Here’s a cheery thought to brighten up your day. In a few years time Sarah Palin might be president of the most powerful country in the world. And Stuart Pearce could be England’s manager. I honestly don’t know which scenario I fear the most.
The requirement last night was to win – no ifs, buts, and please God no more plucky maybes – and prior to the game the psychotic former electrician was making all the right noises. He promised quicker movement and announced he had full confidence in his squad to deliver a result. Alas Pearce was writing out Czechs that his team couldn’t cash.
You think that’s a bad joke? Well try this one – against a side who soak up pressure at the best if times: who only needed a draw to proceed to the semi-finals; and would surely show very little inclination to venture forward, Pearce went with Fabrice Muamba and Jordan Henderson to shore things up in the middle.
Muamba is possibly the most limited, negative-minded midfielder I have ever clasped eyes on. His lack of ambition is such that you feel he’d return a winning scratch card to the shop he bought it from. Alongside him the myth of Henderson has finally been buried in Denmark. For too long now people have wrongfully believed he is an influential, marauding midfielder whereas in fact he does little more than attempt to keep things tidy by dropping deep for pointless one-twos with his centre-backs. My nan could do that. The ‘next Gerrard’ was the tag that accompanied his recent expensive switch to Anfield yet after three abject performances in a row Liverpool fans must be rubbing their ‘taches with concern and wondering what Stevie G has done to deserve such a slight.
So let’s call it how it really was. Pearce, in his infinite f***ing stupidity, employed TWO holding midfielders in a game we had to win. Against a side who only required a draw.
Meanwhile on the bench sat Rodwell, watching at home was the scheming Josh McEachran, whilst topping up his tan and chatting up floozies in sunny climes was Wilshere.
As is customary for any England side it was left to the wide-men to provide any flair or attacking merit and, though Sinclair showed the occasional burst of pace, it rarely troubled the Czechs who simply squeezed the play and snuffed out all outlets. It’s a flawed system that I have now witnessed so often in our national side I had to check it was being aired on Sky and not Dave.
Will the lessons ever be learnt? Or are we as fans doomed to point out the glaringly obvious into our pint-pots until the day we die?
Patience is not always a virtue. In fact sometimes it’s just dumb.
What made last night’s result all the more galling was that England had a man advantage from the opening whistle – their starting line-up plus the imaginary team-mate who Henderson and Cleverley kept passing to throughout.
When Pearce finally rectified this on the hour mark and brought on Lansbury and Albrighton in place of two of the tournament’s biggest disappointments suddenly everything changed for the better. There was no more senseless shadow boxing but instead some genuine thrust and intent. But Stu, you had ninety minutes to get us through. Why waste two-thirds of it? Patience is not always a virtue. In fact sometimes it’s just dumb.
I am not for one minute under-valuing a decent Czech side who scored thirty goals and only conceded four throughout an unbeaten qualification campaign. But when their routine and predictable strategy of sitting back and cutting out England’s supply line from the flanks is so wilfully aided and abetted by the opposition manager then it’s hard not to waive any praise and instead place the blame squarely at Pearce’s brogues.
For what it’s worth England’s overall display last night was an improvement on their previous outings. Though considering the insipid performances against Spain and the Ukraine that’s like saying Susan Boyle looks more attractive with make-up on.
However, there are some positives to draw from England’s short sojourn in Denmark. Frankie Fielding has done his claims for a senior squad place no harm at all, especially as so many of his more accomplished rivals are hanging up their gloves, reluctant to play second fiddle to Hart. Kyle Walker has continued his impressive rise to prominence, at times imitating Daniel Alves with his lung-busting surges down the right flank, whilst Smalling has arguably been the pick of the bunch, showing class and composure and the ability to stride into midfield gaps whenever possible. Sturridge and Wellbeck too have revealed glimpses of promise, hinting at a time when we no longer require Carlton Cole to impersonate an international centre forward.
These though are all-too-slender consolations from a team who began the tournament amongst the favourites yet produced nothing more than a lack-lustre whimper throughout.
Pearce said this week ‘We are all too ready to write off our own nation’. That’s not strictly true Stu, nor fair, on long-suffering loyal supporters. Whereas you on the other hand we’ll write off gladly. Thank you for the good times as a player - when you made our chests sometimes burst with drunken pride - now be on your way.
Yet before the game the ever-wise F.A awarded him with a two year extension to his contract. I daren’t watch the news now for fear of seeing Palin brandishing a semi-automatic and declaring she is running for the White House.
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