Top 10 England scapegoats for their now sadly inevitable Euro 2024 failure

Dave Tickner
Gareth Southgate, Kane, Foden and Trent with the England badge
Gareth Southgate, Kane, Foden and Trent with the England badge

It has sadly once again become clear that England will not in fact be winning this latest major tournament, Gareth Southgate’s men will yet again depart with their fraudulent over-ratedness yet again thoroughly exposed.

After a <checks notes> 1-0 win over Serbia that leaves England <double checks notes> languishing atop Group C, there is no doubt that we’re all going to find ourselves in as great a need as ever for scapegoats and sacrificial lambs to explain away this unacceptable catastrophe.

Luckily, we can obtain for you these animals.

Here are 10 of the absolute b**tards, which is arguably even more than actually necessary.


1) Gareth Southgate’s tactics/clothes
Obviously. You can’t hoodwink us with your performative sports-casual look, Gareth. It’s not making anyone play with greater freedom, not making anyone think you’re a fun guy. Bring back the waistcoats.

The Serbia game ended as so many others have before it with an hour of pure Southgate sufferball with all its stresses and uncertainties, once again rendered somehow even crueller by being preceded by half-an-hour in which England might not have exactly taken the breath away but had produced their trademark tantalising glimpses of just how very, very good they could be and very nearly are.

Jude Bellingham doing bits and getting hoofed repeatedly up in the air for his troubles – it’s a sign of respect, Jude, just a very sore one. Bukayo Saka terrorising left-backs. Declan Rice doing the work of three normal men. The defenders not tripping over their own shoelaces. All the pieces of the puzzle were there in those early stages before England apparently entirely forgot everything they know.

Plus he continues to be determinedly Southgate in always choosing the least exciting option from the bench. Even when it works it’s annoying. Jarrod Bowen and Conor Gallagher both did exactly the jobs they were tasked with against Serbia: Gallagher running around like a maniac getting a foot in wherever he could, and Bowen essentially playing like an overpowered right wing-back.

Meanwhile, all the more fun and exciting players remained unused and ignored on the bench. Southgate is approaching ‘wrong even when he’s right’ territory here and there’s no way back from that.


2) Harry Kane’s identity crisis
He didn’t do anything, did he? Apart from not score a header, give the ball away uncharacteristically a couple of times and get fouled a bit.

There was a great bit from Alan Shearer on co-commentary. Here, obviously, is a man who knows his striking onions, and he was urging Kane to stay forward and not drop deep despite being very good at doing just that.

Two minutes later, Kane dropped deep, actually held it up quite well and won a free-kick, and Shearer went “That’s better, that’s what England need from him” despite it actually being the exact opposite of what he’d asked for two minutes earlier.

We’re also delighted to report that Kane Position For England Discourse has now come full-circle thanks to Jamie Carragher insisting repurposing Kane as a Haaland Lite as they did in the first half against Serbia is not at all what England need.

But we sort of get it, because what Shearer and Carragher both really meant is that what England need from Kane is for him to be doing something that helps the team and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t actually matter where he does those things given his absurd array of skills and the players around him in England’s attack. If he and England are playing well, he can and will pop up anywhere to significant effect.

We are also, if anyone’s interested, very willing to buy in to the conspiracy theory that Kane’s injury problems that limited his involvement for Bayern at the back end of the season are more serious than he or the England camp have been letting on.

It would explain his apparent inability to really do any running at all and also Southgate’s out-of-character decision to include two other pure strikers as back-up in his 26-man squad.

And we’ve not even got started on The Curse here.

👉 England Clamour Rankings: Anthony Gordon offers Trent and Foden solution
👉 Harry Kane the new Erling Haaland for England? And that’s a *bad* thing?
👉 Jude Bellingham’s England (just) beat Serbia: 16 Conclusions on an unnecessarily nervy opener


3) Trent Alexander-Arnold’s positional crisis
The thing about right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is that he is not a midfielder, he is a right-back. Everyone desperately wants him to be a midfielder because it would really help England out an awful lot if he were a midfielder because we don’t really have enough good ones. We thought we had one and then it turned out he was just too good at it and was in fact actually a No. 10. Annoying.

We don’t want to be too critical of Alexander-Arnold, because he is being asked to play out of position in international football alongside team-mates he will, by definition, get limited time to work with.

Learning to play intuitively alongside team-mates you get little time with is already one of the harder elements of the international game; doing so as a starter out of position is a whole other level.

People far cleverer than us continue to insist it is in fact his position but we still don’t get it. What TAA is, is a fantastically talented footballer with a wide range of skills and a kind of curiosity that leads him to unusual and interesting areas of the pitch, to often startlingly wonderful effect. But all of those things have happened almost exclusively in the red of Liverpool rather than the white of England.

Again, that’s not really Trent’s fault. For one, he’s played his whole Liverpool career under one of the best and most imaginative coaches of the age, one who has helped craft Alexander-Arnold into this precise player.

