‘I want the one I can’t have,’ sang Morrissey. Of course, he was talking about unrequited gay love, but at the risk of challenging anyone’s masculinity here, there’s a lot of it going on around the England team at the moment.
The clamour for what is out of reach, the dissatisfaction with the world as it is. Nobody wants the players who are in, everyone wants the players who are out, and when those who were out are in, everyone wants them out again, and for what? Someone new, someone untried, someone unimagined, someone different. Who can’t we have? We want him.
It used to be Jack Grealish. Now it’s Jadon Sancho. If Gareth Southgate picks Sancho how long before the chorus will grow tired of him, too. And then what? Conor Coady? Ben White? Sam Johnstone? Who can satisfy this insatiable appetite for change?
Bukayo Saka caught the eye against the Czech Republic but the game was a dead rubber
Phil Foden was England’s standout youngster by popular consent but now fans are clamouring for Jadon Sancho (pictured)
Phil Foden was, by popular consent, the outstanding young English player of his generation, the spiritual successor to Paul Gascoigne. The poor soul heard it so often he dyed his hair to pander to our fantasies.
And now? Southgate omitted him because he was worried that Mason Mount’s self-isolation and a second booking for Foden would leave England weak against opponents far stronger than Czech Republic, and now there is genuine speculation around whether he should return.
Getting into the England team has to mean something. It cannot be that every player is an ordinary 45 minutes from exile. Bukayo Saka looked impressive in the last game, as did Grealish, but it was a dead rubber. That display cannot trump years of preparation. There is a lot of time for international managers to ponder.
Southgate will not be surprised that England are in the last 16, nor that Germany are the opposition. There was a good chance this fixture would happen and he will know the way he wants to set up. While injuries and Mount’s absence may have thrown out some plans, he can’t make selections by whim.
We always want what we can’t have and Gareth Southgate shouldn’t entertain calls for change
Was it always this way? It doesn’t seem to have been. Terry Venables, who Southgate admired, maintained that getting out of the England team should be as hard as getting in.
In 1996, nine of England’s initial starting XI kept their places in all five games, and the two who missed a match — Paul Ince and Gary Neville — only did so due to suspension. Both times, the player promoted was David Platt. Venables started just 12 players across five matches. He did not entertain calls for battlefield promotions based on presumptions of improvement, guesses at best.
And that wasn’t because England always played well. There was disquiet against Switzerland, against Spain, initially against Scotland. It wasn’t so different from now.
But it’s no way to win a tournament, wanting the one you can’t have, always presuming better sits on the bench. Foden, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, these players start for a reason.
It’s ridiculous that there’s genuine speculation around whether Foden should return to the XI
EFL isn’t a league, it’s a lunatic asylum
The email announcement dropped at 11.29pm. You can always tell when an organisation is particularly proud of its process. They trumpet decisions at 31 minutes to midnight.
In a nutshell, it was revealed that Derby haven’t been deducted points for financial irregularity, but the EFL might appeal against this decision in the hope that they are, so Derby and Wycombe’s fixtures in the Championship and League One next season have been made interchangeable.
Wycombe, who were only promoted via an EFL calculation so obtuse it curtailed the season and then awarded more than three points per game in some cancelled matches, may now be saved by more office politics.
As for Derby fans, they cannot plan a single trip, book so much as one afternoon off work, until this mess is decided.
How the EFL have handled the situation with Derby shows it needs a lot more than a regulator
The second Saturday of the season, for instance, Derby could be in Peterborough or Cheltenham. The following midweek, Hull or Wigan. The fifth game of the season is the derby at home to Nottingham Forest — or away at Sunderland, see if the EFL care.
Derby don’t play on September 4 because it is an international weekend — unless they’re at home to Ipswich, as Wycombe might be. So good luck making plans for that one. As for Derby’s manager, who knows? There is now talk that Wayne Rooney will leave if Derby are demoted.
How can they plan the summer? That’s the EFL. Licensed to kill football clubs.
They got lucky appealing to relegate Macclesfield last year, so may try again, but this is a lunatic asylum masquerading as a league. It doesn’t need a regulator; it needs sectioning.
No wonder there is such desperation to get out.
Scotland can’t play England every week
England are unbeaten, topped their group, are one of just two teams at the tournament yet to concede a goal and everyone is furious. Scotland finished bottom, lost both of their matches at home, accrued one point, scored one goal and failed to make it out of the group for their 11th straight tournament, the last of which was in a previous century. Of course, optimism abounds.
‘It’s just the beginning of us qualifying for tournaments,’ announced Kieran Tierney, and with 24 teams at the European Championship and 16 going to the bloated World Cup in 2026, maybe he’s right. Yet when just 16 made it to the Euros the Scottish Football Association lobbied UEFA hard for expansion because they could never get in. And only 13 are being sent from Europe to Qatar in 2022.
