England go into yet another tournament waiting on players to get fit – when will the Three Lions ever learn?

EVERYONE seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before, they just know, they’re so sure.

That England’s gonna go into a major tournament desperately hoping against hope that injured players regain fitness.

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If they’d released another updated version of Three Lions for these Euros, then those might have been the most suitable lyrics.

It’s coming home — provided Harry Maguire (ankle) and Jordan Henderson (groin) pass late fitness tests.

Gareth Southgate said we’d never go down this path again. He experienced the circus surrounding a half-fit David Beckham at the 2002 World Cup and observed a similar situation with Wayne Rooney four years later.

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Maguire and Henderson are not even comparable to Beckham or Rooney, both of whom were THE main men for England when we got out prayer mats and asked the big man to heal their broken metatarsals.

Harry Kane would be the only comparable figure today and the England skipper is merely coping with a long-term ankle weakness. Which we’d almost forgotten about.

Neither Maguire nor Henderson are truly world-class players and though they captain England’s two most famous clubs, we’re talking about one bloke who spent two nights in a Greek jail last summer and another who has just openly defied his manager’s orders.

When you’ve attended a year of behind-closed-doors matches, you do recognise who the lead vocalists are.

And from my earwigging, Maguire and Henderson were two of the four shoutiest men in the Premier League last season, along with Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel and former Crystal Palace assistant manager Ray Lewington.


Maguire is an expert badgerer of referees and a fine organiser of United’s defence.

Henderson is a top-class cajoler, talking team-mates through games, in a way that Kane doesn’t.

In a relatively inexperienced squad, they do leave genuine holes.

But surely neither man is going to start games in the group stage, in which England’s final match is just two weeks today.

And Southgate’s team are then likely to face an extremely tough last-16 game against France, Portugal, Germany or Spain.

With that in mind, both seem frivolous, ill-advised selections.

Southgate argues that an expanded 26-man squad makes picking Maguire and Henderson justifiable.

But on Sunday, he faced a tough decision before choosing Brighton centre-back Ben White over Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold in his squad.

Given Maguire’s injury and Tyrone Mings’ poor form, there is every chance White is not just going along to make up the numbers.

And had Ward-Prowse got the nod, you could easily envisage him coming off the bench in a tight match, given his set-piece prowess.

So Henderson’s selection is bizarre, as best articulated by Roy Keane before England kicked off against Romania on Sunday.

He snarled: “I’ve heard people say they want him around the place. For what? Does he do card tricks? Does he have a sing-song? Does he do quizzes in the evening?”

Now Keane can sometimes become a caricature of himself, scatter- gunning his hard-nut insults.

But this time he nailed Southgate, his former ITV sofa buddy, who worked alongside him at Euro 2012 — another tournament Rooney struggled to ‘play himself into’ because of suspension rather than injury.

And Keane’s words seemed especially prescient when Henderson — who has never scored for England and missed a World Cup shootout spot-kick against Colombia — snatched a penalty from Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s hands and saw his effort saved by Romanian keeper Florin Nita.

This was entirely out of character from Henderson, a genuine team man and certainly no rampant egotist.

But when you haven’t played for 3½ months and are desperately trying to prove your fitness for a tournament, that’s exactly when a player can go rogue.


Southgate is trying too hard with Henderson and, as a result, Henderson tried too hard for Southgate.

Yes it was a meaningless friendly and England just about sneaked a 1-0 victory anyway.

But that episode was a serious indictment of the folly of selecting unfit players.

Southgate was fuming afterwards, perhaps recognising that this one was, partly, on him.

With Declan Rice starting against Croatia and the brilliant 17-year-old Jude Bellingham and solid Kalvin Phillips in reserve, the inclusion of Ward-Prowse would have given England enough decent, fit, central midfield options.

Maguire is more important to Southgate than Henderson, given England’s lack of depth at centre-back, especially with Joe Gomez a long-term absentee.

But even old Slab-head, that summer-of-love cult hero in Russia, feels as if he is just there because Southgate likes ‘having him around the place’.

Who knows, maybe Maguire does card tricks too. Maybe he’ll have a sing-song.

Does anyone know any decent football anthems?

EVEN after Gareth Southgate made an impassioned defence of his players taking the knee, they were booed as they did it before Sunday’s friendly against Romania.

He spoke long and hard about the issue on Saturday, then said he didn’t want to discuss it again during the tournament — though he answered one post-match question in Middlesbrough.

The England boss could not have been clearer in articulating his players’ motives in taking the knee, but he still correctly assumed some would boo.

Southgate understands the wide-ranging, almost statesmanlike, role of England manager and tackles that side of the job better than any predecessor.

But when he says he’d like to draw a line under the issue for the duration of the Euros he is correct.

His players will not benefit from fighting a prolonged culture war.

And those attention-seeking eff-wits who boo an anti-racist gesture, then peddle fairy stories about millionaire footballers supporting Marxism, do not want to listen to reason.

They want to be heard. And denying them publicity’s oxygen may be a more successful tactic.


BEFORE Declan Rice’s England debut in 2019, a couple of pro-IRA tweets were unearthed from five years previously.

The West Ham midfielder had switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland two years ago — and the tweets were from when he was 15.

Rice apologised, we all moved on and he is now widely recognised as a thoroughly likeable and intelligent man.

When Ollie Robinson made his England Test cricket debut last Wednesday, it emerged the pace bowler had published sexist and racist tweets in 2012, aged 18.

These tweets were more troubling than Rice’s but few men do not grow up significantly between the ages of 18 and 27.

He was suspended, dropped and hammered by the ECB. Cricket’s authorities are right to have a strong voice on anti- discrimination but one can only hope Robinson — England’s best bowler against New Zealand — is able to thrive at the top level, as Rice has done.

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