England to reach minimum semis? Have you seen that defence and midfield?

Editor F365
England have problems in defence and midfield.
England have problems in defence and midfield.

A dose of realism for England fans here, along with views on Erik ten Hag staying at Manchester United and some beef with Urs Meier.

Send your Euro 2024 predictions to theeditor@football365.com


England fans expecting a semi at worst? Behave
Liverpool fan here that has been spoilt with Champions League runs. But even when the squad is excellent, I never think it’s semis every year minimum. That’s just ridiculous.

Any Englander thinking it’s semis minimum and I just assume that they are supporting their lower league clubs and they are looking for a bit of escapism from their shit team, maybe they still think that their mummies and daddies are invincible so every England player is a Marvel character world beater. Maybe that is unfair.

There’s the usual tropes – England have the shortest odds at the bookies so are the favourites. Wrong. There are more bets on England so the odds are shorter. That does not mean that if the tournament was played 1,000 times, that England would win more times than anyone else.

The UK spends a lot of money on sports betting and will be placing the most bets on their own teams. There is a gap in the education of people in this country around gambling and how odds work. The bookies always win in the end.

My expectations are more tempered this year. That defence is far from the quality England are used to. Had they played the qualifiers together consistently then maybe it would be better but it’s pretty cobbled together. A lot of players haven’t played much in 2024.

I thought that Grealish would have been a good squad member for protecting the LB. He’s good for 20 yards possession and winning a freekick but Pep has ruined him. More defensive than a vertical runner who loses the ball and leaves the full back exposed on the counter, like say Gordon. We used to have Neville, Terry, Rio and Cole in defence FFS!

The midfield has a great big gap in it. So big we actually have no idea who will play there. We used to have Phillips but Pep has ruined him. In reply to Glen, Stratford Spur, I haven’t seen Trent play in midfield either. He’s a right back. Rice and Bellingham are class though so maybe there is an attacking midfield space for Trent and a defending midfield space for say Gallagher. Much like how Klopp was playing Endo or Mac Allister at #6 depending on the opposition.

Southgate appears to have identified Mainoo has having characteristics that others don’t so at least he’s thinking about it and not just picking the best midfielders on Fifa and working out where to play them later. We used to have Gerrard, Lampard AND Scholes! FFS!

Forward line is Foden, Kane and Saka. Happy with that.

But if we knew was going to win the footie before kick off we wouldn’t watch it. Despite Pep trying to ruin that too.
Alex, South London

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England and a 20-year-old beef
Does the name Urs Meier sound familiar?

If it does, it’s because he’s the Swiss referee who disallowed Sol Campbell’s last minute winner (he jumped higher than the ‘keeper Ricardo to head it in) vs Portugal in the Euro 2004 quarter-final.

All a long time ago now, but the other day I stumbled across an interview with Meier that was published before the last Euros. What he said in it left me astounded.

Meier stood by the decision. His explanation was that when the ball went back across the six yard box towards Campbell he thought it would be goalkeeper’s ball. He didn’t see how the ball went into the net instead as his view was blocked. Meier even openly admitted he didn’t see a foul. However, he gave a free kick to Portugal anyway as he assumed there must have been an infringement by someone English.

Essentially, he ignored all manner of possible factors because of his opinion as to what he thought ought to have happened.

Meier even went so far as to say the decision was put in some referee manual as an example of good officiating.

I’m sure other readers, particularly actual referees, will know more than me about the laws of the game. But is that the most tenuous/bonkers reason to disallow a goal ever? Surely one of the key points is you can only give what you see?

Normally any perceived injustice when England are knocked out of a tournament is nonsense. But I’ve always thought 2004, when it was a very winnable Euros, was an exception. A decision probably made because it meant an (understandably) unpopular side with a hooligan following would have knocked out the hosts.

Am I finally vindicated or am I missing something?
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester
PS if someone told me this I’d think it was so ridiculous they were making it up, if you’re the same google ‘urs meier disallowed goal sol campbell’.


The bluffers of football
Couldn’t agree more with Dave LFC on Roberto Martinez. What a bluffer, to borrow one of Roy Keane’s favourite words.

But Martinez enjoys the great good fortune of working in an industry which consistently rewards abject (take note, Ange) failure. The roll call of bluffers who have been failing upwards, sometimes for 20 years or more, is endless. Any other industry, they’d be out on their ear after a year or two. But not football. Here are some of my favourites:

Steve McClaren
Bryan Robson
Sven Goran Eriksson
Roy Hodgson
Gareth Southgate
Frank Lampard
Mauricio Pochettino

Honourable mention for Jose Mourinho but at least he used to have something about him. Any others?
Matt Pitt


These Man Utd fans wanted Ten Hag sacked
Just in case there was any doubt and I’m looking at you Aman. Hi, my name is Dave, I’m a Manchester United fan who thinks Eric Ten Hag should have been replaced this summer.

If you read this mailbox regularly then you’ve probably seen many letters from me defending Ten Hag and explaining away some of the poor form United have been through under his watch. He’s had a lot to deal with during his tenure but despite these extenuating circumstance he has still, in my opinion, performed quite poorly this season. Added to this I don’t see him as a particularly good fit for the football and club structure INEOS are clearly trying to engineer.

