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England are simply second class

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Phil McNulty | 07:22 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010


England's failure to beat an infant nation ranked below the might of Burkina Faso and Gabon in Fifa's dubious world rankings put the current standing of Fabio Capello's team into brutal context.

The inevitable aftermath of England's shameful South African World Cup campaign was that coach Capello was only ever going to be one poor performance away from a return to the pressure cooker.

And after England's tentative strides forward in victory against Bulgaria and Switzerland in their Euro 2012 qualifiers came this turgid goalless draw against Montenegro, a country with a population of 670,000 and only four years into its life as a football force.

It was a sign of the bankruptcy of ideas and invention contained in this England display that Capello was reduced to undignified bickering over the amount of time German referee Manuel Grafe added on at the conclusion of a game that, for most people inside a rapidly emptying Wembley, could not finish quick enough.

If England cannot complete the task successfully in 93 minutes against Montenegro on home soil, they hardly deserve the luxury of more added minutes - and Capello was wrong to complain.

Yes, England had an open-and-shut case for a penalty ignored when Milan Jovanovic handled Ashley Cole's cross in the closing stages, but the overall paucity of the performance meant there was not much sympathy for Capello's team.

Capello faced renewed questions about his future after those hardy enough to remain inside Wembley until the final whistle delivered their own raspberry-sounding verdict on England's sluggish, leaden and witless display.

Ashley Young goes to ground in the penalty area. Photo: Getty ImagesAshley Young goes to ground in the penalty area. Photo: Getty Images

He insisted he would fight on - and, of course, he is right to do so as seven points from England's opening three Euro 2012 qualifiers hardly represents a crisis. The initiative in Group G, however, now lies with Montenegro, as proved by wild celebrations on the pitch - and indeed in the media tribune - at the claiming of a precious point.

The Football Association is not going to change the manager. Capello is not going to walk away. And, for all the grim evidence of Tuesday, the smart money would still be on England reaching Euro 2012.

It is time, though, to cut through the cosmetics and be realistic about the hopes and aspirations for the England team.

Unpalatable as it may seem, England must accept the brutal truth that their place is no longer anywhere near the game's top table. The World Cup confirmed it and the relative ease with which Montenegro survived at Wembley only underlined the work needed to restore England to a going concern on the biggest stage.

England are an average side firmly ensconced in the second tier of the world game and no longer a force where and when it matters. And they will be there for some considerable time. To think otherwise is delusion.

Expectations should be shaped by the current limitations. Failure to beat a side of Montenegro's stature should not come as such a shock any more.

England have outstanding players in the shape of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, plus a batch of exciting emerging youngsters, but as a team the long road on the return to international credibility will be a tortuous one.

Indeed, Montenegro, without danger men Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic, almost made a bad night even worse when Jovanovic hit the bar late on.

I still believe England will reach Euro 2012 but it would need the next generation of talent to blossom at an almost inconceivable speed to imagine victory in Poland and Ukraine.

England have quality youngsters coming through but, as the exciting Adam Johnson proved with an inconsistent display, they will still be works in progress by the time the finals happen.

Capello thought long and hard about introducing Jack Wilshere against Montenegro and decided against it. Arsenal's outstanding teenager was probably best out of the morass of mediocrity.

Worryingly for England, we saw a return to the static, lifeless style that characterised the agony of South Africa. Montenegro put five midfield men in front of the back four and effectively asked Capello's men what they were going to do about it.

The answer? Very little. It is a code England struggle to crack.

Gerrard and Gareth Barry were allowed the ball in safe areas but, the odd glorious pass from Liverpool's captain apart, there was very little creation. Urgency swiftly disappeared, while ideas quickly ran dry.

Gerrard was too deep too often, too many balls were aimlessly lobbed in the direction of Peter Crouch's head and the theory of having a left-footed winger on the right - Adam Johnson - and a right-footed winger on the left - Ashley Young - failed to work, resulting in too many turns inside into Montenegrin traffic.

Capello had some mitigating circumstances. He was robbed of strikers Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe, who may have snapped up the odd half-chance, but there was little room for excuses.

Montenegro keeper Mladen Bozovic made crucial saves from Wayne Rooney and Barry but his goal was never really under siege - and as time ran out there was even the danger of a sucker punch flooring England.

There were some major personal disappointments on a night when no England player seriously enhanced his reputation.

Rooney, after flourishing under intense personal pressure in Basle, was anonymous apart from a late chance - and his frustration surfaced with a wild tackle on Elsad Zverotic that brought a second-half booking.

Wayne Rooney brings down Zverotic. Photo: APWayne Rooney brings down Zverotic. Photo: AP

The hope lingers that a spark will soon reignite in Rooney as he is too rich a talent to lie dormant for long but there is no doubt he is in the middle of the most frustrating spell of his career. He looks at odds with himself and his game - a concern for England and, particularly, Manchester United.

Barry also looked desperately slow and off the pace, watching helplessly as Montenegro players eased away from him, barely playing a pass of consequence all night, while
Ashley Young was given a rare start but did not cover himself in glory. A promising beginning was wasted amid poor end product and a desire to disappear up blind alleys.

Worst of all was a shameless dive from the Aston Villa player in an attempt to win a second-half penalty, sadly something for which Young has gained a reputation around the Premier League. It is a scar on his game and he will swifly learn that Gerard Houllier will not indulge this behaviour.

As for Glen Johnson, he can only be grateful there appears to be no obvious rival in Capello's mind for the right-back slot. To say the Liverpool defender is out of sorts, for both club and country, is to do him a great kindness. He does little to suggest he is a player of international calibre.

Only Bolton's Kevin Davies had a night to remember as he became the oldest man to make his England debut for 60 years in a robust 22-minute cameo that came complete with a booking.

There was little else to cheer - and Capello now has until 26 March, when his team face Wales in Cardiff, to get this result out of his system and for England to get used to their reduced status in the game's pecking order.

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Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    England being in the 2nd tier of world football might have been news in 1972, but it hardly constitutes a scoop in 2010

  • Comment number 2.

    No a great night but it was good to see Kevin Davies get his long over due nod from the FA. I would have also switched Young and A Johnson once it became clear that it wasn't working.

  • Comment number 3.


    4 weeks ago against Bulgaria, I insisted that no matter what the scale of the victory in that game, it would take a lot more than that to extinguish from England the legacy of failure from South Africa. I was dubbed a miserable person and not a true fan by people like yourselves. Yet now, you spout off: "The inevitable aftermath of England's shameful South African World Cup campaign was that coach Capello was only ever going to be one poor performance away from a return to the pressure cooker."

    The fact is England in South Africa showed themselves for what they are, an average footballing side, yet decent results (though I would hardly say imperious performances) against the Swiss and Bulgaria (who despite a decent history have been fairly poor of late) convinced people like yourself somehow, that South Africa was a fluke. Please now, wake up.

  • Comment number 4.

    You're being very patronising to Montenegro. They might only be a small country, but they are already ranked 40th in the world, ahead of many countries that you wouldn't classify as pushovers, and you hide that by using Burkina Faso and Gabon as the benchmark.

    Montenegro have yet to concede a goal in their four group games, having had home wins against Switzerland and Wales, an away win in Bulgaria, and now this away draw against us. This was never going to be an easy fixture.

    They set themselves up very well and we weren't able to break them down.

    Give them some credit. Yes we were poor, but that's hardly news is it ?

  • Comment number 5.

    Gareth Barry was shockingly bad last night - a hideous performance.

  • Comment number 6.

    Young was one of the plus points he at least was willing to run at players and on numerous times he took pressure off us by running the ball up field. The penalty if he didn't go down he would have been wiped out anyway. His free kicks were poor but he was a lot better than any other attacking player. It just happens to be Johnson is flavour of tjhe month and can't do any wrong as he was very poor. Gerrard did well but too often was having to cover for a too slow Barry, I just hope for Englands sake Hargreaves comeback is a success as they miss his pace, tackling and passing ability. I would have started Davies as Rooney is terribly off form, Would then have gone with a midfield of Johnson,Gerrard, Huddlestone,Downing with Young and Davies upfront. What happened to playing players in form?

  • Comment number 7.

    Good to see some optimism.

  • Comment number 8.

    We have clearly learned nothing from the world cup debacle. Two things in particular:

    If Rooney is poor England can't function. His movement all night was backwards, leaving us permanently short up front. Apparently Capello believes that players are undroppable or unsubbable however badly they are playing.

    There is absolutely no plan B if things aren't going well. No variation. No change. I've seen non-league sides play with more imagination than England displayed last night.

    We'll probably still qualify I suspect, but look a long way from making an impact at the highest level. And, like Rooney, going backwards.

  • Comment number 9.

    There are too many problems with the game in England of which this is the most apparent sysmptom.
    Ironically, the stance of the anti England brigade at UEFA, lead by Michel Platini, on clubs being fiscally self reliant from next season (this maybe the season after...?) could help England. Clubs will inevitably look towards youth and developing players through the club as expensive foreign transfers become impossible to implement due to the likely threat of league points reductions if the cost to run a club exceeds revenue generated.
    I want England to do well and do watch them though I question why. At the moment I wonder why we don't just put a select 11 from the Championship or League 1 together as at least they would fight for the result. As I opened with, there are many problems to discuss that a single forum cannot cover.

