It’s been an atypical lead up to an international tournament. With the England squad being announced today, I’m in the strange position of only knowing one person who thinks we’ll win Euro 2016 (best priced at 9/1 with Skybet). A big part of this is due to the collapse of the ‘golden generation’. With many England stars of the mid-2000s strolling around MLS soccer fields or enjoying life in BBC studios, we see a rare opportunity for an England manager to pick an XI based on merit, rather than reputation.
England to win Group B - 5/6 with Bet365.
Gone are the days of trying to explain why Lampard and Gerrard weren’t able to thrive as a midfield duo, gone also are the days of debating whether to play Paul Scholes on the left wing or give Kieron Dyer another England cap. It seems an age ago that Emile Heskey started in England’s 2010 World Cup opener. Back on England to win the group with Bet365 here.
Harry Kane Euro 2016 Top Goalscorer - best priced at 16/1 with Skybet.
Nowadays, the England squad is made up of players who are newer to the international stage, and the make up of the current squad allows Roy Hodgson much more freedom in who he picks in the starting XI against Russia. Moreover, these players are less likely to create the media storm that followed previous England sides over the last 20 years if they do fail to deliver. The WAG debate and accusations of laziness and complacency won’t be present at Euro 2016. Though no one is about to call Jamie Vardy a good role model, it’s very hard to question his work ethic on the pitch. The same goes for much of the squad.
Roy Hodgson also seems to be the first England manager in history who has dared move away from the classic 4-4-2. He has regularly deployed diamond shapes in midfield and 4-3-3s, dragging English international football kicking and screaming into the 21st century. This once more gives Roy a flexibility to build an effective team, without square pegs in round holes.
Yet, there are two exceptions to the above. Wayne Rooney, the national team captain, currently second in England’s all time scoring charts, frankly doesn’t deserve a starting spot against Russia on June 11th in this new, meritocratic England set up. His season has been underwhelming and his role on a pitch is up for question. With two English strikers both netting over 20 times in the Premier League last season and the PFA Young Player of the Year earning a spot behind them, it is hard to see where Rooney could be shoehorned in.
Similar can be said of Jack Wilshere. Famously blighted by injuries and with just 1 league start to his name last season for Arsenal, it looks even more likely that he will feature heavily in Euro 2016 after Danny Drinkwater’s exclusion from the final 23 man squad.
Both are controversial picks, but in my mind, both are understandable. England’s attack without Wayne Rooney lacks the knowledge and culture of international football that is necessary to succeed, and may find itself lost if things don’t go their way. With Wilshere, he is a player who can change games with moments of brilliance. He possesses talents in distribution and close control that few, if any, other Englishman possess. In tournament football, particularly in the knockout rounds, the players capable of moments of brilliance become ever more important.
Thus, despite all of the signs pointing towards English football progressing towards something more modern, we may be stuck with the same old rut. And I for one am not displeased about that.
Maybe I’m more English than I thought.
Jordan is a University of Southampton graduate who produces blogs and betting previews for Howtobet4free as well as running the popular @howtobet4free_ Twitter account on matchdays.