Written by @samjsneddon
It's the year of the FIFA World Cup, the time where over a billion excited football fans sit around the telly to watch the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world, even if your country is not involved (Sorry, Scotland *wink*).
Since 1998, England has qualified for the World Cup every year and of course, we won it in 1966. Since then, the furthest we've made it is to the quarter-finals. Our worst is the group stages, like last time in Brazil. But how might we do in this World Cup?
Well, the simple answer is hoping to avoid a horrifyingly embarrassing exit. The lads that will be helping us achieve that are of course those who pull on the shirt and to be honest, our players are actually pretty strong. Here's a predicted squad, as created by the Independent.
Joe Hart (GK)
Jack Butland (GK)
Jordan Pickford (GK)
Kyle Walker (RB)
Kieran Trippier (RB)
Danny Rose (LB)
Ryan Bertrand (LB)
John Stones (CB)
Phil Jones (CB)
Harry Maguire (CB)
Michael Keane (CB)
Eric Dier (CDM)
Jake Livermore (CDM)
Jordan Henderson (CM)
Harry Winks (CM)
Raheem Sterling (RW)
Adam Lallana (CAM)
Dele Alli (CAM)
Marcus Rashford (ST)
Harry Kane (ST)
Jamie Vardy (ST)
Daniel Sturridge (ST)
Jermain Defoe (ST)
(Available players as of 15/11/17)
Despite being the likely ones to board the plane, we could see a few surprises and maybe even some younger starlings.
I think it's pretty important to discuss the other members of Group G. When we all sat patiently awaiting the news of who we'd be up against in the group stages, we were surprisingly happy with our results. Group G consists of Belgium, England, Panama and Tunisia.
Here's how I think our results will go; considering we play our best, that is
Match 1 - June 18: Tunisia v England (19:00 KO) - England Win
Match 2 - June 24: England v Panama (13:00 KO) - England Win
Match 3 - June 28: England v Belgium (19:00 KO) - Belgium Win
If all goes to plan, surely that'll put us in the Round of 16, right?
It's really down to how our team plays, and recently under Gareth Southgate, our fans have been victims of some pretty poor performances. No matter how this World Cup goes, they'll be plenty of us England fans cheering on the Three Lions.
Situated in North West London, Wembley Stadium was originally built in 1923 before being demolished and reopened in 2007. I’ll stop there with the boring Wembley facts though (if you’re a fan of The Apprentice, you’ll especially appreciate that gesture).
Wembley is regarded as the home of football, certainly within the UK, and it’s where the England national team play their home games. Every single home game England play, whether it be a World Cup Qualifier, friendly or any other type of match, is played at Wembley stadium, in London. Just to clarify, that means a football team which represents an entire country, plays all of its games right at the South of that country. Is it just me, or does that seem a little odd? What about fans who want to watch England but live nowhere near London?
Lets take an example of a football fan, maybe a 35-year-old man, living in somewhere in the north like Liverpool. Realistically he'll never get the opportunity to watch his national team play because of how far it is to travel to Wembley. Sure, you can watch it on TV. But it’s not the same.
Continuing with the example of the person from Liverpool, if he were to travel to London to watch England hed’d have to pay a very expensive train fare. From there, he'd have to navigate an unfamiliar tube system to make his way to Wembley. Once the game is over, he’d have to take a late night train ride back to Liverpool which isn't ideal, right? So he might be forced to book accommodation for the night and travel back to Liverpool in the morning. As you can imagine, these costs all rack up, resulting in some fans having to pay £100s to see England play.
It’s not just England that has this problem, though. The vast majority of countries play all of their national team games at just one stadium. It just seems like a very unusual system. One nation that doesn’t follow the status quo, though, is Spain - they play national team games in a variety of stadiums across the country. Even when it comes to competitive games, the national team could play at any one of the Bernabéu, Camp Nou or Estadio Olimpico de Sevilla – and if you take a look at a map, those three stadiums are spread quite evenly across the country. Moreover, each of those stadiums has a high capacity and is correctly facilitated to hold a large number of fans.
Why can’t England copy the Spain model? There certainly isn't a lack of quality stadiums in England. Even if national team games were shared between just a few different venues, it would still allow almost every fan the opportunity to see their nation play, live in the flesh. There are no stadiums in England that can even match the mammoth 90,000-person capacity of Wembley. However, Old Trafford in Manchester can hold 75,000, St James’ Park in Newcastle has a capacity of 52,000 and Villa Park in Birmingham can hold 42,500. When you consider that Wembley rarely reaches maximum capacity anyway, it seems quite logical that games of less importance could easily be played at different locations around England.
Spreading games out in this manner is also helpful for players who live further away from Wembley. Instead of having to travel to London every time there is an international break, it gets shaken up a bit to make things a little more fair for those players who live away from the capital. Plus, if clubs have the pressure of knowing that during an international break they may have to host the national team, it will force them into renovating their facilities and ensuring the stadium is of good quality, which then will benefit the fans and players of that particular club, too.
It just seems like it would be beneficial to the majority if England games were played at various stadiums across the whole country, rather than solely at Wembley. And who knows, maybe the national team will start performing better on the pitch as a result.
by George (@georjecb on Twitter)
This article was written by @footballreview4. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
This is probably the biggest debate in English football. While there is no definitive answer to the question, it still sparks interesting conversation. It usually comes down to opinion and team playing style.
