Glenn Johnson Watches the end of his England Career
What started off a little write up of a trip to Wembley, got a whole lot bigger….
“Hi there, it’s your brother in law”
“Oh – hi there, how’s things?”
“Do you want a free ticket to got to Wembley tomorrow for the Slovenia game?”
“Errr.... it’s bath night... oh, alright then”.
So, I might get to see Nathaniel Clyne’s debut in the flesh or more likely, I’ll get to watch another centre back played out of position. Bring it on anyway. With all the trains between Southampton and Waterloo being subject to replacement bus services, it’s via Havant and up that way, listening to disaffected Pompey fans talking about their 3-0 defeat by Plymouth in the morning. It’s amusing. I hope they enjoy watching a team full of Scummers and ex-Scummers at Wembley.
Wembley – emerging from Wembley Park tube you can see right up Wembley (or Olympic Way as it’s now called) and the stadium looks as uninspiring as the old Wembley didn’t. I sat on a wall and waited for the brother in law to turn up and looked at the e-ticket I’d printed off. Club Wembley Silver – that’s the posh bit in the middle tier. It’s an hour before kick off and in we go. It’s a bit like stepping into a big city airport. There are stewards ushering you though the barcode scanners and escalators up to the Club Wembley concourse which is full of food outlets (restaurants) and souvenir shops and there are a distinct lack of people. There is no 20 minute queue for a beer or waiting in line playing ‘spot the urinal’ as you’re waiting for people to leave. In short, it’s very posh and about as far removed from ‘half time at The Dell’ as it could possibly be. It’s very nice and comfortable and you can understand the casual rich punter being very impressed but for me, it really isn’t what it’s all about.
What is impressive is Wembley when you are in view of the pitch. Even the Brother in law who is a Welsh rugby fan and used to the Millennium Stsdium in Cardiff, was impressed by the sheer scale of Wembley. The pitch looked like a patchwork due to the painting out of the logos that were daubed on it for the American Football last week. The wrong shade of green was used as you could still see the logo of the Bumblefuck Braindeads (or whoever) up our end of the pitch.
The big screen filled us in on the make up of the Slovenian team and then it was time for the England reveal. No 1 Joe Hart, accompanied by a profile picture and an action shot. No 2 Nathaniel Clyne accompanied by a blank screen and then another blank screen, No 3 Kieran Gibbs with pictures. Right the way through the team we went and even Saido Berahino who was in his first full England squad, had a picture. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day but surely someone could have taken a picture of Clyne in an England shirt. I’m sure they could have found one in a cupboard somewhere in St.Georges Park.
Much fawning over Rooney’s 100th game followed. It’s a great achievement it has to be said and he’s the youngest player ever to get there. I’m not his biggest fan by any means though he has entertained over the years, what with banging grannies and prostitutes and all that. On with the game and as we kick off, a quick scan round Club Wembley sees about 75% of the seats empty but no doubt sold so they’ll be counted on the attendance figures.
The first half was abysmal and the less said about it the better. In summary, Nathaniel Clyne started off quite tentatively and felt his way into the game before making some forward runs and testing the defence. He tore the full back a new one on one occasion and pulled a good ball back for Rooney to make a mess of but England seemed to want to funnel everything through the middle to Rooney and so often he was ignored. Most of his passes came from Cahill in defence or from Henderson and as Henderson was having a shocker, the ball was rarely making it out to him.
One ex-Saint I noticed was Adam Lallana who did his usual array of tight turns but sadly, he was entrusted with taking corners from both sides and he underhit every one and saw it headed away before it even got to the near post. It didn’t matter which side he took them from – underhit every time. Useless.
Half time and back to the concourse. I redeem my beer token purchased before the game and queue for an ‘Asian Platter’... because I can. How incidental the actual football is the whole Club Wembley experience can be summed up by the fact that there is no countdown or announcement that the 2nd half is about to start and I have to admit that I missed a few minutes which would be the sort of behaviour that would have me calling someone else a corporate wnnker. I’m sure I missed loads given the excitement of the first half.
Back to the game and Lallana find himself out on the right as Slovenia mount a rare attack and clatters a bloke rather than just hold him up. A cross into the box, several players jump and it flicks off someone and we’re 1-0 down. We’re having a discussion on who headed it and we all guess that it was Henderson as he hasn’t put a ball in the right direction all game. Sure enough we were right.
Straight from the kick off it becomes evident that we’ve been given a wake up call and a slick move ends with Rooney being tripped. Rooney takes it himself of course and smashes it in for 1-1. It’s a different game now with Slovenia having shot their bolt and not being capable of doing anything else. Now England are up for it and pressurising them in midfield, they’re shite and just kicking it anywhere. Before long, Wilshere bundles his way along the goal line and crosses, the keeper Handanovic sticks a foot out instead of going with his hands and just spoons it up to Welbeck who mis-hits it into the net for 2-1 and a really crappy goal. It’s quickly become a case of how many we’ll get and from the best move of the match, Welbeck plays a 1-2 with the sleepwalking Sterling and slots it in from the left of the 6 yard box. Excellent finish.
