Thursday, October 12, 2006

Come on, England!

Last night's horror film was a deserved 2-0 defeat by Croatia.

It's very early to say this, but already I have severe doubts about the ability of the coach Steve McClaren.

Which is not to doubt McClaren's desire, passion, and comittment. It's just he may not have the intelligence and gravitas to handle the tactics and the prickly egos of the players. The philosopher advised us to know ourselves. So his decision to bring the very clever, and very tactical Terry Venables back into the England setup seemed excellent.

Now I'm not so sure. Last night England played the obsolete 3-5-2 formation, popular in Venables prime about 10-15 years ago. Perhaps he's been suggesting the system for a while and McClaren felt it was a magic solution to the problems evident in the 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon. If so, it explains, but doesn't excuse, the strange decision to try out a new system at a difficult away fixture.

I was always a fan of Sven because he was calm and thoughtful and so utterly alien to English football culture (the very different personalities of Marino and Wenger also share this quality).

It may be a little early for many England fans, but a few more games and we might be regretting getting rid of a coach who brought an effortless consistentency to qualification. He also took us within a penalty shoot-out of a World Cup semi-final, a broken metatarsel of a European Championship semi-final, and a 1-0 lead against Brazil in a World Cup 1/4 final.

Football, like poker, is a game of skill and luck. But in the long term, skill always predominates. Let's hope Steve McClaren is simply going through a very rough patch. I doubt that's the case, but hope I'm wrong.


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