  • Comment number 10.

    Typical English over reaction tbh.

    England failed to break down a fairly decent side who came for the point and nothing else.

    France, Italy, Portugal.. most other countries would likely have found it just as hard, but for some reason certain people always want to make the comparison with Spain or Germany, who are probably the best sides in Europe right now.
    England remain, as they have pretty much always been, a decent side just outside the top few, and a draw against a well organised, defensive minded side doesn't change that.

  • Comment number 11.

    Absolute Rubbish Phil I don't agree with your belief that Adam Johnson had a inconsistent display I thought he was our best player last night

    That dive by Ashley Young That you mentioned well it wasn't a dive there was substantial contact on Ashley Young

  • Comment number 12.

    England seemed very one-dimensional and predictable last night. Hardly any creativity (due to our midfield). You can't blame the forwards as they didn't get the service, that's why Rooney was coming so deep at times.
    I think the wingers were utilised in the wrong way, should have swapped wings. We were poor from set pieces, corners and crosses.
    Please please get Barry out now! It's getting beyond embarrassing - it was shocking the number of times he gave the ball away and fouled (this happens in most of the games he's played in), which results in losing the momentum and pressure built up. Huddlestone or Scott Parker can surely do a better job, but I'm hoping Hargreaves will return soon and show them all how it's done!

  • Comment number 13.

    I actually thought England played quite well, with 3 absolute clear cut chances, as well as a blatant penalty not given! We had all the possession and at times played some good quick stuff, especially on the wings and Gerrard did split them open at times with his passing. I dont think Barry covered himself with glory but I have no problem with our holding midfielder doing a solid job - holding the midfield! I dont require him to carve teams open... he did his job.

    I think your assessment of Young is rushed and rash - he was our best player I thought and their right back wont have good memories of being terrorised by his pace. Yes he does slightly have "blind alley" syndrome, but it is no way near as bad as the truly awful SWP - I dont think any of us on here understand how he still makes the team.

    All in all though I have seen much worse performances from England.... Montenegro were disciplined and put 11 behind the ball from the word go which is not easy to break down.

    I agree with post number 10, massive overreaction to what was no way near the worst England performance I have seen in the last few years.

  • Comment number 14.

    Montenegro are ranked 40th as of 10th of August (having moved up 33 places), the next FIFA rankings are not due until the 20th of October, where I assume Montenegro having won 3 (including against the 21st ranked team) and drawn away against the 6th ranked team without conceding a goal will move past Gabon (31st) and Burkina Faso (39th)

  • Comment number 15.

    I have to say that Capello has completely lost this England team. I could see where things were going wrong last night and I can assure you that Shaun Wright Phillips wasn't the answer.

    Wilshere should have played. Rooney should have been nowhere near the pitch last night - He can't hit a barn door for club or country. Sit Barry back, and play Gerrard and Wilshere in the centre. Play Ashley Young off Crouch up top.

    Players on form should start. Is this not the philosophy that Capello stated so eagerly that he would follow at the beginning of his reign?

    Plus what is it about Johnson? How many chances does this guy need? I think the only person in teh world who can't see he is second rate is Capello.

    I think you are being harsh on Young, Phil. He was our best player last night. The only one other than Gerrard who loked like creating anything.

  • Comment number 16.

    England, as we see time and time again, are "okay" if given space, but lacking the ability to create openings for themselves. Any opponent who is organised and packs the midfield will frustrate them .... probably even Gabon and Burkina Faso.

    Once we knew that Crouch was playing, the performance was exactly what I expected!!

    Before everyone gets on my case for me getting on Crouch's case, stop and think about it. As soon as Crouch plays the England game plan reverts to poudig long balls up to him. Why I do not know, but that seems to be the pattern. It may work, occassionally, but only against a team allowing England a bit of room to play. As soon as the opponents are organised, as Montenegro were, it is never going to work.

    Add in the poor performances from too many other players (something we see far too frequently) and you have last nights game.

    England will qualify and, as usual, be out by the quarters.

  • Comment number 17.

    One of the Main worries for me, is that we appear to have forgotten how to take set pieces. Poor delivery in 90% of cases, and when it was good, no one was taking the chance to get on the end.

    Surely with a packed midfield you get down the sides and behind the defence, Young and Johnson should have been switched after 30 minutes when it became obvious cutting inside was not a viable tactic.

    We missed a clinical cutting edge up front, Michael Owen anyone? Please let Owen Hargreaves recover and play the DM, Barry total out of his depth.

  • Comment number 18.

    Phil, I'd be interested to know if you think Greece were in the top tier of international football when they won the Euros in Portugal. I just hope you're right that we manage to qualify.... from there anything can happen, particularly with one less round than the World cup.

    Remember also that the Swiss team who lost to Montenegro also managed a win against European and World Champions Spain. Just goes to show that football is a funny old game after all and results like this can happen. We wouldn't watch the FA Cup with such intrigue if it wasn't so.

  • Comment number 19.

    1. Hart. Did what he did very well. Good distribution - though towards the end he might have been better dropping 'bombs' into the Montenegran Penalty area to stir things up a bit.
    2. Cole, Ashley. Did well at the back - going forward he just wasn't on the same plane as Young.
    3. Johnson, Glenn. Not very imaginative going forward and his defending remains poor.
    4. Lescott, Joleon. Just got on with it. One important track back after Ferdinand's only error.
    5. Ferdinand, Les. Yes, I know that's not his name, but given the amount he had to do it might as well have been. One slight error.
    6. Barry, Gareth. Poor. Too far back against a team lacking initiative.
    7. Gerrard, Stephen. A couple of flashes but really didn't drive the game as he should have done.
    8. Johnson, Adam. Not bad for a newish international, but really has to start looking to go outside his man more often.
    9. Young, Ashley. Disappointing. His free kicks were indicative of his overall performance - way off target...
    10. Rooney, Coleen. Well, Wayne didn't turn up, so it must have been Coleen in disguise. Should have been taken off at half-time.
    11. Crouch, Peter. First touch heavy for a highly paid international, didn't link with the non-entity that was playing alongside him. Was that his fault? Maybe.
    Substitutes: Didn't get long enough on the pitch. Wright-Phillips was obtusely played on the wrong side and so struggled - why play him on the left when he's is so much better on the right? Davies, cam on and battled. All power to his elbow, but probably will be a one-cap wonder, sorry mate, you deserve better.
    Manager: Should have shuffled things earlier. Should have played right footers on the right and left footers on the left. Could have gained by a change in central midfield - though who was on the bench to help there? Like many managers is too overwhelmed by claims of greatness from players who haven't shown it for ages (Rooney especially).

  • Comment number 20.

    Remember Alan Hansen saying Gareth Barry was an equal to Xavi Alonso.Based on last nights performance he looked a poor man's Lucas Leiva.English players unfortunately are pretty much hopeless.Everything has to be done in a hurry.the ability to string passes together seems an impossible task.Ashley Young is a disgrace and should be ashamed of himself.the less said about Davies'debut the better.An all round dreadful performance!

  • Comment number 21.

    "I still believe England will reach Euro 2012 but it would need the next generation of talent to blossom at an almost inconceivable speed to imagine victory in Poland and Ukraine."

    Talk about setting the bar too high. Why does that always have to be the target? Why do we always have to get carried away by the shine of that cup?

    Here's what we should be doing instead:
    1) Acknowledge we are not the best in the world (apparently it needs acknowledging).
    2) Set a realistic goal (to qualify for Euro2012 and reach the Quarter Finals with entertaining football where possible).
    3) If we reach the realistic goal, let's have a huge nationwide party. Why not? The Dutch did it after finishing 2nd in South Africa.

  • Comment number 22.

    (Unfotunately) I'm old enough to remember that Gareth Barry is a CENTRAL DEFENDER that is why he looks like a poor International MIDFIELDER - Phil Jagielka or Jack Rodwell could do that job, if Owen Hargreaves doesn't make it back. Earlier this year or late last year you or one of your colleagues argued that Barry was the most important player for England, maybe you should have said the position is the most important?

  • Comment number 23.

    This is all a bit over the top - for a start, very rarely does a team win all their qualifiers. Spain did it last time and that's the last time I remember - and that is hardly surprising.

    There were a lot of wayward passes and not much invention but in all honesty, I think we were pretty close to breaking them down on a number of occasions.

    As has been mentioned by #10, many of the big guns would have struggled to break Montenegro down. Italy have already failed to score against a weaker nation in Northern Island.

    We don't have better plays then the summer naturally - but I genuinely think we have a better side

  • Comment number 24.

    @Bonfirelight I fully agree with you. It's not easy for any team to break down an opposition which has come for a draw. Many a decent team has struggled against quite a few of the minnows, especially those from the balkan as they're not as bad as people think. I remember not long ago Holland drawing twice with Macedonia and Holland are hardly a bad side are they?
    I think, Phil, if you look around a bit more that a goalless draw with Montenegro isn't anything to be too ashamed of. You should indulge yourself in watching some more international games on the continent.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have always wondered what the fuss is with Gareth Barry. He is a poor player, more a Championship side player than a Premiership player. The same for Lampard. He is surrounded by world class players at Chelsea who make him look better than his is.