With a little consideration I think the majority of United fans would generally agree with this and had it not been for the cup win those calling for him to stay would doubtless be a small minority. I don’t think the impact of one game, however glorious, should have such influence on someone’s opinion. If an employee continually arrives late for work, then comes in early once, you don’t absolve them from all the poor attendance. Just the fact the cup win was considered such an aberration should inform your opinion on this more strongly than the result.

With regards the new contract negotiations, this should not be viewed as a reward for Ten Hag but instead quite the opposite. INEOS are uncomfortable with the level of power Ten Hag has written into his contract, for instance the ability of final veto on transfers. This new contract will curtail him, perhaps reduce his salary, and make it easier for the club to sack him in the future. I would not be surprised if INEOS want the option to choose his assistant manager also.

If you wanted Ten Hag to stay all along then fine, I see the merits in that and I allow the possibility that it could work out well. He is a talented manager and I think him coming to United two years ago has been a net positive for the club and fans. However, just because others are not so influenced by recent events and can instead take a more measured and long-term view, does not mean they or I are trying to get a man sacked. It’s just the reality of the situation in context.
Dave, Manchester


…Aman doesn’t know a single fan who wants ten Hag out after winning the FA Cup? I’ll show you one. We have been utterly rotten this year, all year. A whole season of being awful, game after game, every game. I can remember literally only one single time watching United this year when I felt comfortable, when I was thinking to myself it was nice to actually watch a United game and not feel my arse clenching every 60 seconds. Do you know when that was? It was when we were 3 nil up against Coventry and cruising.

We have had some good wins – by good I mean exciting and significant, rather than dominant – and the FA Cup was great. I actually think Ten Hag’s style of football is fine for cup competitions. He can set the team up to get a result against dominant opposition and his chaotic brand of football can yield results in one-off games. But over a league season it doesn’t work.

I like him, I like his manner, I like how he has handled almost every situation with the players. But the football is muck. Yes injuries are a mitigation. But they provide enough mitigation to have finished fourth, maybe fifth. Not eighth, no chance. With 7 or 8 games when we were still somehow in with a shout for fourth, even fifth may have provided CL football at the time, we couldn’t get our shit together for long enough to win multiple games on the bounce.

The fact is we have been awful, absolutely awful. I feel like I am taking crazy pills when a poll shows 75% of fans want him to stay. HOW? WHY? In no aspect of anything on the pitch have we been within an asses roar of half-decent this year. Almost every single one of our wins was scraped by the skin of our teeth. And our defeats were more often than not deserved and resounding.

8th flattered us, we should have finished lower. Our performances deserved lower. Ten Hag is responsible for that 100%. Baffled by the decision to keep him. My prediction is he will be gone by Christmas and we will bring in Southgate unless England flop this summer, which I have a sneaking suspicion they will anyway. It’ll be Tuchel then so.
Ryan, Coillte


An excellent point about Man Utd and Ten Hag
Don’t have a dog in the fight, but there’s at least one very good reason Man United have for not sacking Eric Ten Hag, which is that once you’ve sacked him you can’t then sack him. I think everyone broadly accepts that United have major structural problems that will not be solved simply by sacking the manager, BUT sacking the manager is a thing that incompetent ownership groups can do instead of addressing major structural problems.

So why would you use up that card when things aren’t TOO bad, when the fanbase aren’t calling for it, and when you might have to mid-season, and buy yourself some time? I mean, unless you’re actually applying a joined-up and grown-up approach to the development of the club, but that would be ridiculous.
Dara O’Reilly, London


You can’t let footballers vote
I understand where Fatima Brites was coming from, but that would be a disaster to let the players vote. A large part of the reason for the travails of (most notably) Chelsea and a post Fergie Man Utd has been unfettered player power, Rio Ferdinand’s infamous ketchup problems being a reason for Moyes getting the boot the obvious example.

Giving the players more power or even the illusion of it would just make this 427x worse. As an outsider, regardless the way it was handled ETH showing Sancho the door despite his obvious ability along with the Ronaldo incident was a clear message about who is in charge and that’s probably what Man U need more of right now IMO.

Chelsea hiring a young inexperienced manager could be problematic for these same reasons if the players just start to take the p*** but TBH i’ve had it in for them since they signed my favourite player from us when i was about 10 so i’m ok with this scenario really (Gavin Peacock for the record)
AD (any other irrational but lasting reasons for disliking a team anyone?), NUFC


The name chain game
In response to Hulmy’s challenge, I thought I had a nailed on three, Laurent Robert, Robert Lee, Lee Bowyer from Newcastle in the early 2000s, but when I went to check which year, it turns out Lee and Bowyer missed each other by a few months, which was annoying.

My mind instantly leapt to when Collins John and John Collins briefly played on the same Fulham team, but it turns out that never happened either, that would have been an ouroboros level achievement. Goddamn Mandela effect! I will keep at it though, I feel like Rob Lee and David James etc should be key to this game…
Andrew, 40something, memory’s already going