The Euros – Time to be a Chaise Lounge Supporter Again.

Posted on June 11, 2024

So, it’s another year and another tournament for England to embark on in their quest to end what is now approaching sixty years of hurt. Still, it’s never stopped us believing, apparently. Some are even saying it’s coming home this time. A statement that makes me feel more nauseous with every passing tournament.

Attacking Options vs. Defensive Wobbles

Can England finally do it in Germany? Is their abundance of attacking options enough to counter a defence that has more holes than Swiss cheese? We will soon find out, but England, in my opinion, should not be the favourites they are made out to be amongst some pundits blinded by an overhyped Premier League.

Premier League: The Hype Machine

So, what is my chaise lounge opinion based on? Well, a few things. Firstly, by watching games and seeing how players perform at the highest level. There is no doubt that there are high level Premier League performers throughout the side but just how good is that league? Is it really the best in the world, or are we blinkered by watching it every week and being told by the people who run it that it’s the best league in the world? They’re not going to say it’s a bit shit but not one European club trophy was won by a Premier League side in 2024. Coincidence, maybe? Maybe not?

The Reliable Few and the Unproven Many

What we do know is that Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham have performed at home and abroad, so we can safely say they are European class and can perform at the highest level. The same might apply to John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice, all who look more than a bit handy week in week out and have performed well in the Champions League. Thereafter it all looks a bit patchy, with very decent looking Premier League players like Cole Palmer largely unproven at international level. Palmer is projected to be a star of the tournament and has looked great in an awful Chelsea team but he has yet to be tested at the highest level.

Margins and Missed Opportunities

So, with that in mind, England’s chances look decent at best and they will at some point probably require a huge slice of luck due to their defensive frailties. Close games get decided on the margins. England should have beaten France in the 2022 World Cup but didn’t. France scored out of the blue, England fluffed their lines in front of goal. It could be the other way around this time. We just don’t know.

Southgate: The Marmite Manager

Then of course, there is the tactical acumen of the manager. Like him or not, Southgate’s performance as England manager is second only to, but more consistent than, Alf Ramsey. His record is far better than anyone’s after 1966, including the only other semi-finalists, Bobby Robson and Terry Venables. However, like every manager who bothers to take on the role, he gets irrational amounts of stick. Much of it appears to revolve around voting to remain in the EU, being too woke, and not telling his players to get stuck in and as a consequence seeing red, both metaphorically and literally. Some of these social media critics are so thick, it’s utterly depressing.

Finishing Teams Off

Still, it’s okay to be critical of performance and if there has been something lacking in recent tournaments, it is the ability to finish teams off when on top. Croatia (2018 SF), Italy (2021 F) and France (2022 QF) were all there for the taking at certain points of the games and England buckled under the weight of pressure. The buck stops with the management to push the players into believing they can win. They have to instil belief. That said, even the great Carlo Ancelotti couldn’t legislate for the normally reliable Harry Kane blazing a penalty into the corner of the stadium rather than the goal.

A History of Heartbreak

It needs to be remembered that prior to Southgate coming into the job, England were such a joke, most people had stopped watching them. After the obligatory stamp and red carding of our star player in 2006, England didn’t qualify for Euro 2008, got battered by Germany in the 2010 World Cup, were so awful in the 2012 Euros, I can’t even remember it, didn’t win a game in 2014 World Cup and were humiliated by Iceland in the 2016 Euros. Since then it’s been semifinal, final, quarterfinal. So, in that regard I don’t get the criticism.

The Golden Generation Myth

Some will say the criticism is justified because this is some sort of golden generation. Really? I’d argue the teams between 2002 and 2006 were better, or would have been if they were more united. The defence of Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville etc. were far stronger than we have now and the best they did was a string of quarterfinals that went horribly but predictably wrong as passion turned to chaos, then tears…again!

Recent Form and Bold Selections

In recent days England have been lambasted for losing to Iceland. The only lambasting should be aimed at the FA for charging suckers for a practice match. Let’s face it, if that was the first group game of the Euros, England would have won handsomely. Friendlies are just a knockabout to keep everyone fit and ready but not overdo it by clattering into challenges. They shouldn’t be sold as competitive games but they are still useful. The result is irrelevant.

Southgate has been bold in selection, picking form players over those who have been labouring for form, such as Grealish and Maddison. Eze, Wharton and Palmer are in whilst the old guard such as Maguire and Henderson are gone. There is a fresh look to the team and if they connect they could fly. Equally, the jigsaw might not fit and it could be a flop and panic stations getting out of the group. It does feel a bit like a transitional squad that needs to gel a bit sharpish.

The End of Southgate?

Whatever happens, this tournament will probably spell the end of Southgate. If England fail he’ll resign, if they win, he might think it’s best to move on. Personally, I’d like to see England win as Southgate has done a lot to improve the reputation and attitude of those who represent England. I warm to players like Kane, Bellingham and Rice. It will also be great to see how the gammons react.

Unfortunately, I just don’t think the team has the balance to achieve it but what do I know? I’m just a chaise lounge supporter with no idea of the mindset and physical condition of international footballers. Only the manager and his team will know who is ready and who isn’t. They have to make that judgement and are handsomely paid for it.

So, rather than screaming about passion, getting stuck in, world wars, lions on shirts, St George, caged tigers and all that other old bollocks, I’m happy to let him get on with and see what happens.

It’s just a game of football.

Chaise Lounge predictions.

Star player: Phil Foden

Leading scorer: Harry Kane

Placing: Semi-Final

Scapegoat: Jordan Pickford or a black player

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