Brian Glanville: Loftus-Cheek Deserves His Chance Against Croatia
At least and at last England have found a worthy and accomplished goalkeeper, rising to the occasion in the Big Match. Any doubts there may have been about Jordan Pickford were totally banished by his splendid showing against Sweden. Who, whisper it, although they lost had more shots on goal than England.
Pickford is brave and acrobatic. Put him against penalties and his morale is high. The only slightly ominous thing is that he did have to make those impressive saves at all against a Sweden team which had substantially less of the play.
Praise too for Harry Maguire, not only a Titan in defence but the scorer of a glorious headed goal against the Swedes. And all credit to Gareth Southgate too for giving him the chance in defence.
Alas England have no constructive player in the class of Croatia‘s Luka Modric, who once used to sparkle for Spurs but now of course flourishes for Real Madrid. Since Croatia had a couple of exhausting games going into a final hour-hour it could well be that they are less fresh than England. It looks to me a match that could go either way.
Ideally, I would like to see the towering Loftus-Cheek given a chance in the side, if only as a substitute. I cannot see any player in that England squad with his techical ability and range of passing. But he never got off the subs’ bench against the Swedes. He could be crucially effective against the Croatians. With Jack Wilshere ignored to his outrage, there is no other player in this England squad with real invention.
Talking of Wilshere, who has now gladly joined West Ham free of charge, I find it hard to understand the logic of Arsenal’s behaviour. Their recently appointed manager has reportedly told Wilshere that there would be no place for him. This to a player who has been with the Gunners since the age of nine.
You may argue about the tactical and strategic aspects of the decision but where it surely makes no sense at all lies in the fact that Wilshere has gone to the Hammers for nothing. This at a time when the Gunners were said to have no more than £50m in their transfer kitty.
Recently, a newspaper made comparison between two notable centre-forwards in Harry Kane and Tommy Lawton. I am old enough to have seen Lawton play a good many times. Comparing the number of goals they scored is a somewhat pointless exercise because Tommy scored so many for England during the war, including four in a match in Manchester against Scotland; none of which would count in the official records.
Lawton stood a mere five foot 11 inches tall; Kane is six foot 2. But Lawton as a header of the ball was a phenomenon. It was even claimed that he could hang there after he had jumped.
Brought up by his grandparents, his father having deserted the family when he was an infant, he would for his fame never enjoy the financial opportunities of the hugely wealthy Kane.
Beginning with Burnley, joining Everton, he was suddenly sold to Chelsea in 1945 for £11,500. There he continued to score so many goals, not least a couple at Hampden Park for Great Britain against the Rest of Europe.
Suddenly, shortly after the end of the war, he announced he was leaving Chelsea to become of all things, player-manager of Notts County of the Third Division South. He would never play for England again. As a schoolboy at Charterhouse, I would cycle thirteen miles acorss the Hog’s Back to watch Tommy play against Aldershot for Notts County.
Later he would play for Brentford then briefly for Arsenal. He never had much money and would often find himself in court for petty larceny. In his prime he was surely one of the finest centre-forwards ever to play for England but his life would sadly end in poverty. Today he would be like Harry Kane, a multi-millionaire.
Russia in the World Cup did a great deal better than expected and unlike their athletic counterparts failed no drug tests. But it was bizarre to say the least to see them pick a hastily and so dubiously naturalised Brazilian in the talented Mario Fernandes, an all-rounder who could and did score goals. Apparently Putin himself was involved in his naturalisation. But he could not with all his talents ultimately save Russia.
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