There is no doubt that the England squad that flew out to the World Cup tournament in Russia a few weeks ago was the most understated of any English national team of modern times.
For Gareth Southgate to guide his young Lions to the Semi-Final of the competition was, undoubtedly, an achievement, but without wishing to be too much of a killjoy, I do wonder if we have gone, in traditional English fashion, a tad OTT on the performance, and on the prospects of this squad for the future.
In two years’ time, at the next big test on the international stage, the European Championships, this group of players will experience the hype and huge expectation that has proved such a weight for their predecessors. Will they be able to handle being among the favourites, rather than being underdogs?
I’m also expecting a rather tougher set of matches than England faced in Russia. Columbia were the toughest opponents we beat – the two stronger nations we competed against turned us over.
Finally, I’m not convinced that the only thing needed to make this a World Champion X1 is a Gazza type player; a creator, a ball player. I actually think that, in the Croatia game and its aftermath, the team were too nice, too accepting of the defeat, and too eager to accept that they had ‘done well’.
I’d take a Roy Keane as a preference over a Gazza at this point. A fierce competitor who would never accept that being beaten in a World Cup Semi-Final was anything other than failure.
If there is such a thing as a glorious defeat, then England surely achieved it. However, I can’t help but feel that they have missed the best chance they will ever have of reaching a World Cup Final by failing to put away a Croatia side that were there for the taking in the first half of the match. I do hope I’m wrong.
When Theresa May trotted out the immortal phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ two years or so ago, I wondered what she thought she meant? Was it anything more than a soundbite, or did she always have the cunning plan in place that she presented to her cabinet colleagues at Chequers last week?
I think it fairly certain it was the former, and the fact that after two years she has come up with a strategy that appears to have alienated Brextremists and Remainers in equal measure takes some doing – particularly when you consider that the EU may not quite see her proposals as the magic bullet she believes them to be.
Boris Johnsons’ exit from the Cabinet was the only genuine and unreserved plus coming out of the Chequers debacle – but from what was supposed to establish the government’s firm policy line on an issue that is dominating, and paralyzing, the political process in Britain right now, the get together at the PMs country retreat has simply caused more angst and confusion on all sides.