We continue to believe that his best and most eye-catching work in midfield happens when he pops up there unexpectedly and still, after all these years, confusingly for opponents from a nominal starting position on the right. What Liverpool have always been good at is making this a deliberate tactic, with someone in midfield always on hand to drop in and cover when Trent goes walkabout. It’s very clearly a big enough strength for that to be worth Liverpool’s while.

Far harder to devote the training-ground time necessary to that sort of unorthodoxy in international football where all that time is so very precious. So we end up with a similar kind of problem in reverse.

His best work occurs in midfield, so Southgate puts him there in large part due to a dearth of alternatives. Except now he’s where opponents expect him to be and is ineffective there.

His eye-catching work now happens when he turns up on the right as a mischief-maker between the attacking lines of Kyle Walker and Bukayo Saka. That’s lovely, except now there is a huge gap in midfield, because a central midfielder really does require a bit more positional structure than a right-back.

Which brings us all back to the initial point, one that appears to be both symptom and cause: Trent Alexander-Arnold is not a midfielder. You can’t just give someone the No. 8 shirt and have it happen by magic.

MAILBOX: Jude Bellingham and his ‘hero balls’ not even England’s best player


4) Phil Foden’s lack of conviction
Wanting Alexander-Arnold to be a midfielder appears to be an understandable if distinctly wishful-thinking-stained desire to find a solution to a problem while simultaneously getting as many of England’s best footballers on the pitch at once.

The Foden Problem is similar, but not identical. For one, there really is no reason at all why it shouldn’t work. He’s perfectly capable of operating from the left, of influencing games from there, of being a brilliant international footballer from there.

It may not be his A1 preferred starting position, but nor is it one alien or distantly removed from what is. He can absolutely do this, but for England he really quite alarmingly often doesn’t.

It’s frustrating because there’s a clear fluidity to his and Bellingham’s roles in the team that should also help, another point of difference to the more rigid requirements of the midfielders behind them.

But the most significant difference is that there really are other, varied and really very appealing solutions on the left. England absolutely can and very arguably should turn to the touchline-hugging pace of Anthony Gordon or the fleet-footed trickery of Eberechi Eze. If not from the start of games, then certainly far earlier than ‘Never at all, actually’ if it isn’t working.


5) Declan Rice being just one man
If Declan Rice really cared about England’s chances at this tournament then he would have by now somehow worked out how to be more than one person and to be in two places at once.

Rice making this small if triflingly impossible change would, at a stroke, solve so many of England’s problems. Yet he continues to point-blank refuse to break the laws of physics and man in order to give us a slightly better chance of winning major tournaments.

Too much to call this a major character flaw on Rice’s part? Not for us to say, but it does make you think twice about the calibre of the man.


6) Manchester City
Everything is their fault anyway, isn’t it? England not winning the Euros might as well be added to the list. They’ve broken Jack Grealish, they’ve hogged all the good Phil Foden for themselves, which is very on-brand of them indeed, they’ve got Southgate thinking Kane should be more like Erling Haaland and thoroughly poisoned the entirety of football discourse both online and off.

Pack of pricks.


7) The Fans
Yeah, that’s right. You’re on the sh*tlist. Always one extreme or the other with you lot, isn’t it? Always either the best group of players we’ve ever had or a gaggle of useless overpaid bastards disgracing the shirt, aren’t they?

Always either the best team in the world or the worst team in the world according to you clowns, even though the self-evident truth is England are demonstrably neither and almost never, ever have been.


8) The Media
Yeah, that’s right. We’re on the sh*tlist. Always one extreme or the other with us lot, isn’t it? Always either the best group of players we’ve ever had or a gaggle of useless overpaid bastards disgracing the shirt, aren’t they?

Always either the best team in the world or the worst team in the world according to us clowns, even though the self-evident truth is England are demonstrably neither and almost never, ever have been.


9) Three Lions
Look, we know. Okay? We know. We know it’s ironic, you know it’s ironic. But the simple fact is that around the rest of the world England may well be known for irony but they are better known for arrogance. And that is therefore the interpretation pretty much everyone else in the world goes for and then deploys to motivational benefit when facing this arrogant set of tugnuts who think it’s coming home.

Is it ridiculous to blame a harmless slice of mid-90s Britpop Lad whimsy for England’s continued and ongoing tournament woes? Answer must, sadly, be no. It is in fact entirely sane.

Also, we’ve just realised that when England’s inevitable humiliating miserable failure at this tournament is rubberstamped then all attention turns to the 2026 World Cup, an event which is as far removed from Three Lions and Euro 96 as Three Lions and Euro 96 are from the 1966 World Cup. And we are very simply not remotely prepared or willing or able to quite process all of that at this time.


10) Other countries
Germany are good again. France have stopped doing that brilliantly entertaining thing they used to do of just completely and inexplicably imploding in a cloud of infighting while crashing out at the group stage once every three tournaments. Spain have stopped passing themselves to tiki-taka death and have young and fun wide players now. Portugal have unfathomable depth and Cristiano Ronaldo’s last hurrah.

Just once, it would be nice if all those countries could agree to be rubbish at the same time and give England a chance. Well, another one, because we kind of bollocksed it up a bit in 2021.

READ: Euro 2024 Power Rankings