  • Comment number 26.

    'Unpalatable as it may seem, England must accept the brutal truth that their place is no longer anywhere near the game's top table'

    Unpalatable? The last time England reached a semi final in a major competition was 1996, for the world cup 1990. They didn't even qualify for the last European Championship and the last time they beat a major side in a competitive match was Argentina in the 2002 World Cup.

    What is unpalatable is the suggestion that they have ever been near the games top table in the last decade, teams don't fear England.

  • Comment number 27.

    How is it possible that despite England having probably the worse selection of strikers out of all the top tier teams, we are also the only one where the manager insists on playing the sort of rigid 442 which involves deploying two of them in every match? Its this rigidity of thinking that is destroying England and Capello is definately at fault for it considering that the vast majority of Englands players play something other then 442 for the their club at least on occasion.

    Fact is England aren't a second tier team, man for man very few teams are actually better, Spain, Brazil thats probably it. Germany certainly looked better then us at the WC but if you compare them player for player they're hardly notably better unless your going to vastly overate the likes of up and comers like Ozil and Muller and promote them to level of players like Gerrard (it would be fairer to compare them to Johnson and Wilshere, the majour difference being that their coach actually took them to the WC).

    England just need to start playing to their strengths and seeing as that clearly lies in creative/attacking midfielders (Gerrard, Lampard, Milner, Wilshere, Carrick etc.) we should be looking to play at least two of them all the time also as it also lies in have a proficient amount of pacey, goalscoring wingers, many of them who like to play "inside out" we should give them more opportunity to cut inside and get involved in the creative play rather then be ordered to only stay wide (an order Walcotts innattentive reaction too apparantly cost him his place at the WC). The logical conclusion to this is to start playing the 4231, 433 or 451 played by nearly all the top teams at the WC. If Capello wants to quible with this and imply that we're just fooling around with numbers which don't exist on the pitch then I can make it easier for hime to undersand, do what everyone else is doing, drop a striker and play and extra creative/attacking midfielder! Then we'll see if we can't play it through Montenegro.

  • Comment number 28.


    I am really pleased to see that you have pointed out dive by Young. He did the same earlier in the game where there is no contact but he just jumped over the sliding defender. I was amazed at ITV's reaction though, Andy Townend and Matt Smith (who incindently slaughtered Eduardo's alleged dive) against Celtic, shamelessly defended him and thought it was penalty "I have seen penalties give far less than that" Townsend said.

    People like these in the media hype up the England team only to come crashing down when reality hits. People like Henry Winter and others are already asking for Capello to walk away even before the game yesterday and even if we qualify the argument would be "it was easy group to qualify". I would diagree with you on one point though. England were never a force in international football. Something which media need to learn that. Tabloids and rest of the media keep pumping them up when in reality we are not that good. The system is too rigid and some of the players esp in mid field are average at best. I never rated Barry and it shows now. Barry only excelled in a three man midfield at Club and Country but then people like Hanson almost killed Capello for not using Gerrad in "his best position" forgetting in WC qualiification he played on the left of three man midfield.

    Capello should be a lesson to all world class managers around the globe. Never accept England job. I would love to see what miracles Harry and Sam could perform with the team England.

  • Comment number 29.

    This the result the fleet street hacks have been waiting for and it comes at a perfect time for the anti Cappello campaign as there is no game of any value for nearly 6 months. They can bash Cappello over his tactics, grasp of the language, pay etc without him having a game to try and put things right with or distract us with.

    Don't get me wrong, i thought last night's performance was poor, but it was hardly a surprise. We have the nucleus of the team that did poorly in the World Cup plus a few new players who can hardly be claiming to be close to being top end Premier League performers, so how they would improve this team is fallacy.

    Crouch may have 17 goals from 19 starts, but these stats bely the fact in Cappello's tactic of wanting a target man, he does not work. Ashley Young runs at players, but with little product and loves to dive. It was classic how two faced the "pundits" were were as they let him off for a bare faced dive. I don't have a problem with diving as long as you don't get caught, but the British media believe they are bastions of purity in the game...

    With Montengro setting up in the manner they did, i am unsure why Capello did not switch the wingers to their rightful flanks to avoid the predicable turning into traffic scenario that played out. The game was crying out for Jack Wilshere. As an Arsenal player he is quite often faced with teams setting up defensively and his speed of thought and passing could have sparked the team into life and he has the ability to find that killer pass from behind or in front of the ball. it is a big ask of one player, but why not try it and find out. Maybe he could have inspired Rooney, who know's??

    There are too many players in the team who are the best of a bad bunch but there is no answer for Capello and the next guy, the talent pool is not there. Barry would not have a sniff of the bedsheets in the england hotel if Hargreaves could get and stay fit. Glen Johnson is dining out on the fact there is no viable option. Lescott, i'm not even sure how he has found his way in there, when Gary Cahill is the obvious choice. The list could go on...

    As Phil said, we are at the second table of the World football, but its hardly earth shattering news.

  • Comment number 30.

    Have to agree with Buttnutts in the very first post... I was going to post something almost identical - only I would have said 1970...

  • Comment number 31.

    It's a tough one isn't it Phil? I mean, yes I also was very disappointed by England's performance today as it seemed we had been given a glimpse of a re-jazzed set of players against Bulgaria and Switzerland (albeit essentially the same ones that played in South Africa). I suppose what this result today showed is that predicting the form of the current England side - the burning embers of the "golden generation" - is a complete crapshoot. One moment they're banging in 4 against Bulgaria and outclassing the side that beat Spain. Then a couple weeks later they can't find Montenegro's barn door let alone hit it.

    So what type of side does this Jekyll & Hyde stuff? I suppose I'm finally coming round to realizing that it's an average side that does this type of stuff. At school my teachers said I was an average student who'd never get to Cambridge because sometimes I'd get inspired for no particular reason and crank out an "A" then the next day I'd just decide to space out and go "F". And guess what, I never had a reason and I don't to this day. Just as I never figured how the straight A students never messed up. Or let me say that a different way, how they never messed up when it MATTERED.

    So England are like me at school. They turned up for Bulgaria and Switzerland but phoned it in against Montenegro. Why? I don't think they know and I don't think we'll ever know either. We just know that this England squad as it is currently constructed will never go to Cambridge. But wait, Spain screwed up against Switzerland and they're at Cambridge! Yes, but when they screwed up it didn't matter!

    So where do we go from here? Well if I had the surefire answer to that question I wouldn't be sitting here writing this. But I do have a question, though. That question is - is average good enough for us? Is it OK for the England National Football Team to be AVERAGE? In my opinion, hell no! If I'm lucky I've got about as many World Cups left in my life to see as there have been in my life to this point and the first one was 1966 which I don't even remember! With an average England side my chances of actually seeing a Three Lions skipper heft the FIFA trophy are less than next to none.

    So Fabio - bring on the kids. Fast track the U-21s to the Seniors, the U-19s to the U-21s, and U-17s & U-16s to the U-19s. And Premier League & Football Association - stay strong on the home grown rule and see that these kids get playing time in the top flight. Any bit helps. You see Fabio we have absolutely NOTHING to lose by bringing on the kids. I mean we actually HAVE NOTHING as a footballing nation. No World Cup, no European Championship, nothing that you could put on the table and say "better be careful, we might lose that". Do I know for certain our young lions have what it takes to bring home the pot? No, but we know the majority of those playing for the senior side today don't have it either. And to win tournaments you need to have tournament experience. The way I see it we have 3 tournaments to get the youngsters blooded in before the tournament I really want to be ready for - 2018 in England (okay, so I'm gambling on a favorable December 2nd outcome). And if we're taking our exams at Wembley that particular summer I'll be one Englishman for whom average just will not do. I'll want straight "A"s. I'll want Cambridge.

  • Comment number 32.

    Jesus H - what a mediocre blog.

    England have been a 2nd rate force for years now, unable to break down a mediocre team, in form with nothing to lose?

    Wow! What a surprise.

    You have one player - Rooney. Yet as they do with the managers, the English media have managed to disrupt the only decent thing going for their national team.

  • Comment number 33.


    A couple of points. People are going on about us not being able to beat such a low ranked and new nation. Well, their ranking is kind of false as they've only been in existance as a country for four years. That does NOT mean that the players only got introduced to a football four years ago. Many of their players play at a decent level (Lokomitiv Moscow, Standard Liege, Partizan, Nacional, Sporting Lisbon, Roma, Dinamo Zagreb etc). They've also only conceded more than two goals once in an international. That's not to say England shouldn't be beating them but to preface any assessment of last night with the assumption that this side are really worse than Burkina Faso is misleading.

    My point is they are half decent footballers and, as we saw last night and see countless times in domestic cup competitions, a well organised team of half decent players can, with a bit of luck, keep out a better footballing side by packing the defence and midfield, breaking up play (illegally if necessary) and generally frustrating the opposition. If anybody expected this to be a 4-0 game they were kidding themselves.

