Mails: England, Mourinho and youth, Moreno

Date published: Wednesday 30th March 2016 10:04

Together, we have emerged from the international week unscathed. Now send your mails to


Let’s start with a poem
Look at all the Fun Police below,

Telling you all, I told you so.
Syfq Amr, a bias Gooner


Enter the Fun Police
Is Rooney brilliant again now?
Alex Stokoe
Newcastle upon Tyne


Well that win must make Holland one of the favourites this summer. Oh wait………….
Dave no need for brackets Walsh


So…does this mean The Netherlands are World Champions now?
Dave, AFC Telford.


Well…it was only a friendly right?
TGWolf(If only Rooney had been on the pitch)THFC


Are we learning?
Have to say that reading peoples comments/replies on the match report and player ratings from the game last night has left me pleasantly surprised. Well reasoned, sensible reactions, no ‘England are crap’, no ‘Look at that world class 10 yard pass from Stones’, and not many insults (obligatory Gerard Benson post aside).

Are we as fans finally learning?


Drinkwater, Vardy, Stones…
Facing arguably the worst Netherlands side in decades you’d think a win would be a formality but Hodgson’s England never fails to surprise. I have a few thoughts on England’s extremely dodgy performance:

First thought, Danny Drinkwater is not England quality. Yes he has been great for Leicester but in England’s system he is nothing but average. He completes a fairly good amount of his passes but we need more than that. We need more a player who will take risks and will pass the ball more than 5 yards at a time. Drinkwater tried a few times to do this and the ball either went out for a throw in or went to the opposition. The fact people would genuinely prefer him over someone like Wilshere or Dier is baffling, he is nowhere near being on either ones level. At this point in time in England need players who contribute something and make a difference, not ones who fade into the background and offer next to nothing. The times of calling up the likes of Ryan Mason and Drinkwater need to end.

Second thought, possibly controversial, Jamie Vardy shouldn’t start at the Euros. Vardy is in the form of his life but on the left wing he really isn’t effective. He struggles to get involved in build up and isn’t a particularly brilliant dribbler. His goal tonight only came because he floated into the middle and took the place of Sturridge. Either he should start up front or not start at all. And with Harry Kane also being in amazing form, you would have to put Vardy on the bench as it would be stupid for Hodgson to change the formation to fit them both in only a few months before the tournament. Vardy showed against Germany what he can offer as a sub, pace and power when the opposition is tired. Purely as a left winger, Welbeck and Sterling both offer far more than Vardy does and one of the two should start in his place.

Third thought, Roberto Martinez seems to have broke John Stones. From letting him get away with anything to completely dropping him from the Everton team, Martinez has first let Stones’ confidence get too high and then after than has let it drop too low. The man just doesn’t seem to know how to manage him. Stones was always going to burnout if he played too many matches in a row and that is exactly what happened to him. Instead of just playing him less, Martinez dropped him entirely from the team and Stones now seems to have no confidence in himself and therefore the mistakes are too common. Instead of recovering from his blip in form, he has only got worse. At this point it seems like it is too much of a risk to rely on Stones as a centre back option, and the blame for this rests squarely on Martinez’s shoulders.
Matt, Arsenal fan


Was that Man United v PSV?
The match against the Netherlands reminded me of Man United vs PSV. Anyone? Unable to kill of a game. Check. Defensive capitulation. Check. Daley Blind appeared in both!! After the victory against Germany in Berlin, there were calls for some folks to calm down and be objective concerning this English side. They fell on deaf ears. To be sincere, i saw the Dutch defeat coming. It was all a case of counting your chicks before they are hatched. As much as it was a much-changed England squad, The Three Lions ended the match with Clyne,Kane and Alli; starters in France. After scoring three against a German defence of Can,Rudiger,Tah and Hector; i knew that the first team to take them seriously could get a result. Just look at Germany vs Italy to know what ‘elite’ means. Hope Roy contrasts this team to the one he fielded vs Germany; and understand that England is better off without players like James ‘burden’ Milner. Vardy still played well though and thats about the only positive from the game.
Nedu(£50m for Stones? i laugh)


England thoughts
Here are my thoughts on what England’s squad should be for France:

1) We have a plethora of forward options at the moment, and fitting them all in the squad is tricky. But in Hodgson’s preferred 4-3-3 formation I would pick Vardy, Kane, Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck and Sterling. All but Kane and Sturridge can and have played out wide and it allows Rooney to at least make the squad.

