The summer performances on show by the England squad in the European Championships were some of the most disappointing on show since the turn of the last century. Despite the fact that the Three Lions squads over the years have only won six knock out matches in international performances since their sole triumph of 1966 the fans had high hopes going into the Euros.
The result was all too familiar. England’s Group Stage campaign started of with an infuriating draw against Russia due to a last minute goal. Despite the anger caused among the English fans, hopes remained reasonably high as the squad could take positives from the game. The next game was elating win after coming back and scoring in the last minute against Wales, making it all the sweeter. The optimism levels were high once again, however this soon came to an end with another irritating draw, this time a goalless one against Slovakia, meaning that our national team finished second to bitter rivals Wales in the group. Then the tense wait for the round of 16 draw. When drawn against Iceland it was seen as a given victory, only for the team to give the most under-whelming performance in living memory. There were no excuses that would satisfy a livid country of football lovers and there was no escape for the manager. The next morning Roy Hodgson resigned from the managerial role.
The month long media rumors began with pundits and fans trying to predict the next manager of the England team. After much debate the manager of England was announced as Sam Allardyce. Allardyce was an experienced manager by this point who had been managing in the highest tier of English football for over a decade. Despite not having trophies to his name “Big Sam”, as he is sometimes known, was and still is famous for playing a no non-sense style of football, helping him save many a club from relegation in the Premier League over his lengthy career as a top flight manager. Surely this was exactly what England needed after their abysmal European Championship campaign, a straight talking manager who would try and get England out of the rut they we are currently in. But once again things were not as simple as they seemed.
After Big Sam’s first game in charge, which avoided yet another infuriating draw with a last minute goal from Lallana, all seemed to be going to plan. However shortly after this a video was released to the press, depicting Big Sam talking about how to side-step FA rules and take short-cuts in the beautiful game. this resulted in a tirade of pressure from the media, public and the FA urging him to step-down, eventually resulting in his resignation. this led to Gareth Southgate, former England international, stepping in as caretaker manager until a permanent replacement is found.
Although Southgate won his first game in charge comfortably against Malta in England’s World Cup Qualifying campaign his career so far has not problem-free. The main area of concern is that England captain and most experienced player Wayne Rooney is in poor form and is being booed by his own fans. This hostility towards this loyal servant of the English cause has put pressure on Southgate and has resulted in Rooney being dropped to the bench for the next World Cup Qualifying round. Without a clear natural born leader in the side the England team have not played as a team in recent times.
So what is next for English football? With the next qualifier against Slovenia approaching it has the feel of a must-win-game for the new England manager if he i to silence the critics and restore the long lost confidence of the nation, the confidence so vital for the success of the England squad. And so looking into the future, it seems that the best way for England to approach the World Cup in 2018 is to qualify with confidence and play in the same way, but in terms of the tournament itself, should go into it with a level-headed , perhaps less optimistic mentality in order to alleviate some of the pressure that was so evidently present on that appalling night against Iceland.