After three matches, Scotland are already four points behind Denmark having drawn in Israel and at home to Austria. The only team they have beaten are the Faroe Islands. We all saw how Scotland played at Wembley last week and it was impressive. One-off games, however, are not a campaign. It can’t be England every week.
Scotland were excellent against England but one-off games are not a campaign
Why Dubravka’s gaffe is very bad news for Newcastle
Steve Bruce’s heart must have sunk when he saw Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka palm the ball into his own net, while attempting to push it over the bar as Slovakia lost to Spain.
It won’t have helped that Dubravka conceded another four after that as Slovakia’s tournament collapsed.
Some errors traumatise goalkeepers. Scott Carson may have made 521 club appearances everywhere from Wigan Athletic to Bursaspor, but in 2007 when he was handed his competitive England debut, it was thought he could be the team’s keeper for many years.
After a calamitous night against Croatia, however, that promise did not materialise.
Liverpool, where he was being groomed to succeed Pepe Reina, sold him to West Bromwich and he played just four games for England.
Dubravka’s 29 international appearances suggest more of a grounding; even so, this could be a hard memory to shake.
Newcastle will be praying Martin Dubravka’s comical gaffe against Spain won’t haunt him
Nothing wrong with Germany’s FA’s joke
As Germany confirmed their round of 16 game in England, the federation’s official Twitter feed posted: ‘Es kommt nach Hause’. See what they did? ‘It’s coming home’ — a gentle reminder that the last time the teams met at Wembley, the English handled the singing, the Germans the winning. And it’s a good line. Very witty. If our Football Association tried something similar, however. Oh, the English arrogance…
Why the missing pundit for Wales?
One justification for the naked bias shown by panellists during Wales games is that it is no different when England play, and Welsh supporters have endured it for years. When, exactly?
Across the 22 years when Alan Hansen (26 appearances for Scotland) was the lead pundit for the BBC, he was often beside his former Liverpool team-mate Mark Lawrenson (39 appearances, Republic of Ireland). At the 2012 European Championship for ITV, co-commentating beside Clive Tyldesley was Andy Townsend (70 appearances, Republic of Ireland) and pitchside when England played Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final, flanking Glenn Hoddle, were Ryan Giggs (64 appearances, Wales) and Slaven Bilic (44 appearances, Croatia). No doubt in the interest of balance.
And nothing wrong with that. All are fine analysts and broadcasters and who better to discuss Croatia’s gameplan and the context of the match from the opposition’s point of view than Bilic?
So what happens to these insights when Wales play? Really, there were no Italians available for ITV last Sunday? Nobody had Gianfranco Zola’s number? Will the BBC allot a place to, say, Peter Schmeichel on Saturday, when Wales play Denmark, or even a chair to a voice that is not affiliated to either team? Roy Keane’s 67 appearances for Ireland do not bar him from the studio when England play. Why is this any different?
You can bet your houses Peter Schmeichel won’t be on BBC punditry duty for Wales v Denmark
Don’t bet on England players’ families joining them on tour
Given how England’s winter itinerary is scheduled, players will be away from their families for four months. Short tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan precede the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and then it is straight to Australia for the Ashes.
Departing mid-September, the Australian leg ends on January 18 and, due to Covid, there is no dispensation for families to join the tour. The ECB are hopeful a compromise can be reached and have enlisted the help of Cricket Australia.
Don’t bet on a happy resolution. The last time England toured, winter 2017-18, there was a complication with media-working visas. They last three months, but the tour overran by a couple of days. It only affected three journalists there for the duration and, again, it was presumed a solution could be found. Not so.
Cricket Australia got involved, the ECB, the Government. No deal. What if the writers flew to another country for one night, then returned on a new visa? No way. What if they just ignored it and claimed an oversight? No return, ever. In the end, the three left before the final T20 international. Computer said no.
Fat chance of Bach considering the Emperor’s worries
Japan’s post-war constitution prevents the head of the Chrysanthemum Throne making public pronouncements on contentious issues. So for Emperor Naruhito to convey that he is worried the Olympics will cause infections to spread may be the final blow to the local popularity of the Games.
As Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, appears to believe he is the Emperor of Japan, however, do not expect consideration. This is already more occupation than celebration.
Football could learn from Youngs’ punishment
What a fabulous punishment for Tom Youngs, captain of Leicester, who was banned for two weeks for confronting referee Ian Tempest during a match with Bristol. One week of the penalty is suspended on the condition Youngs undertakes a refereeing course and officiates two junior grass roots games. Would football ever try that? It seems far too sensible.
Hungary won our hearts… but no football games
Hungary’s footballers won many friends at this European Championship, but even so, two draws and a defeat meant that, like every qualifier through the play-offs, they failed to make the round of 16, finishing bottom of Group F. Also falling short were North Macedonia (bottom, Group C), Scotland (bottom, Group D) and Slovakia (third but eliminated, Group E). Hungary and Scotland played two of three games at home, too.
Hungary won many friends at Euro 2020 but crashed out at the group stage with no victories