International Friendlies – who cares?

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Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson’s comments after the England friendly defeat to Spain finally got me to write a piece on the pathetic state of the English national team.

First off, the FA’s recent choice of manager was hardly inspiring – for anyone; fans or players no doubt. He was there during the Erikkson years and we all know what happened there so just what did the FA expect was going to change by putting Steve McClaren in charge?

Whenever discussing the national team there’s always the thought of the ‘In-ger-lund’ brigade who turn up expecting world class performances in friendlies smack bang in the middle of the season. Just what is the purpose of these ‘International Friendlies’?

They arrive at a time when clubs naturally do not want to lose their players; when the players themselves care more about their next club match than some pointless friendly. And with McClaren in charge there is even less purpose to these games.

Take the master tacticians team selection on Wednesday night for instance. Ben Foster in goal, good decision, fair enough – despite the pathetic media reaction of Robinson being ‘droppped’. But Gary Neville at right back? Has McClaren not been watching England over the last 11 years? We all know Neville is England’s best right back so why play him in a match when he ultimately couldn’t give a rats and would much prefer to focus on United’s title challenge.

Then you have his brother on the other side, Phil, a player who has enjoyed the better years of his career playing in centre midfield for our friends across Stanley Park. A right footed player who is most remembered for the clumsy challenge he made at left back in Euro 2000 which ultimately knocked England out. Genius McClaren just genius.

Let’s get to the midfield and the two obvious problems with England’s team; the Lampard-Gerrard secnario and the lack of a left winger. It is clear for anybody and everybody to see they cannot play together so why persist with it? And more questionably, why not find a resolution to it in a friendly like this by playing one or the other alongside Carrick or even Barton. Admittedly Hargreaves would be my choice of partner when fit.

And with the left side problem, Im not so sure two right footed and central players playing down the left is such a great idea no matter who your playing.

Then there’s the money grabbing, bench warming Wright-Phillips choosen to play up front/out wide/anywhere – such an odd scenario when a player is playing for their country looking to reproduce their form for their club. Surely it should be the other way around?

The match against Spain was completely and utterly pointless. It disrupted club teams at a vital part of the season and had players playing in a match which meant nothing.

Fair enough it’s a catch 22 for the England manager who would have been lynched by the pathetic British media either way but it would make more sense to me to use these types of games to try something new (rather than in a Euro Championship qualifier) like finding a resolution to the Lampard-Gerrard problem and trying a new forward alongside/instead of Crouch in a 4-4-2 rather than a formation we all know we will never use in any competition.

At the end of the day though can you say anyone is really bothered by the ‘defeat’? Even Gerrard’s comments you know are just to keep the Ingerlund brigade and the press happy. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t give a shit – just like Lampard, Neville, Crouch, Carrick, Ferdinand who all have much bigger fish to fry at this time of the season.

It’s understandable players need to get together for their country but surely 3 days in the middle of a tough domestic and European schedule is not the ideal way. Why not have 2 or 3 friendlies in a short time frame where managers can get the players together for a decent time to work with them and experiment in the games. And more importantly not disrupt everyone’s bread and butter.

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