2) We look a little low on quality in midfield. Dier and Alli have to play, I don’t trust Barkley to start but he would be an excellent option from the bench against tiring defences. This would leave one place for Delph or Henderson, perhaps give one of them the box-to-box role and give Alli more freedom to push forward. Drinkwater would provide cover, providing of course that Wilshere doesn’t climb off his treatment table the week before the tournament starts.

3) Smalling and Stones have to play in central defence, Cahill and Jagielka providing reliable/experienced backup. The full-back positions are tricky, I don’t rate Rose or Walker. I have a soft spot for Leighton Baines and his sideburns though so I would start him with Rose/Bertrand as back-up. Clyne is probably our best option on the right and maybe Walker as understudy. Harte, Butland and Forster are as good a trio of goalkeepers as you could wish to have.

That gives a squad of 23 with a blend of youth and experience as well as rewarding players who have had good seasons and yet also sticking with the tried and tested.

Please, please, please let’s not have Milner or Walcott anywhere near that plane to France. Perhaps we could take away their passports like they do with hooligans?
Alan Ewens


Roy’s big decisions
No doubt you will be inundated with I Told You So’s from the football fun police, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism with this promising England team. I’ll try not to get into full squad selection as the ever excellent England ladder will articulate it better than I ever could (waiting with childlike excitement for the final edition…) but thought I’d focus on Roy’s big decisions, so here we go…

Starting CB – John Stones v Gary Cahill – An on form Stones would make England a much better international football team. We need him to be as good as he can be but unfortunately at club level he’s coached by Roberto Martinez who’s more interested in winning games than defending well to help you win games, or something. After that clusterf*ck & Stones’ lack of action at club level, Roy will have to go with Gary Cahill alongside Smalling to start. Against top level opposition, we all know that’s unlikely to end well.

LBs – Rose, Bertrand, Baines, Shaw – Roy will be praying that Shaw comes back with enough time to get 3/4 games under his belt before naming his squad. We all know that wouldn’t reasonably be enough football for selection, but after I was conned into thinking that Danny Rose was a good option I was quickly reminded why I just don’t trust the guy. He loves those last ditch tackles from the wrong side. Other than Shaw, they’re much of a muchness like Clyne v an improved Walker on the other side.

CM options – Drinkwater, Milner, Henderson, Wilshere – Assuming Dier’s in the squad as specialist DM & Delph hasn’t had enough football to be considered. Realistically, however underwhelming they’ve been, Hendo will probably start & Milner will do the good tourist thing so it probably comes down to Wilshere v Drinkwater. If Wilshere is 90% fit, he goes, if not Drinkwater goes. It may be starry eyed thinking but Jack is one of the few players we have that can move the team up a level and a concession on full fitness will be made. He’s performed very well for Roy & that will be rewarded. One thing that did occur to me is whether Henderson or Milner would’ve got the same credit that Drinkwater got if they’d put in an identical performance against Holland? I like Drinkwater and also accept that Hendo / Milner have had plenty of chances to impress & haven’t done a great deal, but I do wonder whether confirmation bias and a clamour to change for change’s sake is behind much of the dissatisfaction. I’m not fussed either way, maybe they’re just as good as we’ve got. Just a thought.

Wide AMF cover – Lallana v Ox – Didn’t see this one coming a year ago but with Barkley & Alli pretty much guaranteed a spot on the plane at least one of these two will most likely be cut. Roy is clearly a fan of both but with Lallana miraculously showing a semblance of form & doing that actually playing football thing, I reckon the Ox could be out. The maverick call would be to take both instead of a midfielder but that’s just a bit crazy and not very Roy.