It was a major shock that Lallana lasted longer than an hour. He was clearly knackered but Roy obviously forgot he was still out there until 75 minutes but he was still the first to come off with Milner replacing him… how exciting. Oxlade-Chamberlain made an appearance in place of the tired Sterling and that was just about it. Henderson stayed on. Rarely can an international footballer have been as bad in a competitive game and not got substituted.
So, marks out of 10.
Hart 7 – another night off against poor opposition, no chance with goal
Clyne 7 – Good debut, more later....
Gibbs 7 – Good game, much better than Baines, starved of ball a bit
Jagielka 5 – doesn’t look fit to me, should have gone post-World Cup
Cahill 6 – some sloppy moments including getting Jagielka booked by playing him in the shit.
Wilshere 9 – never liked him before but thought he was superb
Lallana 5 – pathetic set piece delivery, tired badly in 2nd half. I question if he has the work rate to play in a midfield diamond unless he’s in the 10 position.
Sterling 4 – shocking until helped set up 3rd goal, not convinced
Henderson 3 – dog shit, should never be an England regular. Own goal summed him up.
Rooney 5 – great penalty, otherwise dire. No ball control and pace is going.
Welbeck 8 – rapidly becoming our most important player
Milner 6 - Mr Average came on, was average, won another cap
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 – immediately showed he doesn’t have a clue how to defend in front of a full back.
Overall I think Clyney had an excellent game. He did what he had to do in defence and was always looking to get forward and decent when he did so. England don’t use the wings as much as Saints do so he didn’t see as much of the ball as he should have done but nor did Gibbs on the other side. It’s not rocket science – the space is on the wings. Roy Hodgson was given credit for finding a solution to the right back issue. Sorry – he saw Clyne play at least 20 times for Saints last year but he still tried two Man United centre backs, an Arsenal centre back, an Everton centre back, two Tottenham full backs who can’t defend and worst of all, Glen Johnson. Clyne is better than all of those options and he has been for two seasons. Still – better late than never I guess and what do you know – the answer was down at Southampton all the time.
No doubt there will be media clamour for Clyne to leave Saints now. It’s easy to look at those who left in the summer and laugh but there was another on display today who I wonder about. Has Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain really progressed that much in the four years since he left Saints? I wonder how many games he’s played? If he’d stayed at Saints a bit, I reckon he’d be a lot better at the defensive side of the game as he really looks lost when the opposition have the ball. I guess when the bids from the big boys come in, each player has to decide if he wants to be the best player he can be or if he wants to be the richest player he can be.
Anyway, onto Tuesday and an away game in Glasgow against Scotland.
Scotland away on a Tuesday night and according to everyone who is paid to give their opinions about football, England are the underdogs as the Scots are playing well now. It totally depends on if we put as much in as they will. If we do then the bottom line is that we have much better players than they do. Scotland do not have one outstanding player like a Gareth Bale or someone like that. What they do have is a few lower end Premier League players and a load from the Championship. They do have a manager though who has got them playing as a team which counts for a lot.
Uncle Roy has changed a number of players with the shocking Liverpool 3 being left out and replaced with Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Downing. I know he’s played well this season but Downing in an England shirt will never sit well with me. Likewise Milner – I don’t get it, he’ll work hard, win the ball, give it away. Groundhog day. Shaw is in for Gibbs and Smalling for Jagielka and in goal we have Fraser Forster, making a return to Celtic Park in an England shirt. Ex-Celtic and current England footballer – I’m sure Rangers fans will be very friendly towards him. Strachan has picked the same side as he picked against Ireland in the qualifier that they won 1-0, except for he’s replaced the injured Steven Fletcher with Chris Martin who I remember from our League 1 days. He was a donkey then and he’s making his Scotland full debut today.
England start pretty well and the tackles are not flying in from the Scots like everyone expected. They look compact and confident and Anya takes on Clyne and beats him before running out of pitch. I bet that’ll be the last time he beats him all game, I thought to myself. England are the better side but Scotland are competing well and then out of nowhere, Wilshere picks up the ball in their half and pings an amazing ball over the top to Chamberlain who flicks a header into the net with the keeper motionless.
That’s more or less it til half time but England are dominant and Scotland are looking like the squad of Championship players that they are. The Jocks change a few at half time including removing the useless Chris Martin. I tell you, they’d have been better off with the other Chris Martin up front who could have kept Smalling and Cahill better entertained by singling boring songs about his ex-wife. Hodgson swaps Cahill for Jagielka and Lallana for Downing who has surely played his last ever England game now.
The first action sees Chamberlain break away on the right and Mulgrew come across and clothesline him across the neck. Cynical, deliberate, dangerous, all of the above but just a yellow card, or so he thought. With free kick specialist and creative genius James Milner over the ball I expected nothing but his free kick was to the right area, it came out to Shaw who volleyed it back into the penalty area, pinball off of Robertson at left back and Rooney gets his head to it and nods it past Craig Gordon for 2-0. The best bit of the game was seeing the passion of the England players in celebrating that goal. Excellent stuff.
