ENGLAND: After Southgate’s 1st game, is the English National setup going the right way?

Our thoughts are with the individuals and their families who were injured or killed in yesterday’s terror attack in Westminster.

Last night’s game was Gareth Southgate’s first as England’s permanent manager. He wasn’t everyone’s first choice but looking at him in the interim role he seemed the kind of guy who would be respected by the players, many he has played with/against or nurtured through the U21 setup. Respect and being relatable to the players has not really been there with the past coaches. Another reason why I say he is a good choice is due to the fact he has come through all levels of international football as a player, U21 manager and now First Team manager he knows what is expected from the players of all ages and how to play the ‘English Way’ if there is such a thing!

It was a breath of fresh air seeing the squad he chose with a young core but with many experienced internationals and you would say he was picking players based on form and not where their club was placed in the league. Bringing back Jermain Defoe was a good decision seen by everyone who has never lost that goal scoring ability at the top level even though he is 34 years old. The lineup for the game last night saw us go out with a 3-5-2 formation, not a common formation when thinking of England in the past years under Hodgson and Capello. I thought it was a positive performance from the team with many players being given a chance for their first caps and players being brought back into the fold such as Jake Livermore. Despite a number of changes there was a good structure to the side and we moved the ball about very well creating plenty of chances especially in the first half and I think we probably deserved to win given the chances we had.

The appointment of Gareth Southgate on a permanent basis seemed a positive step forward from the last regimes in charge of the England National Side, too much disappointment has been experienced by all fans over the last few major tournaments despite doing very well in qualification and making some optimistic about our chances. The National side needed a new way of thinking, a new system to bring many fans back into love with the International scene and I think this still needs some slight work done to do so.

If there was one reason why many fans across the country has lost touch with the International side, it would be that it does not relate to the working class fan from outside of London. The games are played at Wembley and having been to some of the games myself I have seen that it appeals more to a middle class family from London or surrounding areas. Its very much family orientated obviously trying to take a step away from the title many England football fans had back in the 80s as ‘hooligans’ due to their troubles abroad but the atmosphere has been sucked out of the stadium, just the drums that make any noise and many working class fans would rather not associate themselves with the mexican wave that sometimes pops up and maybe they are just disillusioned with the team after poor performances and do not want to spend their hard earned cash on watching them. I think the best solution towards bringing the whole country together and enjoying England from the stands would be to do a sort of home road trip. Announce 3 games a year to be played across the country in decent sized arenas allowing fans of all ages to watch players they idolise and bringing a better buzz and atmosphere to England games. I do believe these games should only be friendlies and all competitive games to be played at Wembley but I think this idea could prove successful, one example that shows evidently would be the warm up games at the Stadium of Light against Australia before the Euros, it was brilliant to hear such a good atmosphere for the game and would be nice to see again.

Another downfall of the England setup is that there is a decrease in the number of good young coaches coming through the grassroots level and this is something seen as a problem by the FA. However, seeing the rise of quality young managers such as Eddie Howe and more recently Danny and Nicky Cowley of Lincoln could see many young men and women across the country take up their coaching badges. Despite the worry from the FA on the decreasing figures, they are partly to blame for this. For many years the cost of taking your coaching badges in England have been too much for your average working man/woman to pay and take the necessary time off of work and family commitments. It seems countries who have been successful in recent years and have brought through former players of their national sides to manage and have won major tournaments or reached finals (Germany, The Netherlands, Spain) all offer the coaching badges for 20% lower than England. I think if the FA want to see an increase in young coaches then why don’t they offer the opportunity to get started via students national curriculum in secondary schools with maybe pupils completing the level 1 and 2 coaching badges as further qualifications and then having to pay for the rest of the courses themselves . Providing funding and promoting to the younger generation before the burden of work and family will allow more people to come through the badges and look at completing more badges in the future.

I think after the last two tournaments, England are at their lowest and I don’t think it can get any worse for us. Hopefully under fresh, young management we can move forward and actually look like competing on the bigger stages.

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