After Sunday roast, time for kebabs. Just no umbrellas

4 Sep

The middle Sunday of international weekend. There’s no Brentford result to digest (it’s another 6 days until the trip to Brighton and a week since Sheffield Wednesday salvaged an injury time draw in a game they could have actually won much earlier) whilst the national team are yet to kick things off in anger. Yes, ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce begins his tenure as England manger tonight with the trip to Slovakia after leaving Sunderland in the summer to replace Roy Hodgson.

Big Sam

Can Sam bring a smile to England supporters?

Cue hand wringing about EURO 2016. Talk of a new era. Questions over Joe Hart or the selection of Wayne Rooney as captain. Sly digs about this ’rough diamond’ being a different choice to the normal selections from those suits at FA HQ. And, of course, being forced to listen to ‘that band’.

There’s bound to be mention of Sam’s win ratio at supposedly less illustrious teams  (37.57% West Ham and 29.03 at Sunderland). Although what that proves, I have no idea. Even Roy Hodgson managed 41.94% at Liverpool, for what its worth. And, of course, with that West Ham link there’s bound to be some crowbarred reference to some sort of new stadium. It wouldn’t be a televised football game in 2016/17 without one.

Yes, my ITV cliche bingo card is fully charged and ready to begin crossing off those squares although, being honest, I’m not fully engaged at the moment. The Euros were painful. Dreadfully so. It is still far too recent a bad memory.

To see England earnestly attempt to go again feels like being faced with a groaning table of all-you-can-eat kebabs having just consumed an oversized Sunday Roast. Whilst normally this would be a delicious prospect, given what came before I’m not going to enjoy it. That said, what harm would it do to take a tentative nibble and see what develops from there?

Besides, regardless of who is at the helm, a 6 team qualifying group containing the likes of Lithuania , Scotland and Malta should be about as tough a nut to crack as using a sledgehammer on some stale dry roasted. Forget Big Sam. Big Ron from Eastenders or Big Daddy could get them through the group. And they are both sadly departed.

Big Daddy

Even Big Daddy could get England through this group

For me, the genuine excitement is over in Group H where Gibraltar have Cyprus and Estonia amongst their opponents. Whilst, of course, you’d expect Belgium to run away with that one, could the boys from the Rock make a few waves? As ever, the bookmakers don’t think so and have them at anything from 2,000-1 to 5,000-1 to win the group.

But, whatever happens, surely this is still a more rewarding prospect than watching England cruise through the qualifiers to an inevitable first place. Just remember though, 10 wins out of 10 en-route to Euro 2016 didn’t prove a particularly auspicious omen as to long term tournament success.

I hope England do well. I hope Gibraltar can upset Greece on Tuesday night.I hope we don’t get overly carried away, however the qualifying groups turn out. As has been proven again, success at a tournament proving somewhat more difficult a prospect than getting there.

Indeed, aside from Euro 96 or West Ham’s triumph in the the 1966 World Up (both home tournaments) it is only really the wonderful efforts of Bobby Robson’s team back in 1990 where England have come even vaguely close to getting their hands on foreign soil. The Premier league may be ‘the best league in world football’ (is that line still being trotted out?) and have the most over inflated transfer market, but when it comes to keeping pace with International rivals then there is still a huge gap.

All the money and all the expectation in the world are no substitute for simply being ‘any good’ or knowing how to play as a team. Just look at what Wales achieved over the summer.

After the summer, the thought of winning a World Cup feels a million miles away. The prospect of investing the emotions in a qualifying campaign that has stopped the fledgling Championship season dead in its tracks so soon and so awkwardly is a tough one. And, being blunt, a frustrating one. Just as Brentford have got going and assembled our post-transfer window squad, the shutters have come down.

Yet come 5pm I have no doubt whatsoever the TV will be tuned to ITV to see just what life under Big Sam will look like. Say what you want about him, and many have, but I can guarantee you that if it’s raining there’ll be no umbrellas in sight.

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Whatever happens, it can’t get this bad

Nick Bruzon

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