Don’t make Sterling England’s scapegoat

Date published: Friday 17th June 2016 7:32

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Sympathy for Sterling
I have to say I feel a little bit of sympathy for Raheem Sterling. Admittedly he is an extremely frustrating player and his first half performance against Wales showcased that but does he merit all the flak heading his way?

Shearer could barely say his name at half-time. I’m not saying there is a specific agenda to bring him down due to his career choices but it’s easy for people to jump on the bandwagon. The fans are now getting on his back which will not help his visibly fragile confidence. He is an easy target for criticism but at 21 it’s probably a little harsh as the similarly aged Kane and Alli have also disappointed in France. Maybe he is just the latest on the conveyor belt of players hyped beyond their ability and potential then chastised for not being world-beaters.

Ironic for a country that has produced so few Ballon d’Or contenders but not at all a new thing. Wilshere and Barkley are flying under the radar due to injury and not being in the team but they could easily be on the receiving end. Let’s hope it makes Raheem a better player because it would be a shame to see his talent wasted. To overcome the vitriol thrown his way to become a top player would certainly show some of the mettle you’d want in a national team that’s only just won its first tournament match after being behind at half-time. He’s likely to be out of team now which will relieve the pressure and a new club manager will hopefully revitalise his game. By the time he’s back in the fold the wolves will have moved on to another target. With Kane proving he doesn’t exist I hope Alli and (in a year or two) Rashford have thick skin.
CP, Cambridge


Rather less sympathy for Sterling
Lothar Matthias has just said Rooney should play further up the field. He is automatically disqualified as a pundit worth listening to – For the first time in five years Rooney will be pleased to hear he is back in my first choice England team. Anyway, Lothar’s nonsense gives me time to comment on the subtle disparity between your comments on Kane amd Sterling.

Now you often bemoan the criticism of Sterling. Pleading for patience and emphasising his potential. Even yesterday after the worst performance by a player seen since Woodgate’s debut for Real Madrid. Kane meanwhile is compared to Franny Jeffers and it is strongly hinted he is a limited player who probably won’t hit the heights at international level.

Now I don’t want to go in to Stead’s cynicism about Kane, despite him effectively writing Kane off. Kane is about to turn 23 – he cant get better now seems to be the underlying belief. Football365 think the same about Lingard. Despite the recent immeasurable improvement of both. This attitude is frustrating. But it would be understandable if it was consistent. So why in God’s name do you give Sterling such an easy ride?

In an article last month the editor referred to Sterling’s ‘supposed’ lack of a final ball. No. There is no ‘supposed’ here. Even when confident two and a bit years ago Sterling was an average passer and shooter at best. The only thing he could do is run and occasionally beat people. He has got no better in 2 years. His shattered confidence has ensured he is worse.

So my question is why do you presume he will get better when he has shown no signs of doing so for so long? But yet others get no such belief. True, journalists can have favourites. But when the evidence is so overwhelmingly stacked against you, you may have to eventually admit you were wrong and Sterling is not the player you thought he was. You surely can’t still be blaming his form on Rodgers using him briefly as a wing back.

I know you are probably sick of people criticising Sterling. I like the man and I get the impression that is partially why you defend him in the interests of balance. It is true he is obviously affected by confidence. But from a purely football perspective he is bordering on becoming indefensible.

Like Stead, I also love Daniel Sturridge.


Not having Rooney in midfield
Toni Control, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Kante, Paul Pogba, Daniel DeRossi (I miss Pirlo) and a few players from less high profile teams who you could add to the list of top quality central midfielders playing in the Euros.

Wayne Rooney doesn’t make the list because he is not a CM. He is a striker. A striker not good enough to make the squad as a striker.

I can’t get my head around how people have just accepted that the most important position on the pitch should be taken by a striker not good enough to play as a striker. It’s madness. A top quality CM sets the tone for the whole team and as such it’s a specialised position that you have to learn how to play.

I know we don’t have an English CM in the class of any of the above but I would still prefer to see a genuine CM in there. He has not played badly as such it’s just that it feels wrong. Can you imagine any of the top teams doing it? If your not good enough in the position you play in, then off you go.

I don’t have any suggestions for who should play there by the way and just hoping Mourinho doesn’t get any ideas for next season.

On a slightly different issue but how many crosses did England put in today? I can’t be arsed with stats but I imagine it must be on the high side. And they were all garbage.
Plato – MUFC (ex CM of course)


…Am I the only one thinking Rooney had a distinctly average game? I’ve read plenty of fans and journalists praise him as one of Englands best players against Wales (including F365) but I’m not convinced.