Let's start with Scholes. If you ask most professional players that have either played with or against him, the will say he's one of the best midfielders of his generation. Scholes has played pretty much every midfield position there is. Scholes possesses an incredible passing range - both long and short, accurate shooting ability and the unique ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker. He was more robust in his earlier years, deployed as a second striker, box to box midfielder and even on the left wing for England. Scholes' natural ability is such that he was able to retire, come back partially blind and still do bits in a prime United side. How can a man be partially blind and still see passes that able sighted midfielders could only dream of? One of the great midfielders of all time.
Now, Lampard. He's probably the least technically gifted of the three - but what he did, he did very well. Lampard was a goal scoring midfielder of the highest quality. To be Chelsea's all time leading scorer as a midfielder is nuts. 211 goals in 13 seasons. You can't chat to Frank when it comes to goals. Between 03-09 he was more of a box to box player. What made him unique was his ability to arrive late into the box and score goals. Time and time again, he'd make the third man run into the box and score crucial goals for Chelsea. His playmaking abilities were underrated. In the 09/10 season he recorded 18 assists in all comps as well as scoring 27 goals in just 51 games. Plus, he was never a man to shy away from a big occasion; he scored the goals to seal Chelsea's first league title win in 50 years as well as scoring a goal in the 08 CL final. Chelsea legend and England legend. Super Frankie Lampard.
Last, but not least, Stevie G. My favourite midfielder of the three. For me, he's the perfect combination of the prior two. At his peak, Gerrard was nuts. He single handedly dragged Liverpool to their CL win in 05 and the 06 FA Cup. Gerrard was capable of spraying 50 yard diags as well as intricate one-twos. The Scouser was also capable of spectacular strikes. He scored so many dumb goals, take his equaliser in the FA Cup final against West Ham. He had cramp, was basically on his last legs and still still banged it top bins from like 40 yards. His best quality, in my opinion, was his ability to lead by example. It could be argued that he thrived being a big fish in a small pond. I think that's lazy analysis personally, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Gerrard, for me, is the most complete of the three - able to play DM, CM and CAM, all to a high degree.
As I said above, there is no definitive answer to this argument. It all comes down to preference. For me, Scholes is the best footballer. Lampard is clearly best in terms of goal scoring. Gerrard is the most well rounded and the best leader. It's a shame that no English manager was able to get them to all play together in an effective and coherent manner. It could have been the best midfield in Europe. Now that all of them are retired, I hope we can appreciate them all for their individual talents. They are all greats of the game.
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This article was written by @footballreview4. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
The accusation that England have a weaker pool of talent has been levelled for years now. It has been been argued that England don't have players of the same technical ability as countries like Brazil and Spain, but is this really true?
In my experience, I don't believe this to be true. I believe the problem lies with the where players are being recruited from. Take Brazil for example, most of their most technically gifted players are from 'deprived' backgrounds. They come from places where there is very little else to do but play football. Football has become a way of life for them as well as a way of making a better life for themselves. The hunger and drive to succeed is already embedded. Some of the most technical players I've seen or played against have been on a council estate. I'll use one of my friends Jimmi as an example. He's a versatile forward - he can play all across the forward line. First touch is impeccable, ability on the ball cannot be questioned and a more than competent finisher. I believe, if given the chance, could have played football at a high level. Instead, his life went in a different direction. How many other players of a similar profile have we lost?
The recruitment system in this country needs to change. There are so many community projects that go into these 'under privileged' areas however, there is no route for these kids and teens to get into academies or ever get trials. There are the occasional Jamie Vardy's that take the long route to the high level, but they are few and far between. I'm not saying that the future of English football isn't bright. We have a good crop of young players coming through. They will need game time though, but that's another subject entirely.
I'm convinced there are hidden gems out there that get overlooked. It's up to clubs and academies to find them. Those are my thoughts on the matter. What do you think? Let me know on Twitter/Instagram (links below)
This article is written by England fan WaveyWalker. Check him out on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
We all know that the English National team struggles in major tournaments - it has failed to win one since 1966. It doesn’t help that only 33.6% of players in the Premier League were English last season, meaning the Premier League has a higher proportion of foreign players than any of the other in the top 12 leagues in Europe.
One of the reasons why the Premier League has such low numbers of home-grown players is because of the money the league generates - television revenue for clubs is set to hit £8bn from this season onwards. This means that Premier League clubs will have more money, and as these clubs get more and more money their fans will develop the need for instant success, and as we've seen already there is barely any pressure for teams to produce players from their academy.
For example, Chelsea have arguably the best Academy in the Premier League. Yet the last home-grown English player to be a first-team regular in a Chelsea side was John Terry, more than 17 years ago. Players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah have only been getting minutes coming off the bench and, because of the pressure of instant success when managing a big club, managers are more inclined to go for the expensive route, buying players who they believe are experienced and trusted instead of testing out some raw youth talent. But what is the point of having an academy if you are never going to use it?
One other big reason as to why less and less English players are in the Premier League is because English clubs overprice English players. For example, John Stones's move from Everton to Manchester City cost them £47 million, whereas German centre-back Niklas Sule, who is a year younger than John Stones, cost Bayern Munich just £17 million. And following interest from several Premier League clubs, Fulham say they value Tom Cairney at £20 million - in contrast, Leicester City brought midfielder N'Golo Kante for just £5.6 million in 2015.
The FA need to look at these stats and start to think of a plan to try and rebuild the national team. Greg Dyke tried and failed but if they actually put some time and effort into this, I believe they will come up with a solution.
In my opinion I feel as though English clubs makes it much more harder for talented English player to progress in the game and the FA need to do something about this worrying situation, It remains to be seen what type of action can be taken. Maybe there should be a reward system where if a club produces a player that makes their England debut, the FA will give them £1 million pounds, just a thought.
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