    Secondly, despite this England created four good goalscoring opportunities last night, plus had a stonewall penalty claim turned down. In international football this should be enought to claim a 1-0 but with three strikers out injured annd one (Rooney) just coming back and not looking fully match sharp we didn't take those chances. Yes we have to get better. Again I though Gareth Barry gave the ball away too often in the centre and his place may be under threat for the next game. Glen Johnson also loses the ball often for me and StyeveG was dropping back too deep, leaving Rooney isolated and unable to get into teh game. When will they learn that Rooney will only get that space he need if somebody else pushes on to occupy one of teh two opponents he seems to drag round the park with him. Also for all their willing running, Young and Johnsons final ball into the box was poor all night, bar the chance Crouch put over.

    Of course we can play better (and must if we come up against a top nation) but England will play a lot worse than that and win games. Since South Africa it's even more of a media obsession now to point out the negative and fail to accentuate the positives. ITVs commentators were moaning about how poorly England were playing from around 25 minutes in, yet they'd had 70-odd% possession and were getting the ball into dangerous areas. To be honest the press are sometimes so keen to find every negartive that they are in danger of becoming a laughable parady of themselves. Please try not to fall into that tabloid trap......

  • Comment number 34.

    I think people are getting a bit carried away. Clearly we could have played better and Capellos insistence on sticking with Barry is frustrating but I think people are underrating Montenegro. They had kept 5 clean sheets before this match and lets face it they didn't go out to win the game. It was the equivalent of a Stoke parking the bus against a team like Man Utd...and sometimes that works. On balance England deserved to win. They had more chances and far more possession. They could have played better but you are not going to win every match with a thrashing and a great performance, it doesn't happen. I would still like to see Capello be a bit braver with his team selection but people need to stop thinking this is a disaster. It's just disappointing that we didn't take advantage of the dominance we had. How many times have we heard that description of a match in the Premier League?

  • Comment number 35.


    Mate, I loved your comments and your argument re Young's dive.

    I thought Anyd Townsend and Matt Smith along with Adrian Chiles were biased and one eyed but hang on, you have managed to beat them to that. Congratulations and well done

  • Comment number 36.

    #5. At 08:25am on 13 Oct 2010, dogeared wrote:
    Gareth Barry was shockingly bad last night - a hideous performance.

    Completely agree - a dismal performance. Other things I noted:

    1. Gerrard was way too deep; he was often behind Ferdinand when collecting the ball.

    2. Rooney/Crouch were absolutely ineffective. To my mind Johnson/Johnson/Young/Cole provided plenty of width, and even Gerrard sitting deep picked out some direct balls through the middle only to be met with bemusement from the two forwards. Crouch is absolutely incapable in the air (Shearer/Sheringham would have buried that header every time) - why do we persist playing long ball to him? He has great feet and I am a fan, but long ball ... NO. If that was the plan, we should have played Davies from the start with Rooney. Even then, I still don't see Rooney as England's #1 goal scorer. Immeasurably talented yes, natural goalscorer no - look at Shearer/Sheringham/Lineker/Owen/Greaves/etc. .. we don't have a striker like that any more. For all the lovely support play (and goals - he's not useless!), the game is all about putting it in the onion bag. The thing about great strikers is that they can be out of the game for 89 minutes, but when that one chance comes, they bury it.

    3. Johnson/Young should have swapped sides throughout the game - Montenegro clearly couldn't handle either; but it became very predictable. Just grateful that Downing stayed where he belongs!

    4. Solid performances from the back five to my mind. I'm sure people are still going to have a go at Johnson, but I'd take an attacking full back like him any day of the week. If the centre back is doing his job, when the full back leaves a hole he will fill it (just ask JT!). Cole is the same mould, only for some reason he draws so many free kicks that Johnson currently concedes - a skill Johnson needs to master.

    5. Bent/Defoe/Walcott were sorely missed. No real pace or goal threat through the centre of the pitch made England's style very predictable.

    6. Montenegro had a game plan and stuck to it. Mixed with some deliberately frustrating fouling and a couple of excellent saves from their keeper, I think they fully deserved the point- and perhaps might feel a little unlucky not to get all three after being the only team to hit the woodwork.

    England should still top the group, and I've not seen anything that makes me worry much about that.

    Stay calm, carry on.

  • Comment number 37.

    Phil, even before this game , everyone knew that England is a second tier team . Why did it take you this game to admit that they're not good enough ?

  • Comment number 38.

    "It is time, though, to cut through the cosmetics and be realistic about the hopes and aspirations for the England team."

    Actually, that time was about thirty years ago. We are a 'decent' side in international terms, capable of beating anyone on our day - but not good enough to expect to beat the very best countries who are quite simply better at the game than we are. Nonetheless, it is good to see realisation creeping in to the mainstream press, which hopefully will see a reduction in the pre-tournament hype for Euro2012.

  • Comment number 39.

    England lacked creativity and the best man for the job at that point was on the bench - Jack Wilshere! What was Capello thinking puting Sean Wright-Phillips on at all? He hardly even plays for City unlike Wilshere who has played every Premier League game for Arsenal this season. There is still time to improve but I reckon Capello needs to bite the bullet and act fast to redeem England's image and their never ending dream of World Domination!

  • Comment number 40.

    Allright Ordiokid/Dinesh, gotta disagree with u on the up and coming talent front, we just need a manager with the chutzpah to use it, like Germanys.

  • Comment number 41.

    Phil this Gerrard obsession is getting beyond ridiculous, please give me just ONE example of
    "the odd glorious pass from Liverpool's captain"

    because I did not see any. Yes I saw him attempt a number of hollywood passes (yet again) but never once did they find their target (yet again). It's all fine and well trying these balls every now and again but if they don't come off what's the point. Even saying that Gerrard telegraphs every time that he is going to play one of those type of balls because he stands still and throws his arms out.

    How long can we keep Rooney on the pitch no matter what, he has been awful since before the world cup and is not showing any sort of real fight (his petty challenge was more a little kid throwing a temper tantrum). Maybe if he realises that he will be substituted if he's not playing well then he might try a bit harder.

  • Comment number 42.

    Last nights game, was shockingly poor, we need to start investing in our youth team and the FA should be pushing for every Premier League side to have at least 5 starting English Players, it has worked for Spain, Germany, Brazil and Italy, and it can work for us but the Premier LEague is full off over paid players that cant play football, Our new Englang Manager should look into Divison 1 sides for english tallent as the Premiership is lacking in English players.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think you are all forgetting that England is not a world class team any more...and never really has been. They only won the world cup in 66 because of a stupid mistake by the ref.
    All the other countries look down on England as a nuissance and you as a nation will never mount a serious challenge. Be content with being a quater finalist for many years to come.
    Egypt are a growing nation in power and will be better than England with time to come.

  • Comment number 44.

    The media and some of your correspondents show a breathtaking lack of respect to Montenegro; preferring to look at their FIFA ranking and population, rather than their recent record. An away victory in Bulgaria should have set the alarm bells ringing. Our condescending approach to this match has been followed by a 'way over the top' media slating for what was after all an average England performance by a team missing some of its best players through injury.
    I do agree that Ashley Young's late dive was embarrassing and disgraceful, the worst since Stephen Gerrard's in Andorra!!
    We just don't do 'dives'in English football and should leave that to the continentals, especially with a continental referee who, apart from missing a clear handball had a very good game for a first competitive international.

  • Comment number 45.

    I find it hard to believe that the England Team are ranked anywhere near the top twenty of world football!
    It was a disjointed performance with no cohesion between players.
    That must be the managers fault!

  • Comment number 46.

    It seemed to me that the England manager considers a couple of decent results wipe out all memory of the disaster that shall not be named, and revert to type.
    First the captaincy fiasco, then the old chestnut of tried and tested failures against young/in form players. We could all do the list - Ferdinand hardly kicked a ball in anger; Lescott largely overlooked, similarly Adam Johnson; Rooney, Glenn Johnson and Gareth Barry enduring probably the worst spells of their respective careers; Crouch, Young and Cole hadly setting the World on fire. Gerrard struggling in a mis-firing team.
    Still we seem to have the goal keeping sorted!

    Also, the 'youngsters' in England teams always seem to be around 23; now my memory might be fading but I am sure that such as Gerrard, Beckham, Scholes, Nevcille, Ferdinand et al were almost fixtures by 21 or 22.
    I know we had a significant problem with injuries yesterday, but throwing past failures into the ring has never solved anything and I suspect never will.
    I saw an item on QI a while ago about a chicken that lived for years without a head. Maybe we could get it in for Gareth Barry?

  • Comment number 47.

    enland does not have talent and thier well never have,but they win games through the media cappelo is not a good coach infact not even world class look at spain but the good thing is that ther have money to waste

  • Comment number 48.

    There was nothing coming from midfield. What's gerrard's excuse now that Lampard wasn't there? Midfield were pedestrian in possession, and lacked any pace or energy in getting forward. Commentators complaining that Ferdinand wasn't getting forward enough, what's the point if Gerrard will just drop deeper behind him??

    How Barry's stock has risen so much in England is a mystery, he is the very definition of average.

