carroll etc miss the lot.

There is no need for me to go over the manager's situation as it has been covered by the world and his wife already, but because of what has gone on in the past 12 months, as an England fan, the best we can hope for is that Roy gets us organised and difficult to beat. If we achieve anything I expect it will be done the Chelsea way, and why not? No it's not the brand of football we would love to see the boys in white churn out, but if we open up and attack teams then we will probably only get to see England play the three games this summer before they hop on their flight home. We simply don't have the players to play like that, particularly at the back. Until we have a more mobile central defensive partnership, then we will never be able to press high up.

On too many occasions, and the Belgium game was a great example, we have watched our side, when without the ball, line up in two banks of four not far from the edge of our area in order to make it difficult for the opposition to get in behind. We allow them all of the ball in our half and then swarm when they get the ball nearer to the danger areas.

When we have had the ball, for many years, we have watched as Terry, Ferdinand, Cole and Barry just knock it around inside our half with no penetration. None of the quick turnaround, none of the speedy counter attacks that are the Premiership's hallmark. Just happy to have the ball under no pressure. Hopefully in the future we will produce two quick and strong centre backs who can defend on the halfway line when in possession and allow their team-mates to press high up and play with the ball inside the opponents half.

My expectations for the tournament would see us get to the quarter-finals as runner-up of Group D and face Spain. Although we did beat the reigning World and European Champions recently, Spain are notorious for not performing to their capabilities in friendlies, just as they have shown again of the past 12 months with defeats to England and Italy, drawing with Costa Rica and struggling to a narrow win over China.

I would expect a Spain win but I expected a Barcelona win a few weeks ago and then a Bayern Munich win just weeks after that. So without appearing to cliche, stranger things have happened . . . or have they?

Do you agree with Gary? Will England be a solid unit with little flair? Can they conquer the reigning Champions? Or will they crash and burn at the group stage? Whatever your views, we would love to hear from you.

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Gary Stevens

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