Conor Gallagher? England need a Busquets, not a Scotty Parker…

Editor F365
Scott Parker, Conor Gallagher and Sergio Busquets.
Scott Parker, Conor Gallagher and Sergio Busquets.

Conor Gallagher is not a popular choice in that England midfield as Gareth Southgate continues to get an absolute kicking.

Send your views on all things England and Euro 2024 ahead of the Slovenia game to


Gallagher? What the actual F?
One more mail, then I am going to hold my peace – promise! So, it seems Gareth saw the cluster f*** that was Gallagher against Denmark and thought, yep, that looks good.

F*** it. I’m supporting Spain*.

Has Southgate been drinking pints of wine with Big Sam? We need to sort out what we do when we have the ball (i.e try and keep the f’ing thing and move it up the f’ing pitch at pace), not set up to chase it around against Slovenia. If you are going for control then Mainoo (or Wharton) are surely the move. If you want to take the game to the opponent then attack them. If this is our attempt at being more progressive then all hope is lost.

Will happily eat my hat if I’m wrong but Italy, Spain, France etc will run rings around Gallagher if we get to play them, and the fact that he is ‘busy’ will just create massive gaps for Rice to try and fill. So what’s the point in wheeling it out for a largely dead game? Win, we learn nothing, because it won’t work against better teams, draw, panic, lose and we are back to square one. Surely we can’t be thinking this represents our best chance of winning a tournament? If we are holding something extraordinary back, trying it out for the first time in a knock out game seems pretty dicey.

We do this every tournament, waiting for something to click. Do we have a style of play? My brother in-law tells me there is an ‘England way’ that is instilled from youth football up, so far it feels like we’ve just chucked what ever that is in the bin and set it on fire.

What is our vision as a team? Pep’s teams are boring to watch (I’m sure not to City fans) but it’s all about controlling the game and then killing you with decisive actions at the right time. Is that what we are trying to do? City control games and carve teams open at will, starving the opposition of the ball then getting it back quickly. Sounds like a great plan to me.

We just seem to sit in a low block, hope no-one pulls out a worldie then hit teams on the break. That ain’t happening, teams are wise to it and we’ve got no-where else to go. Change the shape and control the game ffs!

I like him, I really do, and the spirit he imbued within the camp has been welcome – but Its almost like Southgate is trying to lower the bar for whoever replaces him!
(*obviously not but what the actual f? )

READ: How did England go from ‘outstanding’ midfield three to Conor sodding Gallagher in 18 months?


…As I write this mail, it appears Trent is getting dropped for Gallagher. Obviously this worked to great effect in the first two games as evidenced by the immediate uptake in performance following his withdrawal.

Instead of fully dropping England’s greatest chance creator of the tournament to date (before even accounting for the fact he hasn’t reached 70 mins in either game so far), why not push him to RB, his more natural home.

Kyle Walker is a fabulous cover defender with his strength and speed, but I’m not sure I’ve seen him complete a pass longer than 5 yards since his Spurs days (did anyone see that laughable punt into row Z from the free kick laid off to him near the halfway line?). Don’t come back to me on “assisting” Kane, it took two deflections to reach him. Move Walker to Left Back.

Trippier is offering nothing in an attacking sense from LB, not width, not inverting, not even a serviceable set-piece (seriously, why did Pickford lay it to Walker instead of Trippier). Why not go all-in on this lack of attacking output on the left and retain defensive solidity while Shaw is absent *and* keep the benefits of Trent?

Now don’t get me wrong, Trent in midfield hasn’t worked and doesn’t deserve to continue for fear of stubbornness to an idea resulting in an early knockout. However, while Southgate and others claim they’ve worked at this, Trent has only played 3 games in a midfield role since last August: Bosnia in a friendly at Wembley and then you have to go back to November to North Macedonia Away and Malta at home (the latter he was an 8, not a sitting pair).

While I understand Southgate needs to know what he has to work with in the more recent games in Mainoo, he’s not exactly trialled this idea much.

