What now for England?
So the unthinkable has happened, England have been knocked out of Euro 2016 by the footballing powerhouse of Iceland. Pundits and fans are calling it England's most embarrassing result since the 1-0 defeat by the part-time U.S.A team at the 1950 World Cup — England's right back that day, Alf Ramsey, would go on to lead England to World Cup glory on home soil in 1966. Ever since then it has been 60 years of hurt which shows no signs of stopping.
It was not simply the defeat against Iceland that was shocking and embarrassing, it was the manner of it. Roy Hodgson's side were outthought and, most unforgivably, outfought in a match against a team who has a part time dentist as one of their managers.
Firstly congratulations must be given to Iceland. They were magnificent and wanted it more than England and thus thoroughly deserve to face France in the quarter final. However, everybody knows that this should have been England's night.
England hate to be favourites, we saw in the friendly victory against Germany back in March that they much prefer to be the underdog. That performance was full of brightness and hope for the future as England's players played without the heavy chains that usually seem to weigh them down during international matches. Monday's defeat to Iceland on the other hand was the complete opposite and arguably a return to the norm. It was almost as if England had put straitjackets on before the game rather than their overpriced kit (hopeful England fans had to fork out £50 for a shirt that was only relevant for two weeks).
It was not only the players that crumbled under pressure — it was the management also. Roy Hodgson, who was the highest paid international manager in the world, was questioned for making six changes for the final group match against Slovakia (0-0). However, Italy proved in their 2-0 victory over highly-fancied Spain earlier in the day that making changes (Conte made eight) and resting players for that final group game, with qualification already pretty much assured, can freshen up your better players for the bigger game.
Whilst you can sometimes justify changes, the England manager has come into this tournament without knowing his best formation, let alone his best team — absolutely unjustifiable when you have had so long to prepare. Hodgson ended up shoehorning players into positions they were not comfortable with (Daniel Sturridge playing right wing epitomises this) and opted to play his best players rather than his best team — there is a big difference.
This arguably goes all the way back to the 23-man squad selection, which now seems a long time ago. Hodgson picked no wingers and five attacking midfielders so, when things were not going right and England wanted to change their style — they couldn't as there was nobody on the bench who could provide a different option.
Continuing with the theme of squad selection, despite Hodgson saying he would pick players on form, he fell into the trap of previous England managers by displaying incredibly questionable loyalty to some players. Jack Wilshere played a mere 141 minutes of football for Arsenal this season thanks to injury yet Hodgson still picked him ahead of Leicester's title-winning Danny Drinkwater. Raheem Sterling is another one, a player who has been out of sorts for Manchester City this season was given a big role in this England squad but he failed to live up to expectation. Ross Barkley, Gary Cahill — the list goes on.
Hodgson also seemed out of his depth with his substitutions. England were 2-1 down for most of the game yet it took the manager until the 85th minute to bring Marcus Rashford into a game that was screaming for him. The Manchester United forward did more in his small cameo appearance than anybody else did in the entire 90 minutes with his direct running causing problems for Iceland's backline. This was not the first time in this tournament that his substitutions have been questioned.
After the defeat, Hodgson's position became untenable and he resigned from his position in a press conference minutes after the final whistle. However, that press conference was not the last we would hear of Hodgson. Despite being technically unemployed, he was called to another meeting with the media the day after the match, during which he seemed to be rather angry that he was pretty much forced to attend — despite no longer being in charge of the national team.
While Hodgson's outbursts were the highlight of this most recent press conference, it was comments by FA CEO Glenn Martin that were of most concern. Mr Martin told of the disappointment in the dressing room after the nightmare against Iceland. The question here is: why was an FA suit in a place that should be reserved only for players, management and coaching staff?
However, there was worse to come from the CEO. Two minutes after saying he was 'no football expert' he declared that he would be on the panel of people tasked with choosing the next England manager. This pretty much sums up what is wrong with English football.
Probably the only benefit of England getting embarrassed at a World Cup or Euros is that we get to hear the now somewhat traditional ranting of outspoken former winger Chris Waddle on the radio.
In this year's rant he said it was time for England to 'stop making excuses' and accused the FA and England management of 'always preparing a team for the next tournament rather than the current one'. As always, the former Tottenham man was right, England must stop making excuses for themselves, keeping with the status quo and then expecting it to be different next time. If you use the same ingredients, you will get the same dish.
So how do England go forward from here? A new manager for a start. The FA have said they are looking for the 'best man for the job' so are therefore not ruling out foreign candidates. Personally I am not a fan of foreign managers at national level, the national team is about testing your country's best players and staff against the world so to have a foreign manager defeats the object of international football. Additionally, we have gone down this route before with likeable Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson and generalissimo Fabio Capello, who I am sure Russian fans remember with great fondness. We paid these men an absolute fortune but both of them have been consigned to the books of failure.
Current England U21 manager Gareth Southgate is the favourite for the job at the moment. The argument being that he knows the next generation of players coming through and has done well with that youth team and recently won the Toulon Tournament. The fact that he is a likeable and seemingly an unchallenging man also makes him ideal for the FA who love to stick to their own. Personally I would prefer him to stay with the U21s and continue his good work rather than take the risk of stepping up to the senior team.
Former manager Glenn Hoddle has also been mentioned, he was sacked from the England job in 1999 after ill-advised comments about disabled people. However, fans and pundits still see him as some kind of saviour. Hoddle seems to have good ideas but I am not sure he should be the manager. Despite this I think it would be a good ideal to give him a coaching or development role as he has a good track record in developing young players.
Before Roy Hodgson was appointed four years ago, Alan Shearer went to the FA and declared his interest in the England job. The FA turned him down as due to lack of experience to which Shearer replied ‘’you have hired experienced men before and paid them an absolute fortune and done terribly, I cannot do any worse than that’’.
I like the idea of Shearer, he tells it like it is and has great experience of tournament football, plus he knows the pressure of playing for England in modern times — especially the media hype that surrounds the national team. As he himself said, they have paid fortunes to previous managers and got nowhere, he cannot do any worse.
Unfortunately I think he has too much character for the men in suits at the FA who prefer a yes man who does what they say.
There seem to be no obvious candidates available and, with a man who admits he is 'not a football expert' on the panel to choose the next England manager, there is little hope that we will make a good appointment.
As touched upon previously, it is the system that is wrong. In England people think the Premier League is the be all and end all — I am a rare exception to this and believe it is killing the beautiful game.
When August comes around and we see the likes of Mourinho, Guardiola, Conte and Klopp in Premier League hot seats, we will forget about this international debacle.
That is the problem, we are totally reliant on foreign players and managers who make the league the exciting spectacle it is. Clubs prefer to pay incredibly average foreign players a lot of money rather than invest in youth talent. This of course means the pool of good, young players for the national team diminishes. Perhaps our recent Brexit will be a good thing for English football as these average foreigners will have to apply for work permits which they will hopefully fail to receive.
I said before the tournament that however England do in this tournament there will be complaints — generally rather unjustifiable ones. However, on this occasion it will be hard to disagree with many of them as English football is now at rock bottom and experiencing its most embarrassing moment for 66 years. England were knocked out of Euro 2016 by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. It also does not help that there is a much derided British supermarket called Iceland — imagine if Russia were beaten by a country called Pyaterochka...
Outgoing FA Chairman Greg Dyke said back in September 2013 (when he revealed his master plan for the revival of English football) that England should be getting to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and aiming to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As we say in England, there is more chance of pigs flying than that happening.