Brian GlanvilleThe almost poetic event of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s superbly taken goal against Brazil at the Maracana gave his achievement still greater significance; and even romance.

I was fortunate enough to be in the Maracana when his father Mark Chamberlain played a worthy role in England’s 2-0 victory over what was to be frank an ageing and unbalanced Brazilian team. What a pity that Chamberlain senior seemingly dozed off and wasn’t watching television when that filial goal was scored.

So hope is reignited for Roy Hodgson and for England even if only the splendid goalkeeping of an inspired Joe Hart and Brazil’s own profligate first half finishing when they were dominant prevented the game being lost and won well before half time. Perhaps one should hope, as Napoleon did when it came to promoting one of his generals to marshal, is he lucky? For lucky both the team and manager unquestionably were not to be dead and buried well before the interval.

As against that, at least Hodgson had the wit and wisdom to reshuffle his team to make room for Oxlade-Chamberlain and not on the left wing either where he had been deployed before but more adventurously in the very centre of midfield. Where as we know he flourished displaying in abundance what once used to be called the big match temperament. Subsequently Wayne Rooney took his goal gloriously having spent the first half up front all on his lonely own and pitifully ill supported.

Now the games at Wembley against Poland and Montenegro, the away test in Ukraine, in the concluding World Cup group matches look rather less like the North face of the Eiger. Things that is to say are not remotely as bad as they seemed after the laborious mediocrity of the draw against a brave but modest Irish side. And this in Rio was an England team without our one real passer of a ball Jack Wilshere, and captian, Steven Gerrard; what they could bring to the midfield where Oxlade Chamberlain must now surely stay.

Callum McManaman, another young player with the big match temperament, as he so electrically showed at Wembley in that Final for Wigan against Manchester City is surely when fit again worth a try. Not least as Theo Walcott, for all his pace and drive, missed a clear rare chance in Rio and had an erratic time. While James Milner on the other flank looked pedestrian.

Gary Lineker after the Ireland debacle opined that England’s football tactics were going back into the dark ages. Well, he should know. What ages were darker than those when Graham Taylor was direly in charge of the England team, pulling Gary off in that European championship match in Sweden when he was within an ace of Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record.

What I would suggest is that Roy Hodgson, though still a perfectly competent and highly experienced international manager, should have been given the job as long ago as 1994, when he so shrewdly and remarkably took Switzerland all the way to the World Cup finals in the USA, giving Italy a couple of shocks in the eliminating group way.

But alas he didn’t get it and it would have been hugely interesting to see what he could have done with a team with far greater playing resources than the excellent Swiss. Those resources today have been severely limited.

Some 36% of Premier League players are English. One is reminded of the time when the complaint in Italy was that the leading clubs filled what would not be called their midfield spaces – then they were inside forwards or wing halves – with stars from abroad.

Trevor Brooking, once such a splendid inside forward himself who, had he only been fully fit, might well have enabled Ron Greenwood’s England team to make further progress than it did, although unbeaten, in Spain, is now a major figure at the FA and apparently has great hopes of the elaborate and expensive new coaching centre which has recently been opened – however inconveniently placed for England training teams – and points to the German coaching revolution which cost some £50 million. He feels it would take a long while before we could catch up, but this surely begs the question of how could we be sure of the right kind of coaches? The very best are a jewelled rarity. Walter Winterbottom’s coaching system may have begun well enough throwing up the likes of Greenwood himself and David Sexton but it descended into rigid orthodoxy and jargon.

As for the coaching programmes of the ineffable Charles Hughes when disastrously in charge at the FA, the fatuous emphasis was all on the long ball and no midfield.

By Brian Glanville

 

  • Albal

    Senator, Woy is no Napoleon