The idea of Gallagher being the fix however shows Southgate doesn’t even begin to understand the problems he’s trying to fix. He needs a Busquets, not a Scott Parker. Enter my humble solution: Wharton as the 6 (why pick him if you’re not going to use him, Southgate must have seen something to call him into the final squad), Rice and Bellingham 8s (Rice played best here for Arsenal last season, Bellingham was isolated against Denmark, drop him deeper) and Gordon LW to mimic Son’s runs in behind that Kane is so familiar with. Saka and Kane pick themselves still.

Trent adds RB creativity and Walker keeps the defensive solidity. This 4-3-3 shape is one most if not all are familiar with, and seeks to replicate movements and partnerships the players are familiar with on a weekly basis (I know Kane isn’t with Son anymore, but he sees those runs in his sleep).
An interested observer (Not an England fan, even less of a fan of making scapegoats)

👉 How did England go from ‘outstanding’ midfield three to Conor sodding Gallagher in 18 months?
👉 Kobbie Mainoo can’t ‘control’ a game of football for England as Scholes’ bold Rodri claim debunked
👉 Trent dropped, Gordon has to start: F365 tells Southgate his England starting XI vs Slovenia


Seven Southgate and England excuses that don’t wash
Can we corral the excuse for England not performing, and it not being Southgate’s fault in one place?

1) England’s players are not that good and are made to look great by better foreign players in their respective club teams – Rice/Saka, Foden, Bellingham, Kane, Eze, Gordon, Bowen would all like a word…

2) England players aren’t winners, aren’t used to the pressure and fold every time – 5 of the starters in the last game have won the Champions League. England are either the current holders or recent winners of every major age title up and including the U21’s last year.

3) England players are over-rated – the current team has the highest scorer in the Bundesliga, the best players in Spain and England, and the second-top scorer in England. Bellingham will probably win the Ballon d’Or.

4) The other teams have better players – England dominates France, Germany, and Portugal on a man-for-man basis in every analysis done.

5) Little Englanders are over-rating their team (as always) – England have been the favourites or joint-favourites for the Euros in every global betting market for the past 12 months.

6) Southgate has done a great job – every major analysis in every major European newspaper has mentioned Gareth Southgate as the key reason why England probably won’t win the Euros.

7) It’s an impossible job – Southgate is the highest-paid manager by a distance, managing the most valuable squad ever assembled for the Euros, with serial winners throughout the team. Tough job.
Matthew (ITFC)


…​Can I remind the 16 Gareth apologists left out there that he couldn’t beat Italy at home in the last Euros. If you’ve been watching Italy (I assume the 16 and the FA don’t because “they don’t indulge foreign”) you’d know how poor that is.

I wish my boss was so undemanding. I’d love to offer no insights, show no signs of growth, not hit KPIs and still have a job.


You’re wrong Johnny; it IS Southgate’s fault
Just want to point out that Johnny Nic doesn’t make sense again.

Look how good Romania, Turkey or Georgia are. Deficient in some ways but capable of energetic, crisp, fast passing and intuitive positioning so their midfield isn’t forever turning and passing it backwards in a typically English way.

He’s saying Romania, Turkey and Georgia play good football. Is this because their individual players are better than England?? Absolutely not as can be seen by the value of those players and who they play for.

So where in JN’s article does he explain why they play better as a team? It must be the way they are coached and managed.

However his whole article is on the premise that a great manager would make zero difference to the way England play? So of course he doesn’t want to point out why those countries play better football.

An England that has had English managers who’ve never won anything significant since Terry Venables, an Italian manager well past his peak and a Swede who had a couple of good seasons when being funded by laundered money and being able to buy the best players in the world.

Pretty sure if you put Guardiola or Klopp in charge they would improve the way England play as a minimum. They may not win a trophy but it would be a sight better than the utter dross we’ve watched for 30 years or longer which is primarily down to poor managers.

READ: Guardiola 6th), Howe 3rd): Ranking next England manager candidates on likelihood of appointment


…I read Johnny’s latest piece it was interesting and did contain some nuggets of truth, England are definitely overrated by home fans and always have been.

However him saying England is the worst team its players are playing for is wrong. Is Kane really playing with someone to the same standard as Musiala? Well yes actually, Phil Foden.