  • Comment number 49.

    gunnerslovver2007 do you really believe that only Spain and Brazil have a better squad than England!?!

    Surely the evidence is that England have only once had a truly great collection of players. Gerard and Rooney may be hyped by our press but you can find comparable players in every league.

    Until we realise that we are not world beaters we can move on and maybe approach the national team rationally

  • Comment number 50.

    What is all this over reaction about Wayne Rooney? We can all see that he's not in form, but some comments suggesting that he is not good enough to wear an England shirt are mad. Rooney had been playing the best football of his life until injury hit him in febuary, and since he has not played the same. It's obvious that he needs a break, such as hitting the back of the net a couple of times, then his confidence will come back. I'm bored of hearing the same rubbish about players who are 'carrying the nations hopes' before a major competition and then seen as 'having no right to be near the squad' after playing poorly at a major competition. Rooney will hit form again, he will be our best player, and all those negative opinions will be forgotten. Why not pick on players with no international class, Gareth Barry perhaps?

  • Comment number 51.

    Incidentally simple arithmetic implies that the initiative within this group still lies with England, feeble though they were last night.

  • Comment number 52.

    You're right we are no longer good enough. However failing to score against a team like Montenegro is quite simply shambolic. It's the same old, yet The FA do not act on it. There needs to be changes within the English game to bring on new English talent. I do worry about how bad our team is actually going to get I can't see that many if any, young English players at the moment with the potential to be a World Class player.

    Clubs bringing young 11/12 year olds into their school of excellence or academys they shouldn't be allowed. I've seen some of the school of excellence and academys throughout the country and it's no place for an 11 or 12 year old wanting to enjoy football. They concentrate far too much on fitness and healthy eating etc. They learn that at school, they don't want it drilled into them when playing football as well. Just let them play. Clubs shouldn't be allowed to bring in young lads until they are at least 14. Let them enjoy football. Playing in their local teams with their friends.

    Young lads are not allowed to enjoy their football like they used to be able to. They are told too much at a young age such as advanced tactics and such like, keep things simple and let them get on with it.

  • Comment number 53.

    When Someone in the press going to start criticing players and telling them that they are not that good. If Capello who has proved that the great tactician by winning every club trophy can not make them adapt to flexible system, you have to ask this question from players that are they good enough to compete with the best in the world. Or someone tells the media that we are average national team, lets lower our expectations. If we win something like Greece did in 2004, great, if not lets carry on with life.

    Lack of strength in depth compared to Spain and Germany was so evident. Spain were without Xavi, Fabregas, Pedro, Torres but despite Scotland's fightback, there playing style remained the same and flexible as ever with movement so fluid that it was pleasure to watch them.

  • Comment number 54.

    Spot on Phil. Capello's post-South Africa vow to consider young talent for the qualifying process, was totally absent last night.

    This may sound controversial but Gareth Barry has proven once again that he is not of international calibre. His lack of pace is frightning, too often beaten and left out of position. Surely it is time to look at another option, or will Capello's blind faith and stubborness once again torture the nation?

    4-4-2 provided nothing but predictability and resulted in the usual sideways passing, as Montenegro easily cancelled us out.

  • Comment number 55.

    It’s Rooney !!!

    The lads the worlds most overrated player. All you ever here about is “look he’s having to drop deep to come get the ball blah, Oh look he’s got no service blah, Oh look Rooney’s getting FRUSTRATED blah blah blah”

    Well how come Defoe doesn’t get this? The answer is two fold. 1) Gerrard is superior to Rooney in the withdrawn role that Rooney always ends up doing out of apparent “frustration”

    2) Rooney isn’t an out and out striker. At least not in the mould of Defoe. In fact I’ve never seen a player with a more ambiguous role on the pitch than Rooney. Either he doesn’t understand instructions or he good at a great number of things, master at NONE.

    Then you have £8m a year Capello taking off the best player on the night, Ashley Young, for SWP.

    Why ??

  • Comment number 56.

    Last nights game again exposed the shocking technique that British players possess. The way that Montenegro zipped the ball about passing to feet was reminiscent of most Balkan teams. Whereas we kept resorting to the direct pass - due to a lack of movement and desperation.

    This again goes back to the grass roots of football and how we train our kids to play (do 9 years old really play on a full size pitch? We are the only country to do this - and it shows!).

    Whilst things are moving in the right direction it's going to take 10-15 years for this to come to fruition.

    In the meantime........

  • Comment number 57.

    I am amazed Phil you didn't mentioned the absolute shocking display of Gareth Barry. He was slow and gave the ball away on numerous occasions. Why Capello is such a fan of him I will never know.
    The whole England saga irritates me. Capello said he would chose players in form and granted we had a number of regulars missing (let's not forget Lampard) how can he justify picking Rooney? Dormant form, private life troubles - whatever it is, he is just not good enough right now and even Fergie has dropped him.
    We will qualify and hope by 2012 the likes of Adam Johnson, Ashley Young and even Josh McEchran at Chelsea will breath new life into our ailing football team.

  • Comment number 58.

    Did you also know that the earth isn't flat Phil? These blogs get worse and worse.....

  • Comment number 59.

    personally i blame john terry and frank lampard for this lacklustre england performance against montenegro.

    i think playing lampard last night pushed out gerrard into the centre midfield where he could do no damage at all to montenegro. we need gerrard to be playing in the CENTRE!! so he can play those 600 yard passes and make those surging runs we all know he can do

    also i blame john terry as he was very error prone last night and slow. we should have had lescott in there with rio ferdinand.

    conclusion: terry and lampard shouldnt have played last night

  • Comment number 60.

    I hate these people that have jumped on the England team's back after one poor performance! Yes we had a poor World Cup but we started to get things sorted against Bulgaria, one poor performance does not mean the team deserves to be ridiculed like this!

    Montenegro parked the bus, there is no 2 ways about it. Apart from the late chance that rattled the bar they didn't have much to shout about. The referee was extremely bias (unsurprising, as I personally feel that FIFA should not give England a German referee in light of the recent controversy at the World Cup and far more obvious past problems between the 2 countries)

    As for what you have said Phil about a needless and reckless challenge from Wayne Rooney in the latter half of the second half, did you watch the game?!?! He sprinted from a forward position all the way back whilst the rest of the team were calmly jogging back while Montenegro were on the attack when they should have been sprinting to make a challenge! No one was tackling the man with the ball so Rooney made a snap judgement to take a booking for the team and stop them from getting any closer to the goal, in my opinion he should be commended for this challenge for actually wanting to stop the other team scoring! This is more like the Wayne Rooney of old!!

    I normally agree with your articles Phil, but this week I couldn't disagree more.

  • Comment number 61.

    did anyone else notice that lampard was so pedestrian last night in centre midfield.

    if gerrard was playing in centre-midfield last night along with barry, we could have scored maybe 6 or 7 against montenegro

    cant believe lampard yet again ruined another chance for Stevie Me to shine in a england shirt.

  • Comment number 62.

    Great Blog as usual Phil.
    Personally I think a lot of credit goes to Montenegro, they set their stall out and we don’t have the flair to beat teams that play defensively. All the pre-match hype about their key men was blown when they didn’t show up, and unfortunately…..nor did a lot of England players.
    The concept of wingers playing on the opposite side to their stronger foot is so that they can cut in and shoot (ala Arjen Robben), rather than go on the outside and pass the ball back to the opposition’s goalkeeper. And in all honesty would anyone really ever pencil Gareth Barry down as a starter in their dream midfield? I’m a Leeds fan and even though we are in the Championship, if we were offered Gareth Barry for nothing and he would play for free I wouldn’t want him.
    I have a lot of time for Fabio, he is a successful club manager and has worked with some truly great players, however, I feel that if he was to pencil down his greatest 11 players not 1 England player would feature in it. We’re not technically gifted, some of us lack pride and passion (Wayne Rooney) and Winning isn’t instilled into us enough, we’re not competitive enough as a nation.
    Having said all that, International football management is a completely different ball game to club football, no matter what club you manage you more often than not have options in the transfer market, in International football you are dealt a hand and you have to play it. England’s next manager needs to be a World Cup winning coach, no matter what nationality.

  • Comment number 63.

    Barry is so over rated! I dunno what he actually offers to any team. long gone are the Villa days when despite being defensive, he could spark moments
    now he is just a dark shadow of that bygone era
    If Lampard comes back, England should start with Gerrard, Lampard, Johnson and Milner
    maybe Crouch had a bad day too but he has been prolific and the attention needs to shift away from Rooney. its not helping him

  • Comment number 64.

    It is beyond me how Gareth Barry gets regular games. Surely everybode saw how painfully slow he was last night and his passing was off as well. His pace is a big issue as when he loses the ball wich is quite often he cannot track back. I was genuinely shocked by his huge lack of pace.

    G Johnson again looked not up to International class. Rooney couldnt go past players which is a big worry as I am a United fan.

    I dont think last nigths result was surprising, all the nations in the UK are average at the moment if not worse than that. While the FA in each country remains as old men in suits then nothing will change.