Forward cover – Sturridge v Walcott – As above, didn’t see this coming. Vardy’s goals drying up at club level could’ve put him back at risk but 2 in 2 mean he’s there in case Roy sees any other countries chatting sh*t. Kane, Rooney & Welbz are all obviously there (let’s not debate Rooney being in the squad at least, he’s going) which leaves the bizarre scenario of Sturridge’s place being in question. Now, I’m unashamedly a big Sturridge fan but just can’t see how leaving him behind makes sense so, assuming that Sterling is also nailed on to go to provide pace out wide, Walcott gets the chop. Again. Poor kid.

Overall, we’re not the best team in the world but have good attacking options that Roy has toyed with in a 4231, 433 and 442 diamond. Modern systems that give us at least a 3 man presence in the centre of the park. I’m not the biggest Hodgson fan, but he generally seems to be tying the right things and nonsense I’ve occasionally seen about England playing in 2 banks of 4 just isn’t grounded in reality with what Roy’s trying to achieve. We’re probably not going to win the Euros, but we’ll give it a right good go.
Heston LFC (Walcott’s still a kid right?)


Perfect preparation
What perfect preparation for the tournament this international break has been!

A plucky underdog performance, a mistake by a player that everyone can blame after the tournament and a couple of iffy refereeing decisions leading to goals.

If we can just find some way of John Terry undermining the squad we’ll have the full set.
Dan(parentheses), Medway


What have we learned?
So what have we learnt from 2 pre-tournament friendlies… England’s home and away kits are truly awful. Red socks with white shorts and top WTF is that all about. Looked like a bloody egg chasing kit. And as for the away kit, what a load of shite. Designed by a four year old if you ask me.

England kits should be easy to design;

Home -White/navy/white
Away – Red/white/red
Mark (if we’re gonna be white at a major tournament at least they should look good in their kits) LFC


Play Rooney at right back
Wayne Rooney: midfielder or striker?

Well we’ve seen he’s not good enough to be in the from three for United as a striker, and can’t cut it in midfield.

Why not try something ridiculous and pop him in at full back?

Obviously this would never happen, but he has all the energy and aggression that you’d be looking for in a fullback, with the added bonus that he can whack a ball really hard every now and then. He’d have to get over a bit of that positional indiscipline, but would be really be the worst defender at United? And yes he’d be the highest paid full back in the world but you’re gonna pay him regardless so may as well try and use him?

I think it could possibly work in games you expect United to dominate, gets to harry all the way back to his own goal-line, nip at people’s ankles then dash forward pretending to be a striker.
Would it be any worse than him pretending to be a trequartista?
KC (plus he’d have more opportunity to play Hollywoods)


Go in under the radar
It’s coming home, its coming home, its coming, football’s coming ho….no way wait a minute… was only a bloody friendly!

So much hyperbolic nonsense after the Germany match, it was good to see it burst with a bang against the worst Dutch side in living memory. Then again that was only a friendly too so don’t read too much into it. The result probably does England a favour as I imagine a hot steak of friendly wins and a nation once again expects beyond its capabilities.

This England team while having some freshness and excitement in the form of Alli and Kane is not nearly as talented as the last golden generation. Neville, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, Carragher, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Rooney (of a long long time ago) were a a few levels above the current bunch and were managed by the best England manager of the last 25 years in Sven.

Ultimately, the last generation disappointed but expectations were extreme and there was a danger the current lot were about to learn what that pressure would be like in a couple of months going into a major tournament. Better to go in under the radar I reckon.


Debunking the Mourinho youth myth
Often in the Mourinho to United talk (of which I am firmly on the fence), there will come a point where Mourinho’s lack of youth development comes into question. At the same time LvG’s use of youth, either through planning or mistake, is thrown in as a comparison.

