For a while now I’ve been under the firm impression that no one reads what I write on these pages. But that has all changed over these last few days, and I have come to realise that someone very much reads what I write. And that someone is from the Football Association; it could even be Woy Hodgson himself (he’s the manager).
Anyway. I now know that he (or someone pretty close to him) reads my stuff, because I made some rather sage comments regarding the Euro-qualifiers played in September, and, lo and behold, the team completely changed its game.
I wrote that it was ‘quite depressing watching England play football.’ I suggested England should be doing better with its ‘big squadrons.’ I even pulled out some pretty impressive statistics to show that England has a pool of players 17.18% bigger than Ukraine, but that they are not 17.18% better at playing football than Ukraine. I also suggested picking players with skill as opposed to an ability to just run fast.
And the way the English went about their game in the last round of Euro-qualifiers was infinitely better. They beat Montenegro 4-1 and Poland 2-0, and are now on their way to the Brazil World Cup next year as winners of their group. Splendid!
Of course, we always should have won the group. Montenegro is a minute country; it doesn’t even have a million people, while we have a lot more than that. Poland is somewhat bigger, but still only has a little under 40 million people to chose from – plus, of course, however many are living in East Anglia and London; but I’m not sure they’re that committed to playing football, so we can discount them. The point is England is a bigger country, not just demographically but footballographically, too.
But what was most pleasing was the way the team went about their game. Too often the players (out of fear, lethargy, instruction or lack of skill, I don’t know) have sat back and waited for the opposition to score. But this time they went after the game. They tried to play football; they tried to pass the ball; they tried to score goals. It seemed their philosophy had changed radically from simply not wanting to lose to actually wanting to win.
To be fair, one gets the impression Roy Hodgson has been trying to take them in a new direction for a while now. But, whatever is happening, this new approach produces goals. If the opposition scores three, well, we score four. Simple. Not only is this a better strategy for winning, but it makes for better entertainment. Everyone wins, and the supporters start enjoying themselves again.
My final piece of advice? Keep playing Carrick. He’s a locksmith. He can release other players like no one else. Oh, and keep playing Baines, too. He’s also pretty good.