It’s Coming Home - Football’s Coming Home!
By Glenn Cowan
We’ve had the olympics, we’ve had the Tour de France, we’ve had Wimbledon and The British Open & US PGA, now it’s time for the real action to begin!….That’s right folks, it’s football…. And it’s coming home!! Big Sam’s gonna see to it. After the grotesque debacle that was “Woy” Hodgson & England in the Euro’s now is the time to turn our attention to matters more pressing. Namely the very first World Cup Qualifier for Sam Allardyce and his (new look) England XI. However, before we do let's have a quick reminder of some of the most disappointing elements during the ill-fated Euro 2016 tournament.
Disaster Zone Hodgson
Lets hope that Sam doesn’t follow in the footsteps of his counterpart Hodgson and actually picks players that have been, well, err, ummmm, bloody playing! Case in point, Jack Wilshere, who made the team for France having only been on the pitch for 100 mins or so during the 2015-2016 season. Don’t forget Wilshere made the grade at the expense of in-form Leicester City player Danny Drinkwater. The midfielder had been one of the stand-out players in the midlands club's title winning heroics, but Roy decided to overlook this and go with the old school.I’m expecting Harry Kane to pick up some much needed international form (assuming that Andy Carroll doesn’t make the team at his expense!), while at the same time not being allowed ANYWHERE NEAR corner taking duties. C’mon Roy, what on earth was going through your mind?
Sticking with the lightweight and zero confidence Raheem Sterling was yet another error of judgement, especially giving that players like Marcus Rashford and Ross Barclay had to sit out.Lest we not forget the embarrassment of Hodgson's final interview (the day after resigning) when he claimed “he didn't know why he had to give the interview” - to coin a well used Sky Soccer Saturday phrase - Unbelievable Jeff! Well Roy, the reason you had to give the interview was that the whole campaign was an utter disgrace, devoid of any passion. The same as it was in Rio Two years earlier, when you should have been dismissed by the incompetent & culpable buffoons at the Football Association.
Sam’s His Own Man
The nation's hopes sees England's 16th manager since Sir Alf Ramsey’s world-cup winning squad get this campaign underway against “minnows” & currently 24 ranked Slovakia. Just seeing how revved up Sam was during the recent press conferences gives me a feeling that I haven’t had for quite some time where the national team is concerned.After all we’ve had top international pedigree managers (and Steve McClaren) in recent times and look where that has got us.
Sunday Sept 4th @ (11:00 PM) local time, saw the opening game in Group F for England in what can only be described as a disappointing showing to say the least.Despite having the lion's share (pun intended!) of the possession, England’s not so new look team had to be reliant on an Adam Lallana 95’ min strike.The Allardyce starting line-up included no less than 8 (Eight) of the players that saw England crash out in the knock-out stages of the ill-fated Euros. Thankfully he took the right option and dropped sick-note Wilshire from the squad altogether - that lad really does need some game time under his belt and could also benefit from not getting knocked off the ball so easily if he is ever to feature for the national team again.
I Can’t Tell Rooney Where to Play!
After the game an upbeat Allardyce was found to be singing the praises of the England team, even going so far as to suggest that it was a good team performance.
Question: Do the managers watch an entirely different game to you and I?
When quizzed on why Rooney seemed to play so deep in midfield, the new England boss retorted “I can’t tell Rooney where to play”. Sam then went on to say that the Man U captain has far greater international experience than him and would know best. Seems a little odd to me, that one!
Surprisingly England had only played Slovakia Four times in the past, producing 3 wins and 1 draw. Sadly the draw was in the Euro 2016 which saw then manager Hodgson “shuffle the pack” and put out an understrength team - we all know how well that worked out! Having got off to a good start the players confidence will be raised for some of the trickier games in the group stages - that said England tend to do really well in the qualifying and then go to s**t in the actually tourney.
October sees a couple of qualifiers with a home match against Malta on Sat 8th (11:00 PM) and then an away to Slovenia on Tue 11th Oct (1:45 AM).Recent history would suggest that England should be looking to take maximum points from their opening Three games; however, as previously stated, qualification isn’t the part that England struggle with! To be fair though the WC qualifying won’t really get going until England take on the ‘auld enemy Scotland in November - expect some fireworks at Wembley that night!
Other Games of Note in Qualifiers
Scotland get off to a leisurely start in their qualifying campaign as they take on lowly Malta. On paper this has gotta be Three of the most comfortable points Scotland are ever going to have the chance of getting! Northern Ireland open their account with a tricky away day as they take on Czech Republic. This won’t be an easy game, despite Michael O'Neill acquitting himself very well in France.Also Wales should pick up maximum points at home to Moldova as they play their first competitive match since the heroics of the European Championships earlier this summer. Let us not forget that there are other matches that will create potential interest, notably in round 3 of the Asian Football Federation qualifying stages.
Group B sees Thailand pitted against Australia, with Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates making up the other four.It will be a tall order for Thailand to make it to their first ever World Cup, given that there is only one eventual qualification position available. However, that won’t stop the locals from getting behind the team and cheering them on with a few beers!
Talking of beers. All the usual locations will be running the England games, including the likes of the newly opened Retox Game On, Retox on Soi Lengkee, Legends Bar, The Lion Pub, I-Rovers et al.
I might have sensationalised the headline a little (did it grab your attention?) - let’s all hope that it rings true this time,