47 minutes and the game is done as Scotland had nothing at all. England continued to dominate and look dangerous. We were hunting the ball well when Scotland had it and whilst they kept it at the back, as soon as they were closed down they hoofed it. A lot of England possession was breaking down whenever Milner got it which was infuriating but at the other end of the scale, Lallana was playing superbly, ably backed up by Chamberlain and Wilshere. Anya has been substituted as predictably, he hasn’t beaten Clyne all day since the first minute.
Sterling is on for Welbeck, Lambert for Chamberlain, Gibbs for Shaw and the reshuffle sees Sterling playing right wing as Robertson advances up the pitch, walks past Sterling who just stands there like a sleepwalking twat, plays a 1-2 with Russell and fires in at the near post. Whoops Fraser, you really should have done better with that one.
It looked for a second like the Jocks might have hope of nicking a scandalous draw but straight from the kick off England moved up the right and a patient passing move involving Lambert, Milner (yes) and Lallana ended with Milner playing Lallana in behind the full back and Mr IQ pulled it back for Rooney to slam in for 3-1 and game over, again. With the game won and superiority confirmed, there’s time for some good old fashions baiting of the opposition fans. All you can hear is “British til you die” and “One Vote and you Fucked it up”. Very amusing. Barkley came on, gave the ball away and got a bollocking from Roy and that was that.
I don’t remember enjoying an England international that much for years from team performance point of view. The Wembley England v Scotland game from last year had the best moment (Lambert’s goal) but as a team performance, this was excellent. The players were right up for it and it shows what we can do when things go well. There are still issues with the England side and there were a lot of things left untested by a pretty woeful Scottish performance but overall it was great.
Clyney put in another really good performance which has had most commentators crapping on like he’s some sort of well kept secret. Andy Townsend is a complete helmet but when even he comes out with “it’s nice to find a full back who can defend”, it’s kind of amazing how it’s taken so long for everyone to catch on. Andy always states to obvious but it seems that non this occasion, the obvious needs to be stated. On to the other Saint and Fraser didn’t have much to do. He shovelled one looping header over the bar which considering he’s 9 foot tall is not really difficult but he didn’t cover himself in glory for the Scotland goal so will surely remain 2nd choice for the foreseeable future.
Out of 10:
Forster 6 – Would have had a 7 but didn’t cover himself in glory for the Scotland goal
Clyne 8 – Yes, we’ve been telling you for ages Roy
Shaw 7 – Decent showing, better than Baines – we knew that as well
Smalling 7 – Didn’t put a foot wrong. Having said that Scotland had nothing up front when Martin was on.
Cahill 7 – Wished he was still on when Scotland brought on Russell and May as he would have sorted them out.
Milner 6 – Good positionally but as usual, forever giving the ball away. Better than Henderson.
Wilshere 8 – Let’s just hope he stays fit, getting better all the time, what a ball fro the first goal.
Downing 4 – Not good enough in a million years. Never was.
Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 – Nice goal but a bit wasteful otherwise. Dozes off defensively.
Rooney 8 – Much better, deserved his goals and was happy to drop to the left to use Welbeck’s pace up front
Welbeck 7 – not brilliant but caused problems. Pace a massive plus and he got stuck in well when the tackles started flying.
Gibbs 6 – Didn’t get too long on the pitch but solid. Again, better than Baines in that he can actually defend.
Jagielka 6 – No nonsense, struggled a bit against quicker attackers
Barkley n/a – You can see Roy’s problem with him. Gives ball away a bit but no more than Milner
Lallana 8 – Excellent as he only had to play 45 minutes. Brilliant performance and even the corners reached. Still a massive thick twtt though.
Lambert 7 – Came on, passed the ball, made us play better. Maybe his club manager should give him a game. Just a thought.
Sterling 5 – Not convinced he’s as good as the hype says. Awful for Scotland goal – might as well have been asleep.
Here’s my composite team from the two games…
Hart, Clyne, Gibbs, Cahill, Jagielka, Wilshere, Milner, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rooney, Welbeck
There’s no debate over Hart, Clyne, Cahill, Wilshere, Rooney and Welbeck so moving on… Gibbs and Shaw were both decent and either could nail down the left back berth and either should ahead of Baines who is firmly in the “can’t defend” category and should have been binned after the World Cup. Maybe Ryan Bertrand has a shout in there as well. The second centre back slot next to Cahill is still open and neither Jagielka or Smalling look good enough to take into Euro 2014. Milner or Henderson is like choosing between different unpleasant methods of your own execution but Milner was the winner from these two games and if I had to pick one never to play for England again it would be the Liverpool donkey. I find it interesting that Hodgson keeps mentioning James Ward-Prowse even though he’s injured. He’d fit in well in this position as a deep lying midfielder. The attacking midfield slots are up for grabs though the Ox and Lallana contributed the most. I’d rather have the ex-Saints thick twat as a sub but if he’s not, Sterling can have a kip on the bench for a bit.
Overall, two games, two wins, Scotland put back in their box as were some disaffected England fans, me included.