Is Bellingham really playing with someone to the same standard as Kroos? Well yes actually. I’d argue Rice is better than Kroos. In his prime no, but Bellingham isn’t playing with prime Kroos, he’s playing with old man Kroos. And I’d argue Rice is at the very least equal to. And that also ignores that Bellingham and Kane are also playing with each other.

If you have great players but they’re not a great team, where does the fault lie? Because if Johnny is arguing it isn’t the manager’s fault he is also arguing the players actually aren’t very good to begin with. You can’t argue the team playing badly is not the manager’s fault and simultaneously argue the players are great players.

I think most people on this page know me as someone who’s not really answering England fan or a fan of national football at all. In fact a few years ago I posted a bet saying I’ll wager against anyone that England won’t win anything in what remains of my lifetime (I’m 42 in case you’re curious ). So I have the same realistic detachment to the England national team that Johnny does as a Scotsman and yet I wouldn’t argue this isn’t a good team. It’s a mismanaged one with no real tactical direction beyond “try not to concede”.

(Johnny is not a Scotsman – Ed)

I’ve seen it before – Roy had the same philosophy at Liverpool, Moyes at Everton , and many others. It’s not necessarily a bad way to play, it’s just one based in fear. Some teams get lucky and make it work (Portugal and Greece spring to mind). But for that play to work you need to throw out flair players and just focus on 11 defensively sound work horses. Gareth didn’t do that. He brought mostly flair players and then expected them to execute his very defensive deep sitting tactical plan. It’s no wonder it’s failing most of these players play in teams whose priority is attacking and pressing from the front.

The realistic truth is Gareth is a Middlesbrough manager who was nice and pliable enough to make the FA believe they had found their non controversial manager. That’s his level. He isn’t and has never been a top class manager. He has never won anything. He’s the type of manager you see rocking up in the Trinidad and Tobago dugout and wonder – do they really have so few managers in Trinidad that they’ve hired this guy?

He seems like a perfectly decent guy. The kind of guy who applauds the other team’s effort when he’s beaten. But if we have learned anything from the histrionics and complaints of Fergie, Klopp, pep, Conte, Jose…et al – they do not accept losing. Because Gareths level is lower when he loses he thinks its a good attempt , because it’s the best he can give.

The final thing I can say about almost all England managers is they all try to please everyone by finding room in their squad for them. Everyone does it. Before it was trying to get Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard in (ironically a modern 433 would have got them all in easily but we were stuck in a 442 era).

They’re professionals and they need to learn that someone will unfortunately be on the bench. Even if your name is Foden, Alexander Arnold, Saka or Kane. You sit there like ole in 99′ and wait for that time when you’re asked to do your best. If the team doesn’t work with them all playing, then some will sit on the bench. Every England manager needs to learn that.


Today in the comments (I’m looking at you Daniel), we are told that actually our players aren’t that good, because they’re not good on the international stage.

Ok… first off, presumably Messi wasn’t any good actually until recently, because Argentina hadn’t won anything, right?

Second, many of the players HAVE actually played well at international level. I mean, we did get to a final, right? If you want to defend Southgate’s record because we got to a final, presumably the players were part of that.

Third, the Champions League is a higher level than the World Cup, let alone the Euros. There, I said it. Club football is a higher standard. Players who can be central to winning those tournaments are definitely decent.

On the flip side, international tournaments are harder, because you can’t just replace weak areas with new players; you have what you have. Ironically, the available players for England are probably the best they’ve been in 8 years. We’ve been crying out for some dominant midfielders and we are now over-blessed, we still have the same striker, we have excellent wingers (although we left a couple of them at home for Gareth-reasons), better defenders and a solid-enough keeper. This is as good as it has been.

So, in summary, it isn’t the players that are the problem.

And I’d still rather have Steve Clarke in charge. He managed to get an “ok” Scotland through qualification. He was an “arbitary referee decision to not give a penalty” away from a likely place in the next round.

As for our next game, we just need to refresh the team, give some players a break and others a chance to impress. Rest Saka for Palmer; rest Foden for Gordon; rest Bellingham for Mainoo, “rest” Trent for Wharton, “rest” Kane for Watkins and rest Tripper for Gomez or Konsa. That way, Gareth, you can fix the issues without having to obviously blame the obvious problems.

