It’s colder than a pile of penguin sh*t out there right now and the summer of 2018 seems like some kind of faraway fever dream.
But the World Cup is coming at us fast and England need to at least come up with some kind of half-arsed strategy if we want to avoid the kind of national humiliation that we’ve become sorely accustomed to.
Because I’m an opinionated gobshite who is comfortable to operate way above my actual station in life, I’ve thrown together a plan of action which I’m sure Gareth Southgate will read and wholly agree with in that drab, inoffensive way that he has about him.
You can all thank me when surprise England captain Jonjo Shelvey is lifting the World Cup trophy in Moscow on July 15th next year…
While on one hand, the ‘Young Lions’ experiment against Germany the other night was vaguely invigorating, England friendlies are some of the most pointless exercises to be staged at Wembley Stadium since Bros played there in 1989. (If you don’t know what that means, just replace it with Ed Sheeran in 2018).
No one who goes to one really wants to be there, so just get rid of them.
Instead, spend the international breaks behind closed doors, honing a team that knows exactly what it’s doing and how to do it. Cover every eventuality and unleash the thing on the world in the first group match in June. Hey, maybe even knock together some sort of weird but unbeatable new formation while you’re about it, Gareth. 2-5-2-1 feels pretty radical.
NOTE: Nothing at Wembley Stadium will ever be as thrilling as Evel Knievel’s 1975 bus jump, so don’t even bother trying to top it.
It’s not hard. Get your players and work out where they’re going to put their spot kick. Then get them to do it AGAIN AND AGAIN for an hour and a half until it’s as natural to them as checking their Instagram pages for new likes.
It was suggested that Gareth Southgate mulled over staging a mock shootout during one of the friendlies. No. No, no, no.
That whole ‘replicate the big match scenario’ sh*te (a) doesn’t work in a friendly (b) doesn’t matter if you’ve drilled every single member of your squad to drill the ball into the back of the net from a dozen yards out.
BE MORE BURNLEY
The sad truth is that England has very few players who are the stand-out stars at their parent club. Harry Kane and maybe Jamie Vardy are the only ones that spring to mind.
It’s time to abandon the idea that England is a great footballing nation once and for all, realise that we’re minnows in the grand scheme of things and act accordingly.
It’s time to let Sean Dyche’s over-performing Premier League side as our template. In the global game, Raheem Sterling is on a par with Burnley’s Robbie Brady. Eric Dier, while a fine pro, is at Steven Defour level on the world stage.
Southgate needs to foster a culture where England’s players realise that they won’t get anywhere without extreme graft and an unbreakable spirit. That job Iceland did on us in Euro 2016? We need to be doing that to Spain or Argentina.
PICK YOUR TEAM ON FORM
You’ll get a significant chunk of extra output from players if their confidence is high and they’re in a streak of good form, and Southgate needs to harness this universal truth when it comes to the squad list for Russia next summer.
Being a big name or already having 60 caps under your belt shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference if you’re in a slump at club or country level.
Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Jordan Pickford both grasped their chance against Germany on Friday night and if they’re both doing the business come the end of the season, they should be in the first XI.
Likewise, if Jordan Henderson isn’t performing for Liverpool come May, bin him.
PREPARE FOR RUSSIAN HOSPITALITY
Basically sweep the hotel rooms for hidden cameras and don’t let your players get involved in urine-based fun with local women on their days off.
You’d be surprised how damaging that kind of thing can be…