On the way back from Racing vs Godoy Cruz tonight, I was asked by our Argentine driver whether or not I like Roy Hodgson. I told him that I am like most English football fans: I like him very much as a man but I am less enamoured with him as a tactician. He is far from a bad manager – I would argue that he remains frustratingly underrated – but I cannot deny that if I were in charge things would be done very differently indeed.
So I got to wondering just how differently I would do things. Admittedly working back to front, I chose the system first. Then I decided which players I would like to see in England’s 2014 World Cup squad and which omitted from it. Those of you who know me will already know exactly where this is headed and will be unsurprised to learn that several of my choices were met with incredulity and disbelief by all present.
I feel I could probably do with including a disclaimer at this point, so here it is: my point of view is that England are not going to win the 2014 World Cup no matter what they do, so they might as well just go to Brazil and have some fun.
We should play the kind of football we want to see played. We should give chances to those whose ability most merits selection and throw out those whose reputations continue to precede them at this level. Above all, we should trust in the type of player we as a footballing nation have written off in the past: if we cannot succeed, we must at least evolve.
So, without further qualification and defence, I present to you my twenty-three for England’s spectacular 2014 World Cup group stage exit.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart; John Ruddy; Fraser Forster.
Defenders: Glen Johnson; Kyle Walker; Chris Smalling; Phil Jagielka; Gary Cahill; Phil Jones; Leighton Baines; Luke Shaw.
Midfielders: Jack Cork; Gareth Barry; Ross Barkley; James Milner; Jack Wilshere; Tom Cleverley; Ravel Morrison.
Forwards: Theo Walcott; Andros Townsend; Raheem Sterling; Danny Welbeck; Daniel Sturridge.
And here is how they will line up.
Plan A: Guardiolaball
Plan B: Never mind, just play like everyone else
Plan C: Fucking hell, how are we 2-0 down again?
I think I have pretty much every base covered. First of all, all of England’s most technically-gifted players are there. Second, the side has a clear tactical identity. Third, there are at least two specialists in the squad for each role on the pitch, so rotation would be possible in both the starting line-ups and using substitutions. As the tournament progresses the squad will remain fresh and competitive and by the time the final comes around they should be reaching their peak.
As I see it, mine is a plan with no drawbacks. Please do try to convince me otherwise. Your thoughts/howls of incredulity/torrents of abuse are more than welcome.