Yet, somewhere between the local park and the stadium on the telly, the basic simplicity of football gets lost.
There isn’t a football pitch the length and breadth of England that, come Sunday morning that doesn’t echo the encouraging highly tactical advice..... “Bloody get rid of it!” or my personal favourite... “If in doubt, kick it out!”
Yet, somewhere between the local park and the stadium on the telly, the basic simplicity of football gets lost. Stick a pin point long ball up to the striker on Sunday and you’ll receive a silent appreciation from the touchline. Do it in the Premier League and you’re considered a waste of space.
Football is an art form and we all love to watch an exceptional football match with technical ability that will even give Pele a raging hard on. But let not forget the most important football attribute of all...winning.
Pundits love to see foreign players dancing around the final third, endlessly tapping around six yard passes, watched by a sagely nodding over paid manager in the dugout.
Arsenal is a perfect example of this. It’s pretty, it’s beautiful, it’s a joy to watch but it doesn’t get the job done....that’s why they haven’t won a trophy for seven years.
Compare that to Tony Pulis who has pretty much polished a turd and transformed a Stoke side into a premier league force pushing for Europe.
This, although crassly put, is exactly my point, you don’t have to have fantastic team to do well in a tournament, Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph is exemplary model of this.
So is defensive football really the answer for England?
You only have to look at Di Mateo's Chelsea to see how an under dog should play against the flare and talent of European super clubs.
“But we don’t have the players!” I hear you cry.....well the medals won this season paint a different picture.
If you go through a potential first eleven, player by player, there are some pretty impressive achievements within. Of a likely starting line-up against France on June 11th, up to eight players will have won at least one major trophy this season.
Whilst we are nowhere near the talent of Spain, Holland and Germany, we ARE good enough to getout the group and have a bloody good tournament...but only if we cut out the crap and do what Chelsea have done throughout the latter parts of the champion’s league....win ugly.
If you think we can match the skill, talent and technically ability of the aforementioned you will be sadly mistaken.
Is defend, defend, counter....really the solution?
Whilst we don’t have the players to keep the ball in midfield we do have the wingers to counter attack at pace. Keep the doggedness of Gerrard and Parker, with counter attacking speed daemons such Walcott, Young and Oxlade Chamberlain, we can play the system that has worked so well for Chelsea.
Is it not boring?
Yes, very, but does any of that really matter? Does that justify any criticism of a Chelsea team that completely neutralised one of the world greatest teams in Barcelona? Because the alternative view – and a very viable alternative – is that if every team played the Barca way (pass-pass-pass…) and every club refused to cross the ball into the penalty area for a big centre forward, then – and whisper this under your breadth – would that possibly be as boring as watching a long-ball team?
Isn’t the hard tackling, no-nonsense, bang it up the field and kick the star striker in the nuts just as important, and probably just as loved by many supporters? And certainly, isn’t a glorious 60 yard cross-field pass from a Gerrard or a Parker right to the feet of an on-rushing Wallcot or Young just as impressive, just as effective and in its own way, just as beautiful as 12 short, quick fire passes?
Can we defend that well?
England’s defensive capabilities is there to see, Joe Hart is fast becoming one of the greatest goalkeeper in the world, Ashley Cole, like him or loath him is one of the best left backs in the world. John Terry despite being a wife shagging racist is fantastic centre back, Lescott, bar the odd hiccup has been formidable in Man City’s title winning season. Glen Johnson is....well he’s......Glen Johnson is ok. Slap that with a defensive midfielder in Scotty Parker that throws his body around like a menopausal hooker. We’ve got one pretty solid defence.
“But!” Some of you will shout. These players are not good enough to adapt to any system other than 4-4 f*cking 2. Hang on Mike Basset. I don’t remember Chelsea playing with two strikers in the Champions League final and didn’t Steven Gerrard play his best football of the season at the point of a central midfield three?
In fact throughout Englands friendly’s Hodgson seems to have adopted a 4-3-3/ 4-2-1-1 system, which although not outstanding seemed to play very solid.
So is Woy up to the task?
Roy Hodgson is famed for his tactical acumen and attention to detail, sending out his team against Les Bleus, including the eight players who ended the season as medal winners, why should we be expecting the worst? He will have drilled the chosen formation into them, highlighted individual roles and reiterated every part of the game plan.
If England gets out of their tricky looking group, anything can happen. We shouldn’t underestimate Sweden and Ukraine, but by no means should we fear them.
Other England teams have been guilty of over confidence and arrogance. It is time for an era of respectful assurance and the humble beginnings of the English underdog.
So let’s play like a resolute Chelsea side and end the myth that England cannot perform at big tournaments. We can. Our players have the trophies from the last 12 months to show for that. Adopt a resilient counter attacking mentality; there is absolutely no reason why England can’t perform at Euro 2012.