Slovakia 0 England 1. Three points. And a win. On paper that’s all that Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce could have asked for on his opening game in charge. Yet having stated up front that he’d have been happy with a draw, he was that close to achieving his stated low key level of start to his time in charge of the national team. That may work at Sunderland or West Ham but for England, after their woeful Euro 2016 (and let’s not pretend it was anything but) this was just more of the same.
England won. That’s an indisputable fact . And so often I’ve bigged up the fact that goals are the only thing that count at full time. Yet at a time when the impossibility of qualification failure makes results largely irrelevant, performance is as key as result. And this was nothing but anti-climax.
0-0, 1-0. Forget the scoreline. A draw or a win away to England’s ‘closest rivals’ makes no difference. Failure to qualify from a group including Malta, Lithuania and Scotland is simply unfeasible. That’s not arrogance; that’s fact. Yet that game was, to quote one sofa based observer, ‘bang average’.
At a time when the best sort of kick back from the Euros was needed, England did everything possible to continue with the uninspirational. Non-chance followed non-chance. Even when Martin Skrtel was eventually (arguably, he should have gone earlier) dismissed, England still flattered to deceive.
It was like watching the cast of American Pie v the cast of Porkys in a race to lose their viginity. There was a lot of bluster, a lot of fighting talk, a lot of huff and puff yet no thrust, no penetration and no scoring. In the end, it was a last gasp stab through the legs as Slovakia’s keeper let Adam Lallana’s poke claim his first England goal. At the 27th attempt .
Instead, after the horror of the summer and Euro 2016 nothing has changed – Glen Hoddle was still there talking bollocks; England were still doing their best to make the mediocre look like world beaters.
Any positives? Either my TV was broken or ‘that band’ weren’t present. Regardless, that was the only win for those of us watching at home.
We’re two years away from knowing how well England may perform at the World Cup finals. We’re two years away from knowing which of Sunday’s starting XI will even kick off England’s attempt to lift the trophy.
But, for now, we know one thing.
Huge improvement is needed.