Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inept, woeful and unacceptable. For once it’s not West Ham getting a kicking from fans and the press but its England. Two very important qualifying matches have come and gone and the end result is 4 points. You might think that 4 points if a good return from two away matches but what the problem is, is the performances and who they were against.

Let’s go back to the start and Saturday’s game against Israel. The “left sided problem” has been long standing for England and when Jose Mourinho started to play Joe Cole on the left hand side of his Chelsea team, something clicked. The boy once labelled the “English Maradona” became a man and came of age at the world cup as one of the only players to come away from that tournament with his head held high. Unfortunately for him and for England he has suffered two big injuries this season which have limited the time he has spent on football field. With Bridge and Ashley Cole injured or suspended there was two gaps on the left side of England so the chance was there for naturally left footed, inform players to be given their chances. Therefore who do you pick for the left of midfield and at left back? Lucky for England Barry at Villa has hit some real form this season, Baines at Wigan has gone from strength to strength and Shorey at Reading has been playing well enough for the newly promoted side to perhaps be given a chance. Jamie Carragher and Lennon played on the left against Israel. Both good players but right footed, naturally out of position and limited by what they could do on the pitch by being played on the left. Anyway onto the other things that went wrong. The front two of Rooney and Johnson battled and worked hard to position themselves and try and fashion chances but the service was poor and neither player looked like having a cutting edge that was needed against a side that packed everyone back into their own half. You have to beat what’s in front of you and what was in front of England this game was a defence of 10 men. Conditions cannot be blamed; a culture of fear as you step out onto the itch in Israel cannot be blamed. The blame for me lies with the manager. Good leaders always admit that the buck stops with them and form McClarens comments that all the respected coaches in the world were calling him and saying England were brilliant and al that tosh, well that’s the sign of a man not excepting his share of the blame when things go wrong. Plus Phil Neville at right back? Oy Veh. There’s plenty more to be going into but for the sake of staying calm before I type something about the Andorra I wont.

This bit was typed after the Andorra match on Thursday. Reports in today’s papers are Lampard was dropped from the team rather then “injured” with a limp wrist. Well either way it was brilliant news he was dropped. Martin Peters earned the nickname of ghost for the way he would appear in the box or anywhere around the pitch unexpected and with maximum effect, through a goal or an important tackle. Lampard ghosts through matches but not in a Peter’s way, more in a have a million greedy shots and take a million deflections for it go in and take all the glory for his fat self. Personally I would rather he was dropped for being piss poor then an injury so if the papers are correct with this report then good.

About a World Cup too late but them the brakes. Over 10,000 England fans had made the journey to Barcelona to see England play against a side that in all honesty will struggle against the teams that play on Hackney Marshes on a weekend. 0-0 at half time. Now once again England was confronted with a side that packed their own half and never showed any interest at all in trying to get a goal. It took Paul Robinson 28 or so minutes to have a touch of the ball and that was to retrieve a wayward free kick that I think counted for Andorrans only chance on goal all match. Anyway chances were few and far between which is unacceptable for this side against such poor opposition. Gerrard was the first to test the goalkeeper after 20 minutes. 20 minutes to have a shot on target? A decent Downing chance was wasted and at half time the crowd really turned the screw on McClaren and his England flops. The second half performance was as controlled as the first and two quality finishes from Gerrard dug us out of a big hole. The telling thing was that after every goal and for long periods of time some of the crowd chanted “Still want McClaren out”. This I think has been born out of the obvious and what everyone can see is that McClaren is a man full of hot air and not many ideas. Middlesboro fans were in large glad to be rid of him and that says a lot. We could not break down Andorra as they packed their half as I said and we failed to get Lennon involved in the gamer. To try and get him on the ball he was bought more infield and it nearly paid off straight away but then he drifted out of the game again. Why? Cause at times the service was not good enough. The BBC pundits were right to point out that why do you need to have so many back against this side? Lennon and Downing should have been told that they are not allowed into the England half unless to defend a free kick or corner. Push them up and get the balls into them to run at the much weaker opposition. Why sit Gerrard and Hargreaves back so far at times? It’s Andorra for pity’s sake. I can understand Gerrard collecting the ball to start a move or drive forward but it looked to be t times he was a holding midfielder. In the first half some fans chanted for David Beckham. He will never be bought back by the inept manager in charge of the national team but you could see why he was chanted for. His delivery and ability at times to ratchet up a game and take it by the scruff of the neck was what was needed that first half. Richards looked impressive until he went off injured and the injury he picked up might have ended his season, along with the other injury he has been carrying for some while now according to reports.

Funny how Gerrard has a bigger influence on a match when he plays in the middle. A position that according to Jamie “I’m Lampards cousin” Redknapp is one that the Liverpool manager has “Brainwashed” the country into thinking he cannot play in. Management calls for big decisions and McClaren and most pundits have fudged the issue of Gerrard and Lampard. Alan Hansen last night on Match of the Day said that they can play together and they are both similar players. Ok then in that case for the sake of the team you go for the player who is more technically gifted, a bigger leader o the pitch and someone that is 100% regarded as a threat wherever he is on the pitch. Better order a reinforced bench as Lampard is going to get splinters. Well that’s if we had a manager with sense in charge.

Also well done to David Nugent for two reasons. For stealing Defoe’s goal and for the example set to championship players. If you are in form and there is a spate of injuries then you will get a chance. Take not please Dean Ashton, for the love of God please use this as an example that you can play in the championship for West Ham and still be in the England frame.

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