The Real Football Man

We’ve done it. I say we and I, of course, mean England (apologies to any international readers for my unashamed patriotic bias) and when I say we’ve done it, I am of course talking about the fact that we’ve qualified for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Life under Gareth Southgate has hardly been a rollercoaster has it, to be honest it’s been more the tea cup ride as a number of stagnant performances have been offered up by the national team. There has not been a great deal to smile about as the malaise continues but we should not forget that we’ve actually qualified for another major tournament.

So in terms of Southgate’s half-term report you would have to say solid but not spectacular, job done but could do better. That is a fair enough of assessment of the man which whatever he does will always be termed rightly or wrongly as a Football Association Yes Man.

That for him is always going to be the millstone around his neck for as long as his England career is, this is a man who is still learning on the job as he and this England team find their feet in what are currently very choppy international waters.

To put things into perspective, Southgate is the ninth most successful England manager in terms of win ratios. Six wins from eleven means it is a win ratio of 54.5%. Last night’s win over Slovenia takes him above the “Wally with the brolly” Steve McClaren who only won half of his matches.

Now Southgate is never, unfortunately, going to top that list due to the fact that Lord Sam Allardyce’s perfect one and done record but a win against Lithuania on Sunday night will move him up to 8th in the charts in terms of all-time successful England managers.

But let’s be honest the only metric that really matters is how many international trophies have been won. Unfortunately for Glenn Hoddle, the 1997 Tournoi success is not held in quite the same esteem as Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 World Cup success.

Can Southgate win an international trophy of his own, to be honest, you would have to say that is less than likely. Whether that is due to the manager himself or the personnel that he selects is something that will be answered next summer.

But one thing that is for certain is this, it is an almost criminal shame that this England team is so bang average in terms of performances because with the form that Harry Kane is in right now this is the kind of player that should be going on to win World Cup’s

He alone cannot drag England to the promised land, I mean you only have to look at Lionel Messi and Argentina’s plight right now. It does not matter if you are to be perceived as the world’s best player, international football can be a particularly cruel mistress.

One that could even see Argentina miss out on the World Cup but to be honest there is no way that Lionel Messi does not make the trip to Russia. By hook or by crook, be it a points deduction for Peru or a 33rd team at the tournament, Argentina will be getting on the plane.

And it is that phrase “get (insert player here) on the plane” that we will once again get accustomed to over the next eight months or so as the clamour to be one of the final 23 names in the England squad increases. As to who makes that select group well your guess is as good as mine.

One thing for sure is that it is not going to be an easy task for Gareth Southgate, not because we are brimming with talent in every department but because everyone bar Harry Kane has become an absolute identikit player in their position.

Back in the days of the “Golden Generation” – a term that I loathe to use but I can’t change history, the first eleven rightly or wrongly picked itself part of that was because Sven Goran Eriksson had an unwillingness to change but also because the team almost picked itself.

So from having arguably 8-10 World Class players from a starting eleven and then a slight drop off in quality from the rest of the squad we now have arguably 1 World Class player and the rest is just an homogenised collection of footballing beige.

I couldn’t pick an England squad right now, partly because of reasons above and perhaps, more importantly, I don’t really care enough to take the time in which to do so. Thankfully though it’s not my job in which to do so, I’ll leave that task to Gareth.

Until next week