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England FC
by Asa Butcher
2006-10-10 10:22:12
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On Saturday night Steve McLaren's England squad managed to do at least one good task, which was to lull the country's terminal insomniacs into a deep, long-anticipated slumber. While they were happily dreaming, the rest of the country were trying to comprehend how a team of professional footballers, supposedly the best available, could under perform against FYR Macedonia, a team ranked 51st in the FIFA rankings.

Personally, I believe that a large portion of the blame should be on the shoulders of the 72,062 members of the crowd because they were deathly silent throughout large portions of the game. The Old Trafford crowd doesn't have the greatest reputation for being noisemakers even during Manchester United home games; we all remember Roy Keane's keen observation about the 'prawn sandwich brigade'.

However, the crowd were not really motivated by the lacklustre players, who appeared to be disinterested and expecting to win easily. Complacency is dangerous, as Portugal discovered twice against Greece, and it was a feeling felt by both players and the supporters. Speculation in our house before kick off had scores of 5-0 and 10-0 being thrown about, although most of us had forgotten that the 1-0 away win in Skopje was hard-fought too.

During both the home and away games against FYR Macedonia, England faced a five-man defending wall, which effectively frustrated our strikers on all but one occasion - Peter Crouch scoring in Skopje. As much as supporters hate to see defending football, it does work for teams and earns them valuable points through draws, yet England, ranked 4th in the world, should be able to find a way to break through this defence barrier.

This is where the criticism begins because we were treated to a casual start by the players before it changed into panic in the final thirty minutes. I don't understand why Frank Lampard wanted to keep Paul Robinson, England's goalkeeper, company all night, but he had decided that attacking wasn't worth the effort. Wayne Rooney is still trying to find his feet, although a few of the FYR Macedonia players did manage to find them for him and chop them in half on a number of occasions.

The one shining light is Peter Crouch, Liverpool's lofty striker, who fought all night and was unlucky on a couple of occasions. The man received a great deal of grief during the World Cup, but for a man thrown into the deep, after Sven screwed up with his strike force selection, he performed spectacularly. Crouch is growing in confidence, which can also be seen back at club level and the five goals he has scored since the start of the season.

Life as an England player will never be easy and the job of England manager should come with danger money, so I will hold off criticising Steve McLaren for a few more games. He deserves a chance to mould his own team and that will not happen in four games, especially when the time spent with the squad is so limited. Steve, you will get a few more games to establish your regime, but that will end the moment you recall David Beckham and stick England's future in reverse.

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Joe2006-10-10 00:40:01
How long till the papers demand McLaren's head?

Ergotelina2006-10-11 23:26:47
Weird results...

Cyprus - Ireland 5-2
Croatia - England 2-0

but Kazakhstan - Finland 0-2


McLaren deserves a ....third chance...

Asa2006-10-12 08:34:19
...third chance...hmmm. My patience was severly tested last night as England played their worst game in years. The players had no idea what was going on and looked so bored - fair play to Croatia who played well.

5 months to the next game and Holland will be a severe test.

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