So I thought I would look at Mourinho’s use of youth. As per every other comparison I am including LvG’s numbers. I also thought I would include SAF to see what the numbers throw up.

The criteria for the comparison is:
* Last full season in charge. In Mourinho’s case as he is the subject, I have looked at his last full years at Chelsea (x2), Inter and Real.
* Players are 20 or younger at the start of the season.
* I only counted caps from the league.
* Highlighted players got 10 or more caps in the league.

Disclosures before the mailbox attacks me:
* Yes statistics can prove anything. I am trying to be as objective as possible.
* All figures came from (god knows how reliable)
* Figures were manually taken from the above, while in work, while I was “working”

2006-07 Chelsea
Mourinho gave 5 players 20 or younger a cap, including Mikel John Obi (19 y/o, 22 caps), Lassana Diarra (20 y/o, 10 caps and Salomon Kalou (20y/o, 33 caps)

2008-09 Inter Milan
Mourinho gave 4 players 20 or younger a cap, including Davide Santon (who??)(17 y/o, 16 caps) and Mario Balotelli (18 y/o, 22 caps)

Real Madrid
Mourinho gave 6 players 20 or younger a cap, including Raphaël Varane (19 y/o, 15 caps) and Morata (20 y/o, 12 caps)

Chelsea 2014-15
Mourinho gave 6 players 20 or younger a cap, including Kurt Zouma (19 y/o, 15 caps)

Man Utd 2012-13
SAF gave 2 players or younger a cap, including Phil Jones (20 y/o, 17 caps)

Man Utd 2015-16
LvG gave 10 players or younger a cap, including Anthony Martial (20 y/o, 24 caps)

Some conclusions & assumptions drawn from the above sample:
* Had I included the likes of the league cup (and the equivalent in other countries), I am sure numbers would be up. In particular United’s, under both SAF and LvG.
* Taking into account that LvG’s has had a lot of injuries and a “purposely” thin squad, his higher number of 10 is not much of a surprise
* In my overall results, there are a lot of 1 cap players across all teams and years, this is no real surprise. What did surprise me was that if Mourinho found himself a good youngster (a debate for another time), he would actually use them quite a bit. All the more surprising as the sample is from the leagues.
* The argument of home grown academy players is becoming more and more blurred. A number of players mentioned were bought it, and put straight into the 1st team. A lot were bought in and placed into the reserves. True academy players, like Marcus Rashford (I will admit to not knowing much of teams other than United, so happy to be corrected) do not feature all that much.
* Teams like the Class of 92 don’t come along all the often. United were particularly fortunate to keep them together for as long as they did.
* Similarly, Spurs are going through a purple patch of youth. Though only 2 would fit the criteria and would be worthy of a mention, Alli and Drier. But they also have Kane and Rose not too far out. Going to prove that teams like the current Spurs and the Class of 92 don’t come around that often.
* Mourinho’s use of youth is not all that bad, and when you consider that in the majority of cases he uses at least 2 consistently, I think that is all most supporters want. Throw in some chances for youth in the cups etc.

With time, I would love to look at this in a lot more detail (while not looking over my shoulder for my boss!), factor in all seasons / cups and factor in some other teams / managers to get a complete picture. Maybe someone else will take up the gauntlet?

Final conclusion, I don’t believe the “he doesn’t play youth” is as big a stick to beat Mourinho with as people really think.
Gavin, MUFC.


How do you solve a problem like Moreno?
Clearly there are a number of talking points regarding Liverpool this season – Benteke, Henderson’s future, Sturridge issues, who will stay and who will be sold etc… On a lot of these debates, much like everything else in football (And life), there is a large proportion ‘for’ or ‘against’ a particular side of whatever debate has formed (Unless that debate regards Wayne Rooney that is).

One of those debates concerns Alberto Moreno and it basically boils down to “We know he has quality but he is also suspect when called on defensively, thus; should we keep him or not?”. I think its fairly clear to anyone who has watched Liverpool a few times since his arrival that defending is not his, erm, strongpoint but it is also clear to those watching that he has a good number of things going for him – most notably his touch, technical ability, pace and tenacity. He is also quite young and thus this would give you hope that his defensive game can improve with experience and time.

