When it comes to impassioned but largely irrelevant debate, there is nothing to match the march of the England football team into a major tournament in which they will almost certainly disappoint. And all the stuff and nonsense that surrounds it will come to the fore. Today, manager Roy Hodgson added to the mix by selecting his 23 players for the European Championships.
Out go Fabian Delph (injured but arguably not good enough anyway), Andros Townsend (not injured but hardly a European beater, let alone world beater) and unluckiest of all Danny Drinkwater (also not injured, but at the heart of Leicester’s wonderful league title. Whether that makes him an international standard player, I don’t know). I could follow this with ‘And in come…” but I can’t be bothered to get into a debate about Jack Wilshere’s qualities, especially since some folk, though not Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson to name but two, don’t think he has any in the first place.
Oh, all right, I will get into the debate because, well this is my website and I’ll say what I want to. Here goes. If I was Roy Hodgson, Wilshere would be in my 23, Drinkwater probably wouldn’t be. Townsend wouldn’t be in and neither would Delph. So maybe we’re arguing about one player, one position. But who, in their right mind, is arguing about it? It’s not as if we are going to win the bloody thing, is it?
For all the debate about Drinkwater, Andres Iniesta he isn’t. But then again, Iniesta remains world class. I would suggest that England do not possess a single player of world class. Before you say Rooney or Hart, just remember that we are talking about the forthcoming Solar System Cup clash against Mars. Neither of them, never mind Danny Drinkwater, are going to be in the squad, nowhere near it. Spain, however have clutch of world class players, as do Italy, France and Germany. Thinking about it, Poland have one or two, so do Belgium. By God, even the Welsh have one more world class player than us.
As the excitement builds and even Class A cynics like me utter things like, “You know what? We could do REALLY well in this tournament?” you do question your own sanity, or should do. It could be that Harry Kane’s emerging status as a top striker could unsettle some teams and Jamie Vardy’s pace could leave some defenders for dead, but let me offer you two words: Chris Smalling. Add Gary Cahill to that if you like. These are not the greatest centre halves in the history of English football – in fact Cahill doesn’t even get a game at Chelsea if the manager’s best players are available.
Are you feeling miserable enough yet? Then don’t. If by some miracle, we stumble our way into the quarter finals, that will be enough for us to pop if not the Champagne corks, then maybe the Prosecco. The best team always wins the league but it doesn’t always win the cup, as Greece proved in the Euros not that long ago, so that should give us hope. You never know, they say, and you don’t. Not for sure.
Apart from our defence, the rest of the team doesn’t look too bad but not too bad will not bring the bacon back from France.
As ever, our players will arrive at a major tournament knackered out following the overlong Premier League season that allows no break. In the first hour of each game we may compete, but for the final 30 minutes we will run out of steam. It was always thus. That’s why I’d pick Wilshere because he keeps the ball, he can dribble and he can pick a pass.
Sadly, this is a nation that loves failure, hence the joyful media condemnation of the new Top Gear. And the truth is that early next month when Sports Direct is having a sale of England tat after our group elimination we’ll all forget about England and start getting excited about the next Premier League season.