The Real Football Man

Transfer deadline day has been and gone and from a football writers point of view, the topics of conversation are ever so slightly diminished, add in an international break straight after and it becomes something of a journalistic wasteland.

Thankfully though if you are reading this column it will have meant that you have survived the international break and are feasting on the rewards of the Premier League (other leagues are available upon request) so after the annoying early season hiatus what have we learned in the past week or so?

Well, firstly England have almost booked their place in next year’s FIFA World Cup with maximum points from the fixtures against Malta and Slovakia. A 4-0 win in Valletta does not, however, tell the full story though as England laboured in the first 45 minutes and only really found an extra gear when Malta’s engine started running on fumes.

The fact that a pitch invader was the highlight of the game says it all really but the question has to be asked as to whether or not fans of the Three Lions are being slightly harsh on Gareth Southgate and the England team, after all a win away from home and a clean sheet is not to be sniffed at.

At the end of the day, what does constitute a good win against Malta, how many goals are England meant to have scored? As the cliche is often spouted ‘there are no easy games in international football, unless you are playing against Gibraltar’

As a spectacle it was not a pretty watch, then again when has it been that entertaining following the national team. The last time I really enjoyed being an England fan was during Euro 2008. That tournament was absolute bliss thanks to Steve McClaren’s abject failure in regards to qualification.

I’m not advocating that England simply do not qualify for major tournaments in the future but what I probably would ask nay demand is that they go 1-0 nil down in all qualification matches from this point forwards. The reason being that this particular scenario actually made Monday’s viewing slightly more interesting.

I think half the problem is that England have a habit of regularly keeping clean sheets and as a competitive fixture they resemble nothing more than glorified training exercises. By the time Slovakia went ahead on Monday night due to Marcus Rashford’s error then it actually meant we had a game on our hands.

By and large, the game was not great with once again a non-footballing issue generating the most focus, this time it was not a pitch invasion but an errand middle finger from Dele Alli. FIFA have finally decided that they are going to open up disciplinary proceedings, truth be told though if Alli was banned for the remaining two qualifiers would it make all that big a difference.

One thing that needs to be different is England’s centre midfield options, if that is the best we’ve got then we are going to be in for a lot of trouble come next summer. Jordan Henderson as captain of the national team almost sums up everything that is wrong with this team.

Spain are by no means in the midst of the golden generation anymore but they made Italy look pretty ordinary last week and the likes of Andres Iniesta and Isco will be rubbing their hands with glee if they are paired up with Henderson and The Ox who to be honest resembled nothing more than a young Calf over the past week or so.

Gareth Southgate has been in charge of England for 10 matches, of which he has won five. For all your maths fans that is a win ratio of 50%, seeing him sit in joint ninth with Steve McClaren (two mentions in one column) in the all time list of England managers.

Still, when Sam Allardyce is forever going to sit top of the tree after his one and done performance it is a pretty much pointless stat, about as pointless as the process of qualifying for a major tournament. Still, it is a necessary evil if we want to enjoy another disappointing World Cup next summer.

That’s enough talking about international football for now. I’ll be back in two weeks as ironically I’m undertaking an international break of my own. Until then.