  • Comment number 65.

    yet again captain fantastic gerrard has a shocker but its all papered over becuase nothing bad can be said about him. Gerrard played 2 decent balls all game, none of which actually got to the man but the amount of times that he gave the ball away through stupid long balls or even his mid range passing was shocking. He isnt a centre midfield player at all and shouldnt be played there, he cant control a game as he hasnt got the technical ability or the footballing brain to do so (like xavi, fabregas, scholes etc).
    He played the same tonight as he has done in both the previous qualifiers (losing possession, going awol for large parts of the match) where he performance were described as very good.He went missing for a lot of the first half and nearly all of the second.
    We dont have any technically gifted centre midfield players who can pass the ball long and short effectively (scholes is the only one who definately fits the bill but i think carrick and huddlestone also do to a lesser extent)
    The wingers were on the wrond side too, but everone seems to know that, we needed to get down to the byline and cross a ball rather then coming inside and overhitting/underhitting every cross or shooting wayward.
    Cant really see how you can place blame on the forwards, service was dire because long balls played up to crouch (who isnt good in the air for his size but is good with his feet) then rooney drops deep to actually try and get the ball to feet and is moaned at.

  • Comment number 66.

    Great Blog!! Phil!

    At last a brutal, honest and frank opinion on the State of the National
    Football Team along with its very DIRE! Negative, Weak Clueless Manager.

    I would just add that many of us already knew that England as a football nation just about merited Second Tier status on the world stage.

    What I am afraid is required is a mass clearout, not only of some of the players but those at the very top who are responsible for the game here.

    The " new era " promised by the FA many moons ago has failed to materialise but many of us knew this was just " spin " to fool the majority of the gullible that support england, I dare say many still think we are a good team and have world class players blah blah blah and still will not wake up and smell the coffee.

    England have become a Joke problem is its actually not that funny.

  • Comment number 67.

    4-4-2 against 4-5-1 and we played a defensive midfielder ?
    ok we didnt lose, which we could have done if we had put more gifted players on the pitch going forward.
    But I think to please national fans we should have done this at least for the first half,
    We have some good players for work rate out there, but it constantly looks like the only two people that try the tricks they use in the premier league are rooney and gerrard when they link up.
    everybody else may play with gusto, but thier postional play remains static.
    We played like Chelsea having a bad day in the fa cup.
    against some league two side "parking the bus"
    I dont have any fear we will have to do the same on thier turf.
    counter attack football is a very effective tactic. It worked for greece in a whole tournament which they won.
    I personally am thankful England are too good to adopt that tactic.
    Capello is right we had the so mnay near momnets last night that it could have been very different.
    Capello is sometimes a little too negative and safe. being Italian comes to me as no shock.
    i personally think the solution was, with ferdinand back in the team, we had pace at the back, something missing from many performances recently.
    we should have played 4-5-1. playing Rooney next to Gerrard in the middle just in fron of him and crouch in midfield as well as the middle diamond. crouch has great touch. he would never of had to tackle, just played deeper so the three could pass to eacdh other and play through thier midfield, with davies up front as the lone striker.
    England play too safe still. in games like this

  • Comment number 68.

    I'll try wtih something like this.Get rid of Fabio and make those players a decent smile.
    Italian is like member of mafia on his knees.Anger,frustration came every time out of him.Stuborness and arrogance are the last thing that England players need.They want a father figure with life lessons,bad jokes,funny comments,that is the way to build atmoshpere in the training centre.I didn't see any smile on pitch when England plays apart of goals.That is more than bad.

    You need a domestic coach.All the way to Holloway.Guy with passion for football,guy who dont think that game is just another day at the office.Playing for your contry is matter of pride and joy.You bring smiles to you relatives,family,at the moment you are the most important figure in their lives.But without joy,with attitude,I am working when I am playing,I dont want to be here when I am playing,come on,they gone hit on me everytime I make a mistake,you are in deep trouble.

    England is first football class.I can tell you better.In Montenegro we have two classy players who were injured last night,3 to 4 decent and maybe 10 average or in the making.You had last night 10 classy players in the lineup,apart from Barry who is ''just'' modest.But we run for every ball,feel the joy for playing on the Wembley and make those classy 10 like average 7 and scrapy 4.With Capello who were so stuborn and didnt change a thing in the way of playing for 94 minutes.

    You must get rid of the man,pay the price and go to another level.Smiling level.Bring a joker,bring a clown,these players had so many tactical trainings in their lives so they have no need for another tactician/magician on the bench that is gonna yell at them for missed 5 yards of space closed or didnt won.

    You have 6 months and better have that joker pretty much soon.And go all along the way for Ian Holloway.

  • Comment number 69.

    Unpalatable as it may seem, England must accept the brutal truth that their place is no longer anywhere near the game's top table. The World Cup confirmed it and the relative ease with which Montenegro survived at Wembley only underlined the work needed to restore England to a going concern on the biggest stage.

    England are an average side firmly ensconced in the second tier of the world game and no longer a force where and when it matters. And they will be there for some considerable time. To think otherwise is delusion.

    Utter garbage. England can still compete on reasonable terms with the likes of Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Netherlands, they are clearly above France and Italy at the moment and only Spain would outclass them as they would any other team in the world. Any and all of those teams also have trouble breaking down defensive entities like Montenegro, Slovenia and Algeria.

    The players ARE there, the talent is there, it's the utilisation of it that is not. Cappello is another in the long line of decent club bosses who the FA have hired, a mistake it makes over and over again. International managemnet is NOT THE SAME THING. The most successful international managers are rarely the best club managers and vice versa, in fact I honestly believe that the mindset of a club manager is a hindrance as an International coach.

  • Comment number 70.

    It's about time people wised up and stopped going to matches, cancel their Sky subscriptions and refuse to watch Match of the Day. Our nonsense league is so over-hyped. All you're paying for is for players to have tattoo sleeves or braided mullet hairstyles.

  • Comment number 71.

    you know whats funny, because people dont have lampard to blame, they've found another player to blame (barry) and now a few people on here are even naming lampard again in thier midfield starting line ups

    pathetic bunch you lot are.

  • Comment number 72.

    Suddenly england are second rate and that is not going to change for a long time yet.

    England should be a top eight team that was the case for the world cup and should still be the case now. Quarter finals of major tournaments maybe semis in the euros that level is achievable. Just need a manager who is flexible and not risk averse. Someone who is prepared to drop or sub the big name players. Somebody who is willing to pick players now who wont be in mid to late 30's come the next world cup. Capello is spineless. Goalkeeper aside how many changes were not enforced last night.

    Lots of calls for Wilshere here, but Huddlestone having finally made the squad never got a look in - this guy now has the premiership and european experience.
    Wingers, Milner out, Walcott out, yet still no room for Albrighton.
    Strikers with Rooney in personal turmoil and so many crocks surely Carroll deserved a shot in the squad this time around.

  • Comment number 73.

    Phil "knee jerk reaction" McNulty strikes again. You're harsh on Montenegro they looked a good side and I still think we will beat them away from home when they have to come out and attack a bit more.

    Capellos team selections still puzzle the life out of me. You have to ask why he chooses so many bit part Man City players who are only motivated by money. Adam Johnson is a promising talent but he isn't really England first team material yet. When Rooney is off form, Man Utd and England are too, thats the bottom line.

  • Comment number 74.

    Early on the TV commentary said 'The fans seem to have forgotten about the Summer, have put it out of their minds and are focusing on a successful campaign ahead' - WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! The fans are the only people who haven't suffered selective amnesia. After all the promises of blooding the next generation, Capello has reverted to type persisting in playing an ineffective holding midfielder - Barry - at home against weaker opposition leaving Jack Wilshire kicking his heels on the bench. Sticking Crouch up front and getting Gerrard to hit long balls up to him. Replacing like with like - Wright-Phillips for Young (one small tricky winger for another) and Davies for Crouch (one bustling target man for another) - when an actual change of tactics might have worked better? If a team is set up to combat a certain style of play as Montenegro effectively were change the style...IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE FABIO!

    I bet we see Gerrard back out on the left and Lampard back in central midfield next :( Deja-Vu

  • Comment number 75.

    I find it odd that Ashley Young is criticised for a "shameless dive", yet when England 'stars' like Rooney or, god forbid, Phil's idol Gerrard, take a tumble, everyone turns a blind eye.

    Gerrard has been one of the most consistent divers in the Premier League over the last few years. When will this BBC love-in of Liverpool end?!

  • Comment number 76.

    I know England weren't great lastnight but the way people swing like a pendulum in their opinions is laughable. Spain, the team everyone now raves about were beaten by Switzerland in the world cup as the Swiss just got eleven behind the ball for the whole ninety minutes and made the most of their one chance. My point is, that if a team set up just to defend they do make it hard for the opposition, and you can't expect a performance every game, if they had been given the penalty, it would have been job done, an ugly win.

  • Comment number 77.

    It's time to Capello to go now. What good is it beating Switzerland and Bulgaria when you can't beat a team like Montenergro?

    Admittidly, they have been somewhat of a surprise package in this group - they are top without conceeding a goal. But even so, we should be beating teams like this.