I thought he had zero defensive presence. Dier saved his ass couple of times when Welsh players breezed past him. He even got nutmegged by Joe Allen! Even Joe Allen shouldn’t be nutmegged by Joe Allen! Gave away a stupid free-kick after his signature miscontrol. Don’t remember him making any proper tackles either.

Apparently he made four goalscoring chances? I dont recall any proper ‘chance’ to be honest. Most of his 91% accurate passes were sideways or backwards. Even his hollywood passes to the wings weren’t any effective either. And he wasn’t involved in any way with the two goals. So what the hell did he do to be praised so much by so many?
Nabil, (what has happened to Kane and Alli?) Bangladesh.


Praise for Roy
After being heavly criticised following his substitutions against Russia, I hope I’m not the last to say:

It was Roy wot won it!
Danny in North Devon


…I was ready to string Roy up at HT. But fair play to him,he finally found his balls and actually won us the game. Can’t really ask for more from your two half-time subs.

Shout out to the lino too, amazing call on Vardy’s goal. The officiating has been top quality so far.
JG LFC (It’ll be champagne later…  deserved)


What took Hodgson so long?
Media giving Roy credit for bring on players that SHOULD have started.

*Slowwwwwww Clapppppppp


Keep Vardy on the bench
Fewer touches than anyone but Johnathan Williams. Second worst pass accuracy at 40%. No key passes. One shot in 45 minutes.

Vardy on worked, but it was a fluke. David Nugent scored for England too y’know. Can we please not have people using this to call for his inclusion from the start against Slovakia? Too late? Oh, carry on then.
Rick Andrews


And Kane too
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Harry.

I can’t figure out if he’s burnt out or if he’s believing his own hype. Or is the pressure of being England’s no.9 too much? Answers on a postcard.

P.S. Without Bale, Wales are toothless.
Ben, Cheltenhamshire


Sturridge? Meh
Daniel Sturridge scored the winning goal, but that’s the only good thing he did after being subbed on at half-time. Too often I found myself, as many fans probably have too, shouting at the TV for him to pass the ball to his wide open teammates. Instead, he continued his dribble against two Welsh players and got dispossessed easily and he did that at least three times. Three times too many.

Yet another sketchy late win by a ‘Big Team’. Let’s see if Woy picks Kane, Sterling and Lallana again to start against Slovakia (a must draw or win game). I’d start Rashford over Sterling, and maybe Vardy over Kane, although the latter is debatable. Sterling’s exclusion from the starting XI isn’t, however.

Also while I’m at it, well done to Norn Iron. Oh and, is Walker > Clyne finally settled?
John Blakeway


Super Dan
A quick word on Danny boy, currently everyone’s hero, but he hasn’t always been so…

The guy has had a torrid couple of seasons. Repetitive injuries, surgery in America, speculation about his relationship with Klopp…

What makes Daniel special is when he returns from these setbacks he demonstrates his quality. Every. goddamn time. With very little adjustment time. I don’t know how he does it. Proving yourself over and over must be a tad tiring no? Endless days of treatment and recovery…

He might be made of glass but he has some steel in him too.
Will LFC


Say it ain’t Joe
If you want to summarise the England problem in one name it would be Joe Hart. The sight of him laughing and joking with Bale in the first half was quite sickening. Can’t he take the bloody game seriously? Can he cease the superstar lad act for a while? No wonder he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate Sturridge’s goal – Hart had well and truly been saved from jail by the strike. Trust me on this, the likelihood of England winning anything of note with Joe Hart in goal is greatly reduced until he sorts his attitude out.
The Flan, North London.


Ratings rant
Read the first couple of lines of your ratings.

I will not read on ( the rest could be very good for all I know).

Yes – Hart made a blunder, but your opening lines having a go at him because he had the tenacity to be up for it and to be a big leader in the dressing room to then make a mistake is poor.

So we want somebody who doesn’t get his team mates fired up because they might look silly if it doesn’t go their way? Pff F365 have an ability to be just like those who they criticise in the snide media watch of theirs

On a tangent – so glad we beat the Welsh. Do love a Home Nations rivalry. Weird how we only have those from outside England admitting it.
John (Sent from my iPhone) Morril


Dress to impress
Sorry boys, you come dressed as Scotland, you get treated like Scotland
Cult Hero, Brighton


Wales can’t match Northern Ireland’s spirit
Although England vs Wales will take the headlines after a brilliant end to the game, today saw a remarkable footballing story add another incredible chapter.