You can thank me later by appointing Dixon from the comments section to follow you as manager, the rest will sort itself out.


Ranking England managers
Given all the stick Gareth is receiving at the moment, I thought I’d rate all the England managers of my lifetime. I’ve left out Big Sam for obvious reasons, but otherwise, in order of competence, my list is as follows:

Hoddle – very odd chap and didn’t have a stellar club management career, but was really good for England; tactically astute, played people in their right positions and even learned from his mistakes; didn’t seem to rate Owen at first but then changed his tune and put him up front with Shearer to great effect; seemed to generate a feeling of belief; very unlucky to go lose to the Argies on pens in ’98.

Venables – only briefly in charge and pretty sure it would have gone a bit wrong if he’d stayed for another tournament, but Euro 96, what a summer; never seen England play with such swagger

Robson – people forget that most of his reign was pretty underwhelming and even the early games at Italia 90 were a bit rubbish, but then he changed the formation (reportedly at the insistence of his players) and it all clicked; seemed a lovely chap and one of the few managers prepared to incorporate mercurial talent (Gazza)

Capello – never got to grips with the dysfunctional England culture he was bequeathed by McClaren; bit too much of a cold fish, I suspect, to really energize a squad who were used to being indulged by his predecessors; had a good run of wins in the qualifiers but no good at tournament football and ultimately undermined by the FA

Greenwood – can’t remember much about him to be honest; think it was all a bit pedestrian but he had a terrible generation of players to work with; Mick Mills, anyone?

Hodgson – boring, boring boring . . . the very definition of an FA yes-man; never bought the Uncle Woy schtick, always seemed to me a rather arrogant man

Southgate – total chump who has done about as well with a ridiculously talented squad as you’d expect from someone who got Middlesbrough relegated; seems to have watched a lot of videos of Sven-era England and decided it was all rather splendid; given he got us to a final, seems churlish to rank him any lower but I really do think my auntie Doris could have got this crop of players to the latter stages of a tournament, especially with the easy draws Gareth has twice been gifted

Keegan – just didn’t really seem to know anything at all about football tactics, did he? Attack, attack, attack and then wonder why you’re 2-0 down; far too emotional, no in-game management, quite a silly sort of man, really.

Sven – awful manager; long ball merchant who never had the balls to drop one of Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard; got handed the best crop of players for 50 years and made them look like nervous schoolboys; sorry, because I know the poor chap is unwell, but he was truly terrible.

McClaren – wally

Taylor – turnip
Matt Pitt


Southgate just an international Redknapp
Various comparison jobs this week on Gareth, so here’s mine.

After decades of mediocrity, Gareth came in and brought his man management vibes to the squad and we started to make more progress in tournaments than countless managers had, before ultimately after a few decent runs it started to feel that the players were achieving results in spite of Gareth rather than because of him and now performances are giving the impression of a real lack of coaching and tactical awareness.

I’ve always been a big fan of Southgate but for me (Clive) this, and maybe even Qatar, feel like the relationship has gone stale and we should call it quits.

In short, it reminds me of Harry Redknapp arriving at Spurs after the whole 2 points from 8 games ordeal. Redknapp immediately lifted the players, finishing 7th or 8th before qualifying for the Champions League the following year.

Frustratingly we didn’t qualify the next year as the effort of fighting on two fronts took their toll but the failure felt collective compared to the squandering of the 10 point lead over Arsenal the following season that saw us miss Champions League football again, which really did feel like Harry’s fault as he got all carried away with flirting with the England job he didn’t deserve as the players that year (such a good team- Freidel, Walker, King, Kaboul, AssouEkotto, Parker, Modric, Lennon, Bale, Van der Vaart and Adebayor!) basically carried Harry as opposed to being led by him. Levy saw it was time to change, so hopefully will the FA. Just don’t bring in any former Chelsea managers…
Jerome, Bristol Spur


Erm, you do know England have qualified, right?
I’m just checking, are your correspondents aware that England, though sluggish and unimpressive, are in fact unbeaten in this tournament, and by the time they next play will almost certainly have qualified for the next round before the kick-off?

(They have – Ed)

Maybe wait until he loses a game before putting him into the stocks?
Dara O’Reilly, London