England. Jesus wept and he won't stop weeping. We're going to need another ark.
Where do we even start? Best place is where it all ended; Roy Hodgson resigning with accompanying pre-written goodbye speech post-match, avoiding questions and no doubt running off to hug the £14M in the bank he's collected from his tenure. Not too shabby for achieving nothing. In the 'day after the night before' presser he had this wonderful line to share: "I don't know why I am here. Someone said I should be". Followed later with, "I'm still a little bit unsure what I'm doing here." Incredible stuff. One bad game has caused a lot of damage Roy, because when it mattered most - not in friendlies or qualifiers - we capitulated.
Our coach, our manager...so apologetic with his mannerisms and body language that even in the build up to the match against Iceland he'd shift uncomfortably (scratching his face) when posed a question about whether we're going to win. God forbid he displays a touch of confidence with a positive response. If he can't inspire me how can he come close to inspiring the England players? He said we'd be lucky to face France in the quarter-finals. Turns out Iceland were the lucky ones, facing the abject Lions.
We were turgid. New levels of awful. No pressing, no pomp. Unfortunately that includes some of our N17 based players. Harry Kane looks a shadow of the force he is when donning the Lilywhite of Tottenham. It perfectly illustrates just how poor the entire setup is at international level. We have no naturally gifted set piece taker, so Kane has to take responsibility. One particular free kick moved more wildly than the magic bullet that killed JFK. If that wasn't bad enough, having him play in relative isolation up front with no Dele Alli sitting directly behind and two forwards in wide positions that don't quite play like the wingers we required - you're left with another dysfunctional mess. Random dots with no evident connectivity. All we have is confusing scribbles, like kids with snapped crayons.
Where was the creativity? The fluid interchanging and movement? The sharpness?
Hodgson hasn't got the basics right, incapable of grasping them. He never knew his best starting eleven. Wayne Rooney, I appreciate, is a massively experienced player but having him in the team simply to lead and then having to witness a leaderless march into the battlefield was brain numbing. It also doesn't help to see our manager fragment any chance of momentum by making changes to his team (I'm looking at the final group game). If you ever wanted to showcase redundancy and makeshift ethics, this was it. An exercise in football devolution.
The managers lack of astuteness was compounded by lacklustre individual performances. I'm not sure the players had the capacity to play any better.
Walker and Dier, excellent so far in the tournament, made avoidable mistakes. Both of them still pound for pound several levels ahead of most. Rose lacked forward impetus compared to previous games. Sturridge hugged the ball too often, never releasing it early. Sterling hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders, and yet there he was, struggling along with the rest - just with a rather large scapegoat target on his back. Vardy offered little when he came on because unless we play direct or scramble chaotically in the box, he'll get few opportunities to pounce onto something. Wilshere, a player that was meant to provide us with some second half urgency failed to ignite as we persisted with the one dimensional football. Looks busy but does little, like a locomotive stuck in reverse. Golden reputation, the ill favoured mistress of many an England manager.
At times, attempting to create a spark was like watching two cavemen trying to make fire for the first time...in the pouring rain. It was all limp, unnecessarily awkward and too often congested. Our passing was poor and our crosses too often weighted wrong (very little pace when required, too long when short was the obvious option). Rashford, with a late cameo, the most energetic of the lot. The win against Wales was all the evidence we required (and for the most part pretended to ignore). The truth being, sheer desperation won us that game rather than any shrewd tactical prowess.
The first half against Russia (and the 80+ shots on goal in all games) leaves me baffled as to why it was all so broken. One win in four games. The players looked fatigued, physically and mentally. Conditioning issues perhaps? Are we really going to flirt with ye old 'tiredness' excuse? Why do all other nations (even the weaker ones) look certifiably content with their game-plan and purposefulness whilst we look faltered like a drunk that's lost his mates in a pub crawl.
If you're going to select five Spurs player, then at least play them in a system they've excelled in all season long. We continuously and historically look to accommodate for the sake of accommodation and show no ruthlessness in selection and the desire to unite as a collective and really push on. Evolve. Stagnation appears to be all we're consistent with. How many games have we won at knock-out stages in the past 10 years? I think it might be the one. So I guess I shouldn't be so surprised by another failure.
Tactically inept but the real crime was the lack of truly tangible togetherness. Gareth Bale was right about us and it hurts. Our players looked utterly deflated, devoid of strength and belief. How on earth do you fail to turn up to a game of this importance? Pre-game, it was billed rather arrogantly as an easy passage to the next round.
The FA, as ever, remain the most accountable of all and I can only pray that we show ambition and fearlessness in change by appointing someone that isn't anchored and influenced by the ills of the football world (mostly the media). Apparently they've called a 'review' of our failure. Yet again, they're swimming in a bubonic plague of bureaucracy. The problem with the English is that we are so bloody English.
To add to the indignity, the children of the corn are out in force in social media blaming the Spurs players and pretending that everyone else wasn't equally as disappointing. Yes, I know, it's just banter. Even the pundits on telly during the game (Lee Dixon to be specific) cited two mistakes (making a big angry deal out of them) and then ignored the one made by England's number 1, Joe Hart. The blame game, is what we're best at. Deflect it away from one place and aim it at another to create the illusion that it's easily fixed. Then make the same mistake all over again. As for Roy, his weak mentality infected all concerned.
Still, the salty attacks on our players persist, as though the burden of failure is solely on their shoulders. All of them deserve to be in the England squad. They're the best players in their positions (club wise). What they don't deserve is going from playing for a team with an identity to one without.
At least when our lads return to Hotspur Way after their summer break they'll be surrounded by intelligent footballers in a working system that maximises their potential. The same will be said for most of the England players that will go back to their respective teams and slot into the role they are best at fulfilling. All the children on Twitter mocking the likes of Harry Kane are ignoring that he probably scored against them with comparative ease last season and will do so again next. He won the Golden Boot. He's easily the best English forward and undoubtedly one of the most complete players in the Premier League. Shame on us for not being able to fashion some flair with the talent we possess, Spurs or otherwise. But this is England. It's always been this way.
Kane will be strong enough to recover. He's proved that already when smashing second season syndrome. Mauricio will see to that. Daniel Levy will need to offer additional support. Kane can not be starting 55+ games per season. He needs to rest and return refreshed. Maybe we can bag ourselves a migrant before this country builds a wall to keep out the wildlings.
So good luck to Iceland, totally deserved their win. Back to my default position I go.
Club > Country
Because even in failure, it's still glorious.
Twitter handle: @Spooky23 <- I'm tweeting more than blogging at the moment. I'm still in sabbatical mode until the pre-season starts.