After a drab, but effective at least in points terms, performance against the mighty minnows of Malta and a lucky escape against the footballing superpower of Slovenia, the current incumbent of the England Manager’s job is one match victory away from securing the role full time. If Gareth Southgate does manage to wrangle a victory against an Auld Enemy who are in almost as much disarray as their southern neighbours would he deserve the job?
Based on the two matches he has overseen so far I would have to say no but, and it is a very important but, could any of the other contenders touted have done any better?
There seems to be a common misconception in the English press that the current generation of footballers are on par with most of the rest of the world but if you look closely this is by no means the case. England do not posses a stand out superstar such as Portugal’s Ronaldo or any of Barcelona’s MNS, yet even Wales have Gareth Bale? Superstars aside teams such as Germany and Spain may not have a definitive world beater but they do possess units of players who have grown up together and can be counted on when the going gets tough, what do England have? Kyle Walker and Jordan Henderson. Be honest and you have to admit the majority of the England team would struggle to get into most of the top international teams or even the squads of the big players.
But what of John Stones or Dele Ali I hear you ask? Stones was grossly overpriced whilst I am not yet convinced that Ali is half the player he or the English press think he is. Joe Hart is a top class goalkeeper but he can’t get a game for the club which owns him and whilst Harry Kane has proven he is no flash in the pan, is he really in the same class as the previously mentioned MSN or Lewandowski of Germany? Which brings us to the future of the English game, Marcus Rashford. Here is a player who has played less than twenty senior league games being touted as a world class talent. One of the games was against Stoke and Rashford was the player I was looking forward to seeing the most but in the end he disappointed and was outshone by two true international greats Zlatan and Pogba.
This is the real paucity of talent any England boss would have to work with and in this context maybe Southgate should be lauded for keeping England’s undefeated streak in qualifiers alive. Maybe a draw against Slovenia would have been easier to swallow if we had Arsene moaning about the quality of international refereeing but at the end of the day it would still have been only a point.
If you accept there is a problem with the lack of world class talent coming through the English football system the obvious next step is to ask what is the solution. And it is here that I think that Southgate is the answer.
England have consistently been impressive at age level football under Southgate so he knows the players and because he knows the players I hope he would be more inclined to blood them in the remaining, easily winnable, qualifying games. Sure we may lose the odd one but even England’s current incumbents should make easy work of our qualifying group and in today’s modern football world the emphasis has changed from the country to the club.
For the lesser football nations, and England has to be classed in this bracket, international football is a pathway to being recognised by the bug clubs. So if talented players are seen playing for England the pressure on their club bosses to play them increases because they are now in the shop window and as a result, hopefully, we begin to see more young players gaining the first team experience which they need, such as Marcus Rashford.
But you just criticised Rashford I hear you scream!
No, I criticised the English press for building him up and said he was disappointing when he played against Stoke, but the important thing is that he did play against Stoke. Maybe he will justify the hype or maybe he will be another Fabian Delph but either way he will have the chance and the more players like Rashford who are given that chance the better the odds of producing a truly world class player.
So if I was to be responsible for choosing Big Sam’s replacement I would hang my hat on the current incumbent and tell him to ignore the press and give youth a chance.