The international break came and went. Did you even watch? England played Moldova, a team vying with Cyprus for 123rd in the world, then travelled to Ukraine ranked 28th. Roy Hodgson selected his lions with the words of hope and change ringing in his ears from Greg Dykes speech. Yet there they were, Lampard and Gerrard, together again in the England midfield. Has an inspirational and hopeful speech ever been quashed so fast? I make that 48 hours, that must be a new record.
As the beautiful music of R Kelly's Ignition Remix played on the nations radios young gangly Frank Lampard and spotty Steven Gerrard met on the manicured lawns of Lilleshall. Arraigned to be married in a dynamic midfield they were intended to be the basis of a Golden Generation in England’s footballing history. In a rare moment of fortune, as the game trended towards a tall athletic style of play England had two of its finest proponents Understandably, with these two marquee midfielders, every effort was made to get Lamps and Stevie performing to their capabilities in the same starting eleven. As both players matured with their own distinctive styles, but occupying the same role for their respective club sides, it became clear they were as compatible as seaside wildlife and crude oil. Many managers came in with their own foolproof plans to unlock the partnership but to no avail. Divorce seemed inevitable and overdue. Yet after 50+ games together we're still here to the bemusement of just about everybody.
In a microcosm of our overall problem while chasing the holy grail of a Lampard/Gerrard midfield England marginalised Paul Scholes. Who would turn out to be the best English midfield player since Gascoigne. But who knew the small technically gifted savant style would come back into fashion right? Oh the comedy, if you don’t laugh you'll cry.
All in all we just can't seem to get it right. Like a terrible actor we can only play two characters. We can do plucky, hardworking but ultimately talentless or we can do gifted waste. A balance is beyond our grasp. Greg Dyke intends to convene a commission to tackle the subject but while he does I propose a radical idea. Lets bottom out?
We beat Moldova 4-0 and had a thrilling goalless draw with Ukraine. Our brave lions are one point clear at the top of group H but we've heard this all before haven’t we? When the political protests are marginalised and the Brazilian festival of football begins in 2014 will we really be watching a brand new event. Or will we just be seeing a repeat as England escape our group only to loose in an early knockout stage. A few of our old timers will get to clap the fans as they leave the pitch one last time, but do we owe them that?
I honestly believe, that if asked, the majority of England fans would like Roy Hodgson to play the kids. Goodbye Frank, Stevie et al you tried hard but we need a fresh start. A FRESH start. Not a couple of young bench warmers a complete clean-out.
While Greg scratches his head trying to get all the schools in the country to rip up their boggy pitches and install astroturf. As Mr Dyke implores parents to get their kids playing Futsal exclusively until they're 12 years old Roy enact a more immediate plan. By martyring himself Roy Hodgson could become the most important and loved England manager since Bobby Robson. Imagine the ramifications if Roy simply decided he was only going to...
1. Play players regularly starting for their club sides only. No exceptions.
2. Play only players under the age of 25 in anticipation of future tournament
3. Ban players from representing England for 3 years if they pulled out of any England squad without due cause.
That would be a watershed moment.
Sure we would stink in the immediate future, but is that so bad? For my sins I support Charlton Athletic and towards the end of the Curbishley years that brought mid table premier league safety there were some of us that longed for the thrill of promotion and relegation. Just to feel something again. Well England are right in the Curbishley zone going nowhere. Lets blow it all up and let the youngsters have a crack at it. The England team is now such an afterthought to most fans that its relevance is hanging by threads.
Having announced his long overdue retirement from Match of the Day, Alan Hansen wrote a column in the Telegraph concluding “If I were Roy Hodgson – presuming England qualify for the World Cup – I would do everything possible to ensure I could pick the best players around, and both Terry and Rio Ferdinand come into that category.” How does this quote make you feel? It makes me feel tired. I'm tired of Alan Hansen, he has long since past his sell by date and has been on autopilot for years but more so I am tired of the old guard. Clogging up the lanes with 'experience', sapping the life and whispers of technique out of the young. Alan Hansen once famously said “you can't win anything with kids” but we aren’t winning anything with grownups. Let's at least make it interesting.
As Alan Hansen retires from punditry I can only hope he causes a domino effect on those below him. Frank Lampard can have his job on the BBC and Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the rest can wrestle over the England shirt he leaves behind.