    Its further proof that its time to bring the kids in - thats the issue I have. This current England team is going no-where - beating Switzerland and Bulgaria does nothing to change that, and Montenergo proves that fact. I mean Kevin Davies???? Why?? He showed last night why he's never previously been given a chance - he's too dirty for international football. Besides, he hardly represents the future now, does he?

    Same old egos, same old wasters, same old story. We'll probably scrape through, get placed as favourites "last chance for golden generation" and then get humiliated again. This draw is proof of that fact, and also proof that, ultimately, we have learnt nothing from the world cup. Well, we kept the ball better than against Algeria - thats the only postitive from last night.

    The FA need to wake up and start investing in youth now, change the system from the roots up. In the mean time, they get rid of Capello, and bring in a manager on the provisio that they don't select anyone over the age of 24, and build a team (that still wont have any good players but at least it'll be a team) for 2018.

  • Comment number 78.

    What last night proved is International football is dieing, the champions league is where the top quality football is and where the players want to play. You look at the England side last night, it equated to a lower premier league side and every champions league side has better quality. I would say the same would apply to every national side now. Switched off after 30 minutes and watched Masterchef, then university challenge recorded the night before, much better competitions than that served up at Wembley. Anyway proper football is back at the weekend.

  • Comment number 79.

    Phil - I've been saying this for ages.

    There's nothing in the recent past that suggests we're anywhere near the standard of Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al., and the sooner we come to realise the sooner we'll start celebrating results like the one in Switzerland for what it was - an excellent acheivement over a stubborn team.

    It's all well and good wanting to be the best and challenge for major honours, but all the will in the world won't make it happen when we simply aren't good enough - the myth that English 'pride' and 'passion' is a match for the superior technical attributes of most of the best national sides in the world is completely unfounded.

    I've said ever since the World Cup that we could qualify easily for Euro 2012 with largely the same group of players, but what would that prove?

    You say we need the younger generation to come through at unimaginable speed to challenge for the title and you're right. Frankly it won't happen, but I think (and I said this right after the World Cup) that now is the time for a real re-think as to the players and the starategy of the England team, and I mean a REAL re-think, not a token 'drop John Terry for two matches' re-think.

    Largely the same group of players have failed at every major tournament they've reached. Get them out. Bring in the new blood - the Wilsheres, the Gibbs, the Hendersons, the Johnsons, the Lennons, the Walcotts - and bring them in NOW.

    Give them four years to gel as a team and there's a chance - slim though it might be - that we might actually make an impact in 2014. If they qualify for 2012, great - excellent tournament experience for them all. If not, who cares? The old guard aren't going to win it anyway so we wouldn't be losing out. And from a selfish point of view I enjoyed the last Euros more because we weren't in it - none of the misplaced hype, none of the borish flags on cars and false expectations.

  • Comment number 80.

    I was trying to think of players who could have made a difference last night, and the only ones I could think of were Michael Owen and David Beckham.

    With Defoe and Bent both out we lacked a predatory goal scorer - Owen would have been a great option to come off the bench for us. Similarly, Beckham (who I believe is playing again after his injury?) would have been a valuable addition to the squad in the absence of Milner and Walcott.

    Generally last night, Montenegro parked the bus and almost hit us with a sucker punch - and fair play to them. It happens; it happened to Spain in the World Cup, its happened to United, Chelsea and even the saintly, can-do-no-wrong, sun-shines-out-of-their-backsides, Barcalona.

  • Comment number 81.

    capello came in giving it the 'only players on form' and 'square pegs in square holes' mantra and as usual with england managers attempts to jack 11 stars into a team instead of playing everyone in position and leaving a few out..only alf ramsey has 'ever' had the bottle to do this.. coincidence?
    right footers on the left.. left footers on the right .. does this ever work? SWP on the left?.. that is basic.
    rooney will always gravitate toward the action as he likes to get involved.. you can always tell how well a team he in is doing by his relative position on the field.. when he is stood mainly on the half way line it is not good..
    gerrard was far too deep.. he never plays that position for his club.. barry was anonymous.. glenn johnson is lucky their is noone else.. this is harry redknapps fault.. spurs got two first class full backs off sheff utd who are currently languishing in the reserves..
    i had to turn it off at the end 'cos as bad as england are i hate to see any team booed off.. you should never boo the shirt..
    and one other thing.. please get rid of the god forsaken band.. embarassing

  • Comment number 82.

    Phil, you make many good points in this blog. After the previous two victories against teams who offered very little everyone started getting carried away again. After the shambles and fiasco of South Africa everything was apparently on the road to recovery. Four decades of frustration following England loyally has led me to an inevitable conclusion in the lat few months. It's taken me a long time to be honest enough to admit we are not good enough. Not one of our players, maybe Ashley Cole aside, would get near a world eleven based on their international performances. Before premier league fans say Gerrard or Rooney would, think who they would be up against. Argentina can bring on Aguerro as a sub. We have....Shaun Wright-Phillips. Fabregas and Arteta are not starters. Where is our creative midfield?
    You mention a couple of passes from Gerrard. You rightly mention the aimless, long-ball nonsense. I would be interested to see stats showing how many of Gerrard's "wonder passes" went straight to the opposition, as did his clearance to set up Montenegro's effort that hit the bar. We are indeed second tier and it is nothing new. If we all accept this, it might be a good way of taking things forward, in the same way an alcoholic needs to recognise the problem before having any chance of addressing it successfully. I certainly don't have the answers, but I know that we play the blame game. usually either pointing fingers at the manager or the foreign players in our leagues. Recognising that our players are simply not good enough is the start. Analysing why must be the next step. Our players are not born less skilful, less technically capable or inferior to others, so why the problem? Well, maybe the powers that be should be looking at our youth and junior football. The nonsense of enormous pitches and 11-a-side for under 11's who lose the skills gained in mini-soccer to "get rid of it" up the pitch. This age group also often sees the disappearance of the technically gifted as they don't necessarily offer the Big Sam work commitment. Therefore, the strong lad is dominant, with a big kick and an aggressive appraoch. By age 12, many of the skilful players are disillusioned as a generation of Alladyce-type managers won't play them and so the talent is gone or not developed. If only Messi were English, people say. Well, if he were his skills wouldn't have made it through our youth system and he would probably be selling pies in Accrington on a Saturday afternoon.

  • Comment number 83.

    Same old, same old and I don't just mean England. The Rooney fixation has become a joke, he is NOT world class, just a decent player who has spurts of ability and then spurts of months of rubbish. Over-rated by fans and press until we realise he is NOT essential we will never progress.

    The second issue is about perspective. We are not even close to being good enough to win Euro 12 so why pretend that is what we are doing. The next 8 years are about 2018 and that means a) dumping Capello b) dumping Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Terry, Crouch and anyone else with little prospect of making that WC.

    Finally, you know what the bonus of McClaren being bullied by the press into submission was, we all enjoyed a Euro championship without stress or bitterness and TBH I for one would take that again now.

  • Comment number 84.

    50. At 09:27am on 13 Oct 2010, Palmer1983 wrote:
    What is all this over reaction about Wayne Rooney? We can all see that he's not in form, but some comments suggesting that he is not good enough to wear an England shirt are mad. Rooney had been playing the best football of his life until injury hit him in febuary, and since he has not played the same.

    Untill then, he should not be in the team.

  • Comment number 85.

    I would like to say it is amazing how you change your opinion so dramatically Phil after one game, but alas this is exactly the blog I predicted to a colleague you would write. The only bit I got wrong was I fully expected you to ram home your previous statement that Gerrard is the only choice for England Captain..

    Interesting that you refer to Gerrard and Rooney as outstanding players considering their current club form. Plus your less that outstanding reviews of Rooney's performances going back to the World Cup.

    I'm just relieved I no longer live in the UK and get depressed that some of my license fee is being used to fund your blogs that are oh so predictable. Maybe one day you could share some thoughts on how things could be improved. For example who are Englands new generation? Who is standing out in the under 21 squad other than Whilshire and Johnson?

    Maybe you could take a look at Tim Vickerys excellent blogs on South American football for a few pointers...

  • Comment number 86.

    I think last night showed the sorry state of the England national team at the moment. not wanting to jump on the band wagon with all the doom merchants as i believe we will qualify with little difficulty, but when you struggle to beat a nation with a population smaller then that of Leeds that had no intention of attacking, there is something fundamentally wrong.
    now i know we were missing some creative players through injury, but Cappello just made some bad calls. Phil could you give a reason as to why we brought on SWP (a lessor winger then young, who can't get a game at man city) to do the same job as Young was doing, and Davies who in 393 EPL games has socred 47 goals (career average of 1 goal every 8.36 matches)? neither of whom should get in the squad in the first place.
    2nd point we have had a good U21 set up for a long time yet we never seem to bring them through as certain players are untouchable. Why? Tom huddlestone is a much better player in the league then Barry (and can actually pass a ball more then 3yrds) yet doesn't get a look in. Same could be said for Wilshere who should also get a look in ahead of Barry.
    Rooney could do with being dropped to the bench for a game to show him he is not untouchable and can't just do what he pleases. G. Johnson is so lucky that we don't have any other right backs because he's been nothing more then a joke the last 12months (a bad one at that).
    It just showed how we struggle against well organised teams last night, as we can't play any differently. I don't belive this is cappello's fault as we had the same problems with McClaren and Erikson, maybe the untouchable so-called "golden generation" should look at themselves.

