England fulfilled their usual role of an unbeaten schlep through an easy qualifying group, with another performance to hint at finals humiliation.
Asked what I thought the score would be in England’s penultimate qualifier against the might of Slovenia, I said it would be a dire nil, nil at halftime and then they’ll score late goals to win, qualify and paper over the cracks.
Well, I was one letter off, goal not goals.
Then again I might have been off with dire. It was far, far worse than that. But then what do we expect from Southgate and his men?
The manager stated earlier in the week that some of the players didn’t deserve their spot, they were only there due to injuries and suspension. The problem for Southgate is that though this is true, it pretty much covers his favourites.
Joe Hart is his first choice as keeper, he doesn’t deserve to be there. Neither do Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson or Sterling, but these are the first names on Gareth’s team sheet.
Why not pick someone from the lower age groups, stick ’em in, they couldn’t do any worse and who knows a decent performance and they might get more of a look in at their club.
But no, Gareth is sticking with OC, even though he’s been awful in every game for England under Southgate, while actually being even worse for his club. Here he was at least unseen for the apparently 64 minutes he was on the park.
Nothing came down that right hand side, especially nothing from Walker. Oh, he’ll live off the cross for the winning goal but where was that for the previous 94 minutes? No, in that time he was more likely to assist in a goal for Slovenia.
Don’t you just love England passing it around at the back. None of them comfortable with the ball, it’s just an accident waiting to happen. Especially from the likes of Walker.
So Slovenia should have had a penalty thanks to Hart and some shocking defending. The back four were inept, Bertrand by far his worst game, constantly facing backwards so could only play the ball back.
Nothing in the middle of the park. Dier is the holding player, so Henderson has to do something going forward, he did nothing. Nothing from OC on the right.
Then there was Sterling, in the hole. Yup, about as good a place as any for him, in a hole, a hole as far away from the pitch as possible. What a waste of space. Prannying about with that stupid run of his, with that stupid gurn on his face. Getting in the way, giving up the ball and falling over. The only surprising thing was Southgate taking him off with five minutes to go. Wasn’t a standing ovation he got on his departure.
So Rashford on the left was the only decent player on the park. The only one that did anything. And yet I see Sterling getting the same score out of ten as Rashford. But then the same pundit said Lingard made no discernible difference when he came on. Yet, his introduction for OC livened things up.
You can discount Harry from most of this. If he has this mob behind him what is he expected to achieve? A striker needs service, here he got nothing and so had to drop deep and wide, taking any snap chance he could, which is a waste.
One decent ball into his feet in the box and he scores the winner. It’s not rocket science but then with the likes of Walker and Sterling it might as well be.
Did Sterling pass him the ball at all? I noticed after Rashford’s good start Sterling was more reluctant to give him the ball, when open. There’s still a lot of me, me, me in the England setup.
Part way through the half one of the people I was watching with, getting more and more exasperated every time Sterling touched the ball stated that the player just doesn’t know what is going on around him, he has to look around after receiving the ball. It’s so bleeding obvious that Ian Wright made the same point at halftime, but you know no matter how bleeding obvious that Southgate hasn’t figured it out and he never will.
But, but, but he’s playing so well for City. You know Dr Bruyne, Silva, Aguero, Sane etc etc make it easy for him to get space, not be noticed by defenders and score tap ins.
When play started again after halftime, Slovenia were attacking with more intent, it’s almost as if they had Winston Churchill giving the halftime talk while England had the poor man’s Iain Duncan Smith.
That man will now lead England out at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, because you know he’s too much of a dullard to do anything to get the sack. So England will fail again at a major tournament, either in the manner of the last WC – home before the postcards – or the last Euros – defeat in the most humiliating way.
After all nothing has changed in qualification.