Well, I’ll be honest; it wasn’t as dire an international break as I anticipated. England beat a Dutch side that went on to beat Portugal, and looked fairly decent against the Italians. But as per usual, it’s hardly worth getting excited about, is it? International friendlies have long since lured us into a false sense of security – there’s nothing like beating Germany prior to a European Championship, only to lose to Iceland in the last 16 – but at least Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker seem to be able to play in the same starting 11.
To be fair to Southgate, there is an abundance of talent in the full backs. What with Walker, Trippier, Rose and Bertand putting in big performances in recent times, I must say I have no issue with the manager trying to squeeze as many of them as possible into the national side. I mean sod it, if Pickford and Butland are both looking imperious in goal, why not stick one of them out pitch – after all, if Jake Livermore can play 60+ minutes in centre midfield for his country then I think either keeper is entitled to have a crack at the role.
Alas, seeing as international break tells us next to nothing, let’s look forward to the return of a more meaningful weekend of football. Looking at the Premier League fixtures, however, leaves a lot to be desired. I have a feeling I’ll be waiting patiently for Chelsea vs Tottenham, keeping an eye (but nothing more) on a series of games that don’t exactly wet the whistle so much as leave it in need of desperate hydration. West Ham vs Southampton could tempt me, if only in the hope that two teams in complete disarray might throw up the odd mass brawl or two. Being at the London Stadium of course, if the players don’t start one, you can always count on the fans taking matters into their own hands with a timely pitch invasion.
For anyone hoping the Championship might offer a more inspirational fixture list, I’ve got some bad news. When the EFL released the fixtures for this weekend, you could have forgiven them for expecting a few crackers. As it happens, it’s all a bit April Fools.
Hull vs Aston Villa: what should have been a promotion battle between two sides relegated from the Premier League is instead 4th vs 18th.
Similarly, Derby vs Sunderland should have been the start of a promotion push for both sides, rather than 5th vs rock bottom. Still, I wont pretend that the Black Cats’ misfortune doesn’t humour me – the phrase “at least we’re not Sunderland” has kept my spirits above zero for the majority of this season.
While League 1 only succeeds in disappointing further, League 2 offers the solitude of a 3rd vs 4th clash between Notts County and Wycombe Wanderers. Throw in the presence of Adebayo “The Beast” Akinfenwa and young, in-form midfielder Jorge Grant, and you’ve got yourself what might just be the game of the weekend.