After the World Cup in 2014, a side ranked 95th in the world began their qualifying campaign as the fifth seeds in a group of six. Without a win in a year and playing some awful football to match, expectations going into the campaign were low as they always have been. The opening game away to Hungary didn’t seem to suggest any different. 1-0 down with 10 minutes to go, it looked like just another average qualifying campaign for Northern Ireland. But two goals in the last 10 minutes handed us an unlikely three points. This was meant to be an unforeseen highlight of a standard campaign. After a couple of decent results, defeat away to Romania was supposed to be the dampener and the reality check that put us back in our place. But spurred on by the goals of Kyle Lafferty the results kept coming. The confidence kept growing. The style of play kept improving. Finally, at home to Greece in the last qualifying game the unthinkable had happened. Northern Ireland, the fifth seeds in the group, had qualified for the Euros. As group winners. Much has been said about the expanded tournament, but Northern Ireland would have qualified for the Euros whether it was 16 teams or 24. A nation that has seen so many bad times since it last participated in a major tournament was given a huge lift. Communities had been brought together to share in the joy of qualification.

Ranked as the 24th team out of 24, NI were drawn in a group of death. The world champions, the impressive Poles and a Ukraine side boasting Champions League experience, an early exit and zero points were widely expected. A solid defensive display but an insipid attacking performance marked a flat opening to the tournament. It left a win or bust game against Ukraine. Michael O’Neill rang the changes. Dropping our top scorer and talisman along with four other changes was certainly a shock to all involved with the green and white army. But what followed was a masterclass in efficiency from a side that had shown it in abundance during qualifying. Tireless running and pressing upfront, good ball retention in midfield and as organised a defensive performance we’ve seen in this tournament led Northern Ireland to a famous, famous victory. McAuley’s towering header led to pandemonium in the stands and an outpouring of joy back home.

Much has been made of Wales’s exploits and the quality of their team work and togetherness. But Northern Ireland take it to the next level. Wales started with the world’s most expensive player up front. Northern Ireland had a striker who signed for QPR in January. Wales had a midfield three from Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Liverpool. Captain and talisman Davis was supported by Reading’s Norwood and Blackburn’s Corry Evans. Although our defence is of Premier League quality, 37-year-old centre-back Aaron Hughes, who hasn’t played in the Australian league since January, started at right back. And to finish it off, a goalkeeper who is currently out of contract at Hamilton Academical.

A side built on team spirit, working for one another, always believing in themselves and never letting anyone tell them they aren’t good enough. Let’s hope there’s more to this remarkable rise.
Alex, Belfast


Pogba. Is he all that?
After another uninspired France performance I’m starting to see that maybe Alex Ferguson was right to get rid of Pogba.

There is a lot of hype surrounding the young man but I have never seen him have a good 90mins. Flashes of brilliance are followed by him playing like he’s forgotten how to walk.

As a Man Utd fan, watching him trudge around the pitch, I cant help but think he looks rather ungainly, which is why Utd passed up the ‘chance’ of signing Jordan Henderson. Maybe they saw a bit of that about Pogba as well?

For me, Clive, he looks like any other average midfielder and Matuidi looks far superior for France.

I’ll probably be accused of sour grapes for this but bring it on.
Andrew ‘Pogba the French Henderson’ Steer


Swerving Russia in 2018
I think everyone is pretty much read in on what’s happening with Russian ultras at this tournament. Several have now been given jail terms, and all the accounts I’ve read seem to suggest these acts are being perpetrated by a group of organised gangs with criminally violent intentions. This is not about football. This is about a group of lunatics using football as a cover to set out to hurt people. There’s stories of them being armed, attacking individuals to outnumber them. This is bad, but the fact that they’re seemingly being patted on the back by Russian politicians for “fighting for Russia” is insane.

Given all this, this country is CLEARLY not fit to host a World Cup. I’m not trying to suggest the actions or ideals of this minority group reflect that of the Russian people. But many fans currently don’t feel safe in France. Imagine how many more ultras couldn’t afford to get to France and would see this encouragement to “fight for Russia” as especially pertinent on home soil? If I had it my way the English and French FA would boycott the World Cup, as should UEFA. It’s one thing to want to boycott Qatar for the shadiness of their bid, but I can’t imagine Russia can in anyway guarantee a safe World Cup for players and travelling fans.

On a personal note, this is the first World Cup that’s rolled around where I’m in a financial position to think “well why not? might as well get to a World Cup”. But no, you won’t catch me in Russia 2018 even if the tickets were paid for along with a beer allowance.
Rowan (it’s probably not coming home) Hansberry

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