However in the world of Premier League football, once you have spent over £10 million on a defender the minimum that you expect as a fan is for that particular player to be able to defend well and it’s big a problem if he can’t. But its not that Moreno cannot defend, in fact he has perfected what I would call the last-ditch-slide-tackle-from-behind and has utilized effectively it on many occasions, though admittedly this has drawn as much ire as it has admiration. And yes he has also been caught out numerous times and has made some decisions in the box that even David Blaine would be embarrassed by but those who were aware of Moreno before he signed for LFC would already have known about these unfortunate penchants and – whilst I love the man – Brendan Rodgers was not quite the kind of coach to shake these things out of him.

But even so, and perhaps even surprisingly so, since Klopp’s arrival Moreno seems to have held on to his spot (once fit) and with the managers renown for improving the defensive strengths of his players; there is potential there to mold a truly great fullback in my opinion. However that’s the hope for the future, provided he stays of course, but I cannot help but feel that there is a trick which Jurgen has missed in the meantime with Moreno, and considering another trait which has become synonymous with a Jurgen Klopp side over his career, which I will get to below, I am even more surprised that this trick hasn’t been wheeled out to date.

As most will know from watching Klopp’s Dortmund over the years, he has always liked his team to have pacey & tenacious wingers with good stamina that can press from the front but recover if needs be. Therefore considering my own description of Moreno above then you’ve probably guessed where I am going here…. Moreno as winger. He not only ticks the boxes of ‘Quick’, ‘Tenacious’, ‘Skillful’ and ‘Hard-working’ but he actually started out his footballing life as a winger. Granted, the one element of his game which has been categorically poor has been his delivery and indeed that particular aspect does more for the ‘against’ argument but there are several reasons for the ‘pro’ camp to put forward:

1. LFC do not have an established winger.
2. Moreno fits the criteria and has experience.
3. A lot of fans want Flanagan & Clyne in the side, this presents that opportunity.
4. Having played a defensive roll for the last 3-4 seasons, his defensive capabilities should actually be more astute than your average winger. Thus this should make the left-flank more solid in theory.
5. You put him in position where his strengths are best utilized and his weaknesses less punishable.

All in all I really think Moreno has a lot of quality but ultimately I cannot see a future for him at Liverpool unless his defensive game has a drastic upturn or his qualities are brought to the fore in a more attacking role in team. I also realise that it might only be a temporary solution until Jurgen gets his overhaul underway in the summer but beforehand he might do well to remember a certain one-time Premier League fullback who was utilized further forward and went on to great things…. Didn’t Jack Colback play left-back a couple of times?
(JonoB, Dublin, LFC)


Paul McShane: Jedi
You know when you’re watching a football player and you wonder ‘how has he gotten so far in his career?’. There are so many players who simply do not perform, go missing in games, look uninterested.

Below this category are those who are simply not good enough – who consistently make silly mistakes… make errors… lose the game for their team. But yet, but yet, they play at the top level of the game. Enter Paul McShane, mind-tricking his way into teams for a decade.

For ten years now, Paul McShane has played for Ireland. Ten years. Ten.

Granted he only has 32 caps. But each and every year he finds his way back into a squad here and there. And year after year he somehow some way shuffles his way into the team.

The Martin O’Neill era is the brightest we’ve had in many a year and right before an international tournament he decides ‘Maybe I’ll give McShane another go’. And then… two goals go in thanks to his abysmal defending. Paul McShane must be a Jedi. He must be.
Damo, Dublin, neck sore from head shaking.


Why are right backs more versatile than left backs?
Getting a bit tired of the is Rooney any good/can English people start liking their team debates, so I thought I’d come in with a different topic that came to me when I seen the story about Gibbs not being in the England squad because he’s in America.

