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England National Team

The great weight of expectation on England’s shoulders

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As I watched Milivoje Novakovic slide his shot past Joe Hart one man in the pub with a wry smile stated to his friend ‘Well there goes my 4-0 bet.’ Two things immediately struck me. Why is this guy betting on England to win against Slovenia 4-0 and why is he not that bothered that England are losing?

Let’s examine the first question. Now England have been no stranger to a big win in qualifying campaigns. Their last win by four goals was back in March at home to Lithuania who are 96th in FIFA World Rankings and they beat San Marino by five last year who are 192nd. Slovenia though are ranked 48th and played out a 3-1 defeat at Wembley and have a goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic who is good enough to be linked with Man United to replace the potentially outgoing David Dea Gea. This is England though, the home of football, where it all began, home of the Premier League, the best league in the world and where the hell is Slovenia?

I do fear irrational patriotism clouds the judgement of abilities and plain ignorance of countries which are not popular holiday destinations leaves teams completely underestimated. Therefore, expectations on the national team are far too high. Yes, we should be doing better, but we don’t have the players nor do we have the coach.

All but one of the starting eleven play for top six teams but lets’s look at those in detail. Joe Hart is no doubt a top keeper but isn’t quite in the elite. This is probably a high point. The back four is consisting of a left back who is back up at his club to a man that’s the back up for their national team in Kieran Gibbs. A right back who is center back and also a figure of fun on social media.  Gary Cahill plays for the best team in the country but is secondary to John Terry and Chris Smalling currently plays centre half for a team constantly linked with numerous new centre backs.

Forward to the midfield, Jordan Henderson is a reasonably bright spark in a team that finished 6th in the league the equivalent to Villareal, Genoa or Schalke. Jack Wilshere had his best game in an England shirt but wouldn’t get in the Arsenal first team. Fabian Delph plays for Aston Villa and isn’t really considered good enough for a top four team. Andros Townsend is second choice behind Erik Lamela, enough said, despite Lamela’s obvious potential. Raheem Sterling has had a lot more negative headlines than positive recently and Rooney hadn’t scored since April 4th before the game. Should this team be beating Slovenia 4-0? I don’t think so but that man in the pub represents the average football fan and he is being let down because England should be better, should have better players but we must accept we don’t and we must do our best and that most likely will be another quarter final at the Euro’s next year.

I remember when Tottenham were going through a really bad spell back in November and someone on a spurs podcast said; ‘The worst thing a club can do is make the fans not care.’ That is exactly what has happened to many England fans, many fail to even know when a game is to be played, who the opposition is or just simply don’t care anymore. This is Roy’s responsibility, we need an exciting England a team who plays quick attacking football but that is also versatile and may actual beat some of the real big boys because we aren’t one anymore. We beat Brazil in a friendly back in 2013 but you have to go back to 2002 when David Beckham’s penalty defeated Argentina 1-0 to when England beat a top team in a competitive match, now that isn’t good enough but don’t expect it to change any time soon.

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Tottenham fan and wannabe wordsmith who just enjoys writing about his club and all other aspects of our wonderful game.

England National Team

“No surprise”: Twitter reacts to rumours of Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey’s England return

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Photo: Getty Images.

When news broke that Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could be in line for an England recall, fans around the country reacted in a variety of ways, both of joy and dread, that the former Liverpool man could be on the plane to Russia.

The Times say that his form, combined with fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana, have put him in the frame, and England boss Gareth Southgate is set watch as his Magpies team face Everton on Monday.

The 26-year-old has been key to Rafa Benitez’s side this season as they have re-established themselves back in the top flight of English football.

(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Shelvey has already got six England caps to his name, the most recent coming in November 2015 against France, and he could now earn a return two and a half years later.

His sparkling form has caught the eye as all three goals he has been involved with this season (one goal and two assists) have come in his last four appearances.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the news…

Many believed it was about time…

Plenty made comparisons to the alternatives, with two in particular coming up a few times…

He’s made some eat their words…

Yet not all agreed…

After three years in the international wilderness, Jonjo Shelvey will need to maintain his current form if he is to enter into the fight to earn himself a ticket on the plane to Russia as a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in World Cup Group G.

