Russia 2-1 England: the kneejerk reaction – don’t blame Steve McClaren

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17th, October 2007

10 Comments

_44182632_rooloss203.jpgHate to say I told you so, but… I told you so.
I’ve read a fair bit of response on footy forums to England’s painful defeat in Moscow, and most of the blame seems to be aimed at Steve McClaren. This is nonsense. McClaren steered England to five consecutive 3-0 wins, had the balls to bring in Gareth Barry and drop Frank Lampard, and in my opinion got the tactics just about spot-on tonight. No, it’s the players who must shoulder the blame for not having the heart, technique or maturity to cope with a Russian side invigorated by Guus Hiddink’s half-time boot up the arse. As Sven said when he was asked why he didn’t take England further in major championships, ‘I didn’t have Elano’. And that’s the point: we don’t have the tools do go to a place like Russia and do a job. Steven Gerrard is an admirable footballer in many ways, but he is not the calm head we require at the centre of our midfield; he is more of a headless chicken.


The first half went perfectly; the second half was a nightmare. Forget the fact that Wayne Rooney’s foul was outside the box – as Graham Taylor said on Radio Five Live, Russia deserved to win the game. They could have scored three or four in the second half, so superior were they.
The England team froze like rabbits-in-headlights. They couldn’t keep the ball – a typical English failing – and basically invited Russia to attack at will. Once Steven Gerrard had missed that sitter from eight yards out, Russia seemed to gain strength and realise that they could get more than a point from the game.
Man of the match for England? Sol Campbell, who is the best backs-to-the-wall defender in the country. Another brownie point for McClaren then, who realised that Campbell is a world-class centre-half, still – many journalists questioned Campbell’s inclusion and they were proved wrong. By contrast, Joleon Lescott, current darling of many judges, had a very poor game. Lescott is a fine young(ish) player, but he was played out of position – and I don’t blame McClaren for that, given that Phil Neville and Nicky Shorey were the alternatives – so can’t be criticised too much.
I fully expect the usual England manager witch-hunt in tomorrow’s tabloids, but that’s unfair on McClaren, who did about as much as he could to secure the required point in Moscow. I have slagged the man off in the past, but he has convinced me that he has at least learned something about the art of management from mentors Alex Ferguson and Sven-Goran Eriksson.
However, if England don’t qualify for Euro 2008, he will surely lose his job, no doubt at the expense of another big-name foreign manager – Jose Mourinho perhaps? And whilst I’m supporting McClaren here, I will say that his motivational ability is questionable. He’s certainly no less tactically astute than someone like Jose, but modern football requires a manager with charisma as well as the requisite coaching badges. Shame – I was just getting to like Mac as well…

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10 Comments

  1. Louwrens says:

    great post, very true. im impressed that you didnt hop on the bandwagon in slagging mclaren regardless, which just goes to show (again) that Pies is better than the regular media out there

  2. Chringle says:

    SWP creates the illusion of being a good winger but his crossing is dire and his running is generally unproductive. Joe Cole provides little from the left (most of his flashy dribbling takes place on the halfway line) and would be better suited to playing on the right. We NEED wingers who can provide suitable service to the front two.

  3. clayton says:

    Whoa whoa…
    McLaren’s “brilliant” player selections only came about from injuries, an injury to Neville meant the introduction of Richards, would Mclaren have done that if Neville was fit? What about the Owen & Heskey partnership? No person with an interest in England’s football ability could say that Mclaren had that plan all along, it was suspension and injuries that forced his hand… same with the selection of Barry.
    Another thing that cannot be denied is the team’s performances in the second half. Ever since Mclaren was involved with the team (this includes the latter part of the world cup) the team performance in the second half of every match has been lack lustre and without thought.
    Take the match at the weekend, 3 up at half time and overall the team needs to put out a message that they are a force to content with, a massive psychological up yours to others in the group, so McLaren plays it safe.
    And that is the crux of it, the only times McLaren has taken risks is when his hand was forced.
    But my comment should not be seen as turning a blind eye towards the players, Rash Rooney, Rank Robinson all played key parts in today’s dire game. Crouch seems to get the ball at the halfway line and then runs a couple of yards towards his own goal. SWP whilst recently improving has a natural gift of giving the ball away, Gerrard seems to be in need of a media kick in the balls as he has no ability this season it could go on…sadly.
    During the early rounds of qualifying sitting in a cesspit with a bear trap around my genitals would have been preferable to watching England play, all the outcry for an English manager because they have passion after Sven and we have this person who only has a passion for sucking the soul out of a group of players. Passion is not on Mclacking’s CV. Nor is European final qualifiers.
    Look at the funding of Rugby in this country, a sport that actually has problems here, yet the players, the team, the manager, all make the rose on their chest blossom, no one in the FA seems to be able to make the lions roar.

  4. James says:

    Great post. Our boys dont seem to do themselves justice when they play for England, sometimes it looks like their just not up for it, which makes watching them play frustrating. We need a manager who can get the best out of our players, and McClaren just isnt that person.

  5. Derm says:

    Yeah, Manager has to take blame for a really shocking performance second half. I’m staggered that the tv media seems to have unanimously said that England didn’t look like conceding when the goal came….er…Russia were completely dominating the game territorially and in possession terms, when they scored. Tactics were crap as usual. England should have gone out and made it 2 or 3 nil. Always the same…The moral of the story is ..if you play like cowards who are scared to attack, you always lose in the end.
    I would also say that a few players were not giving 100% (which is unusual) Gerrard especially was rubbish. Has been poor for a long time and his lack of attitude is testing the loyalty of Englands fans as has Lampard’s. We just need a great, motivational manager…but we have to get rid of the clowns at the FA first !!!

  6. paul says:

    Pies is right. I think people have to come to terms with the reality that Sven quite possibly overachieved during his tenure, and English talent is not at the same level as on the continent. The England manager seems to take all of the blame for failures and none of the credit for victories. Only an idiot would want that job.

  7. paul says:

    Pies is right. I think people have to come to terms with the reality that Sven quite possibly overachieved during his tenure, and English talent is not at the same level as on the continent. The England manager seems to take all of the blame for failures and none of the credit for victories. Only an idiot would want that job.

  8. paul says:

    Pies is right. I think people have to come to terms with the reality that Sven quite possibly overachieved during his tenure, and English talent is not at the same level as on the continent. The England manager seems to take all of the blame for failures and none of the credit for victories. Only an idiot would want that job.

  9. paul says:

    sorry for the multiple post!

  10. MARINA GABRIEL says:

    If it’s tactics that led to the defeat, it’s clearly the boss’s fault. If it’s the player line-up it’s his selection, therefore his fault. If it’s lack of belief and heart, it’s clearly his fault, because he’s unable to inspire them. Any way you look at it, it’s McLaren’s fault.
    Well, at least it wasn’t poor Frankie Lampard’s fault….and for a while it would seem everything going wrong in England was absolutely his fault!

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