  • Comment number 87.

    Oh, so many points I would like to say.

    First, to digress, Montenegro are ranked 40th in the world which is clearly not bad. Not to take away for one moment from Englands woeful performance. Good to see that Phil, like ITV has chosen to add that this is EVEN below Burkino Fasso. Why are Afrincan teams always chosen in this regard? Not racist at all, no.

    Anyhow, the main theme last night was a lack of creativity, just as in the Algeria game. Yes, I was disappointed with Young and Johnson and later SWP, but they were often up against two defenders, leaving space elsewhere if the ball was moved quick enough. The main problem was no invention in the centre, and in-and-around the box. With Rooney still clearly out of form it's then down to Gerrard to provide the spark.

    It used to be the Gerrard / Lampard problem but now it is just the Gerrard problem. I am no Liverpool fan but Gerrard could play in any outfield position and still be better than most, similarly he can play in mid-field and fill any number of roles. The question is - what do England (Capello) want from him? Was he supposed to be the creative force last night? Because, he will always have the responsibility of being the first one back to break-down an opposition counter attack because BARRY DOES NOT HAVE THE LEGS, clearly. We need a more mobile midfielder to free up Gerrard, an Ince to his Gazza (P.S. I know that that is a stereotyped mid-field but I'd take that to the mess we have at present, and P.P.S. I'm not saying Gerrard is as good as Gazza in his prime).

  • Comment number 88.

    I fail to understand the logic of Capello, we have played really well in the last 2 games with a bit of passion and players looking as though they want to win, so we change the one thing I believe gave the passion, Gerrard as skipper. Last night Rio did nothing wrong but he lacks the same get up and go passion that Gerrard has and I believe that goes through the team. We also play Crouch up front, nothing wrong in that, but then go and put two wingers on with boots on wrong feet, no point in having Crouch with no crosses. For me back line looked solid enough but I still dont see the point in having Gareth Barry playing, he is supposed to protect the back four but most of the tackles last night came from Gerrard, Barry was by a mile our worst player. I also dont support the club that says we must play Rooney, drop the guy and give him a rest then maybe he will come back like the player of last season and set the place on fire. While we have players that MUST be included we will never be a decent team or world force

  • Comment number 89.

    Sick and tired of journalists putting their own negative spin on certain situations. Rooney in your eyes made a wild challenge born out of frustration and got booked for it. What I saw was that Montenegro were breaking and Rooney took a yellow card for the team. Some would call that clever play, and tell the truth, we could have used some other players to use their heads in the World Cup. Barry and Johnson could have prevented two of Germanys goals if they had taken one for the team.

  • Comment number 90.

    I was at the game last night and it was evident to the 70,000 plus fans that it wasn't working in midfield. Barry looked lethargic, and at this level there is no space for that! Stevie G is a good player, but even he can't carry is center mid partner... In Wiltshere we have a fresh, energetic midfielder, keen to show Capello what he can offer...
    How Capello thought bringing on Davies for Crouch would improve things is just crazy! Rooney was poor again and should have been replaced.
    On a plus note, Lescott looked class. Assured in the tackle and gave himself time to pick the right pass. Rio on the other hand looked average.
    I would like to see Capello bring in the likes of Wiltshere, Rodwell and Carroll to freshen things up.

  • Comment number 91.


    as a chief football writer at BBC I would have expected you to name some alternatives. I am glad you can be critical with this team but how could England have won?? who should have played in which positions? maybe your expertise could help Capello...

    on the other hand: when a midfield doesn't work and Rooney is terribly off form why not play the young but utmost creative Wilshere at least for 30-40 mins? England 4-man midfield was hugely overwhelmed by the 5-man midfield of Montenegro: why not exchange a central defender (Lescott) for a creative midfielder? if Wilshere has te ability to get behind a defender and having defence splitting passes why did not Cappello used him????

  • Comment number 92.

    There's nothing in the recent past that suggests we're anywhere near the standard of Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina et al.,
    Nothing in the recent past? England would have been 2-2 against Germany with the momentum in their favor with a competent linesman, I'd say that was pretty recent and suggested plenty. That they conceded two further goals to counter-attacks while trying to get an equaliser was pretty poor but the fact remains it was only because of pushing forward due to being wrongly still behind.

    Argentina were far more soundly beaten by the same German side yet aparently in your opinion they are still in the same class.

  • Comment number 93.

    #87, you say that, but Gerrard was awful last night. Hitting long ball after long ball, why can't we just pass the ball ten yards to a team mate and retain possession. Movement is the key, if our players were more intelligently capable of finding space, then the man on the ball would have so many options that if he does decide to go long often in search of a glorious crossfield pass, then it's either because he's morose, or not a team player. How many of our players do people think are capable of playing football intelligently though? Where are the likes of Waddle, Beardsley, Gascoigne, all intelligent football players of years gone by?

  • Comment number 94.

    Please, please look up the correct meaning of 'turgid'. If you don't know the meaning of a word, don't use it.

  • Comment number 95.

    'England are no longer a force'!! When were we a force in the first place?? Everyone jumps on the badwagon about 2 semi-finals! Even in those tournaments if you analyse it, WC90 we drew with the republic of ireland, drew with Holland, just about beat Egypt, scored a last minute winner against Belgium after 120 minutes, nearly lost to Cameroon and drew with Germany. Then Euro96 we only drew with switzerland, scrapped threw thanks to a penalty save against scotland, beat a disarray dutch side, drew with spain and drew with germany (all at wembley). Hardly world beaters!

    Our major player these days who is supposed to be a world beater can't even control a football. I have never seen a player be so good last season to so bad at the world cup and this season. Capello needs to drop Rooney as he is providing nothing to the team.

    We will still qualify and then the hype will start how we can win the tournament and then we will do rubbish again and will be back to square one. I would like to see Martin O'neill take over, Villa have played some of the best attacking football in recent seasons and with a base of his old players, Young, Milner, Barry get them playing how they played at Villa and then we will be more of a force!

  • Comment number 96.

    87. At 10:10am on 13 Oct 2010, harbourmaster wrote:

    LOL. so hang on a minute. gerrard goes back into this favoured position which is centre mid according to his deluded liverpool fans. and he played in that position last night and didnt do jack.

    now you want him to be more Freeeeeee and play just off rooney in his other favorite position. how many favorite positions does Stevie Me have???? he's like robbie keane with his boyhood clubs!!!

    Why not tell gerrard to play wherever the hell he wants to play, just to keep that miserable scouser happy so he can put in another lacklustre performance like last night.

  • Comment number 97.


    Vlado you might be right. Capello was among those few (like Mourinho, Scolari at the Portugal helm) who was able to change a team tactically DURING a game (Sven was unable to do that). If Fabio has became too old to do that with England - get rid of him as he is not the man he used to be with jis expertism or courage lost...

  • Comment number 98.

    I can understand how gutted people are with England's performance in SA, but can we stop holding on to the glory of 1966. Its just making English supporters look stupid in all honesty because we have never come close since then. The players in the England team today have no idea what it takes to win a competition like the world cup and in all honesty i dont think we ever will. I only wish i could hear what Sir bobby would of made of all this??

  • Comment number 99.

    I see from quite a few of the posts the majority appear to be suffering delusions for example this;

    " Utter garbage. England can still compete on reasonable terms with the likes of Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Netherlands, they are clearly above France and Italy at the moment and only Spain would outclass them as they would any other team in the world. Any and all of those teams also have trouble breaking down defensive entities like Montenegro, Slovenia and Algeria "

    with the above mentallity and mindset its little wonder that nothing has changed. perhaps the poster of such " utter rubbish " is non other than Cappello himself only deluded fool would pen such a paragraph.

  • Comment number 100.

    I don't think it is a bad result. We were missing a few players, they missed a few players. I can't see us losing in Montenegro, similarly i can't see us winning.
    They came for a point and got it....

    The performance, now that was an issue.
    Barry - he is too slow for this level, Oh how we need Hargreaves fully fit....But Jags is a very good suggestion ad Rodwell in time can do it.
    Johnson - Really makes me appreciate how good Red Nev was for England surprise either that Adam Johnson's worst performance for England came when he was playing in front of namesake Glenn...
    Young - I have never been overly convinced by him, but he should get more than 1 opportunity
    Rooney - Just needs time away from the game to get his head right...but he had nothing to work on at all
    Gerrard - how many time must he hit the Hollywood pass....we don't need 50 yard balls against a team with 11 men behind the ball, play it on the ground and draw them out to create space..

    It was a game crying out for some creativity in Cole or Wilshere (Yes he is young and we shouldn't pin all our hopes on him, but give the kid a go and he can grow into it like Ozil has), an out an out forward like Bent/Defoe to shoot on sight and some genuine pace in Lennon or Walcott...

    Congrats to Davies though - I'm no fan of Bolton or the way they play the game but his cap is long overdue that and well earnt


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