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England National Team

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold must have Gareth Southgate paying attention

The teenage defender had Leroy Sane shackled throughout the Champions League tie between Liverpool and Manchester City.

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More often or not when England head to a World Cup a player emerges late on in a season and finds their way into the 23-man squad for the tournament. After last night, one man who should certainly be catching Gareth Southgate’s eye is Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

This season not many full-backs have managed to contain the threat posed by Manchester City winger Leroy Sane. The pacey German has got the better of the best this campaign and Liverpool fans undoubtedly feared him ahead of the Champions League tie last night. They needn’t have done so. Liverpool romped to a 3-0 victory and the performance of Alexander-Arnold left Sane shackled and frustrated.

Liverpool’s English midfielder Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) vies with Manchester City’s German midfielder Leroy Sane during the UEFA Champions League first leg quarter-final football match between Liverpool and Manchester City, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on April 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony Devlin (Photo credit should read ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP/Getty Images)

His speed and expert reading of the game left Sane forlorn as Liverpool fans purred over yet another incredible performance from their 19-year-old defender.

Not only was he immense defensively, but when asked to attack he is a potent threat who widens the pitch with his positional play and technical ability.

If you were none the wiser, and asked which right-back on display was the England starter, Kyle Walker would not have been your choice.

It begs the question, should Alexander-Arnold be in contention for the England squad?

Gareth Southgate is blessed at right-back. Not only does he have Walker but also Kieran Trippier at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United’s Ashley Young to consider. But his recent use of Walker as a centre-back in a defensive trio gives hope to the Liverpool teenager.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 31: The number 66 of Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

He is a perfect option as a right wing-back and after last night it is evident he can play against the best.

If the 19-year-old remains in the Liverpool starting XI for the rest of the season and throughout a Champions League run it will be extremely hard for Southgate not to take notice.

The Liverpool talent might just sneak his way into the World Cup reckoning for this summer.

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England National Team

Leeds United fans react to Lewis Cook’s England debut

The Leeds academy product is now plying his trade with Bournemouth.

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Photo: Getty Images

England finished their international break with a 1-1 draw against Italy at Wembley last night. The game was a great opportunity for many to stamp their claim on a World Cup spot. James Tarkowski picked up his first England cap, Jack Butland got a chance in goal and Lewis Cook of Bournemouth came on for his England debut.

It was a bittersweet moment for Leeds United fans. Cook, of course, came through the ranks at Thorp Arch. The midfielder from York was at Leeds from the age of seven. In 2016 he departed Elland Road, joining the Cherries. It came after years of mismanagement of the West Yorkshire side and Cook’s career was better off served elsewhere.

That has proven the case. After struggling with injury for periods of last season he has established himself in the Bournemouth starting XI under Eddie Howe.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

For Leeds fans, they knew what he was capable of. The shining star of their youth team during the Neil Redfearn era, his departure was a tough one for Leeds fans to take.

The fact Leeds only received a fee reported to be in an initial region of £6 million by the Yorkshire Evening Post hurts more. Although that figure can rise to £10 million, fans are disappointed such a fee was not already gathered by selling one of their top talents.

As Cook, who also captained England to under-20 World Cup success in the summer, came on the feeling from Leeds fans was one of pride. Here was one of their own, making it on the biggest stage. To add to the good feeling, his grandfather won £17,000 after betting on Cook to make his England debut when the Leeds alumni was just 18.

(Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)

Many a Leeds fan, however, made the same prediction and that is what hurts the most. If Cook had remained at Leeds would he be making his England debut, who knows? Would Leeds still be in the Championship given his ability and how close they came last season? Again, who knows?

But overall Leeds fans on Twitter were just pleased to see him get his senior cap. With England playing Costa Rica in a World Cup warm-up at Elland Road in June, maybe Cook can play in white at his spiritual home yet again.

As for those that sold him? Leeds fans were less praising…

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