I was at friends yesterday watching England’s disappointing opening match in the rugby WC against the USA and so missed the vitally important Group qualifier football match between England and Israel which the heads of programming at ITV and BBC had scheduled at precisely the same time. What is the point of that? I cannot be the only person in the world interested in both events. Pricks.
Anyway we had a great time with our friends and I thought no matter I can always catch the game on late night MoTD. We got home around 10pm and hunted through the schedules but no sign of the England v Israel highlights. Nowhere. I caught the goal highlights on the news and it actually looked like England deserved their 3-0 win. I couldn’t find it anywhere this morning either. Bloody hell – when England play like toss-pots it’s repeated endlessly but they play well for once and…. I’ve been poring over the papers this morning and yes indeed England did well play it seems. I was a bit surprised to see that Phil Neville came on as substitute in the second half – at least McQuiff is consistent in his plan to revert to Dad’s Army – but no churlishness; his game-plan seems to have worked really well. And the goals were crackers.
In fact I read that the best players were probably the unsung squad members, Wright-Phillips, Barry and the increasingly impressive Richards. Even Heskey was applauded for providing a clear focal point up front and for his intelligent link up play. So here’s the question; assuming Lampard, Hargreaves and Crouch become eligible for next week’s absolutely crunch match v Russia, will the Quiff leave the team unchanged from the one that performed so solidly last night or will he tinker with the formation?
Logic says he keeps faith with the team – which looks balanced and all the players fit, in-form and, at long last, playing confidently. For once, the guys seemed to understand their roles and what was expected of them. And they delivered handsomely. This you sense will be McClaren’s defining decision as England manager. Sir Alf would have stuck with the balanced, form side – which built team spirit and, critically, kept his key players on their toes. He was not afraid to drop Greaves immediately before the 66 WC or Nobby Stiles afterwards. Ferguson does the same thing when he feels it necessary – eg last season when his captain G Neville got a little gobby. But is McClaren built of the same fibre?
We shall see but my money’s on some McTinkering.