There’s nobody in the English setup that can cover left back and centre back, actually there’s nobody qualified to represent England that can do both. England have always seemed to bring someone like Phil Jones to tournaments because players such as him can cover right back and centre back.

There seems to be dozens of players that can cover right back and centre back, but very few that can play on the opposite side of defence while also playing in the centre. Smalling, Ivanovic, Jones, Micah Richards, Eric Dier, Sergio Ramos, Howedes, Jerome Boateng to name just a few of those that I can think of off the top of my head that can play right back and in central defence. The list of players I can think of that can cover on the left and in the centre is restricted to Daley Blind and Marc Wilson. Maybe Jose Enrique at a push ,but I’m not sure if you could describe him as adequate in any position.

Would anyone else care to throw any other names into the hat, I can’t think of anyone else really?
Paddy(Ireland beat Germany too) Dublin


Twenty years of hurt
Your* excellent humorous take on the Anfield Rap today brought this thought bubbling back to the surface: The one thing I am glad about in the whole “football is being flushed down a toilet of money” tragi-comedy of the last twenty years or so is that having professional marketing departments has pretty much killed the team song – at least at club level.

However, it’s unfortunately clear that the national sides (and the competitions they so gloriously participate in) have not quite got the message that paying some pre-pubescent kid on Fiverr to write and produce a song for you will probably get you a better result than the “team building” exercise of cramming the full squad into a recording studio with some B-listers.

Which brings me to the real point – please, David and Frank, can you do the musical equivalent of breaking a metatarsal and somehow fail to re-release your “classic” with the lyrics changed to say “fifty years of hurt”? It was great at Euro ‘96, but the he twenty years of listening to that song at every major tournament since have soured the vibe somewhat…
Chris (*or do I say “our”, as a fellow mailbox contributor!), Manc


Jeremy Aves, I hope you feel cleansed after this.

If not, you have at least given us a good laugh this dreary Tuesday.

I was sceptical of the guest articles when suggested but they have (mostly) been great to date. Keep ’em coming!

Cormac, Galway


How Bulgarian football logic works

Prime examples of Bulgarian football logic based on recent games.

Bulgaria > Holland (2012)
Holland > England
England > Germany
Bulgaria > Germany
Bulgaria = World Champion (in reserv)

Bulgaria > Portugal
Portugal > Belgium
Belgium ranked No 1 by FIFA
Bulgaria should be ranked No 0 by FIFA

One last:
Vladimir Stoyanov saved everything from Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Thibaut Courtois
Stoyanov > Courtois
Stoyanov worth north of 73 million

Plamen (our football hysteria > yours)


Another Big Ron confession
This is weird. This is very weird.

It was (also) 2004, and I was a (similarly) starry eyed student gracing Birmingham University and but a few weeks after Mr Atkinson’s infamous remarks on Marcel Desailly.

A friend of ours had stumbled upon Big Ron’s number, from a friend, who had received it from his friend, who if I remember correctly, also happened to come across famous football phone numbers from time to time. Hmmm…..

We were a good few pints into a drinking session after football training and decided it would be a good idea to call up Ron and give him a gentle ribbing for said abuse.

It all started light-hearted enough:


“Erm, hello? Is that Ron?”


“How’s Marcel?”

“How’s Marseille?!”

“No, how’s Mar. Cel!”

*cue fits of laughter*

Then, things took a turn for the sour. One of our number, thought it right and proper to lob a torrid volley of invective down the phone: “Ron, you’re a f@cking racist, Ron!!”

Needless to say, we hastily ended the conversation and never spoke to Ron again.

Not sure it tops him potentially turning up at Spurs begging for a job, but still.

Big Game, Watford (I wonder if that agent’s still in work…)


Ian Hughes, Liverpool.

That just didn’t make my Tuesday. That made my entire week. Well done sir. Well done.
TX Bill (Lukaku for 50M? Laughing here) EFC


Cheeky Punt
Has Degsy’s column just morphed into his diary about pretending to be John Nicholson?

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