This is how it ends, not with a roar but a whimper… and is the England U21’s early exit the nation’s fault?
Whoosh, what was that? That was England U21’s stay at the European Championship, over pretty quickly wasn’t it?
Stuart Pearce deserves credit because at no point has he tried to defend the team. The most positive thing I heard him say was before the Italy game when he said that ‘form should give the players promise and pride’ coming into the tournament. He was right, it should have done, but promise is nothing if you don’t fulfil it. After the Norway game, when it was confirmed that England would need a plane ticket home rather than a hotel reservation for the knockout stage, Pearce told us ‘the players haven’t done themselves credit. You get what you deserve and that’s nothing’. It didn’t get better.
Team wise no one covered themselves in glory; Butland looked dodgy, Clyne looked impressive going forward not so much in defence, Jordan Henderson looked okay but will improve greatly if he is given a role to stick to, Shelvey could have done more, Ince is nowhere near as good as his club manager thinks and Zaha was a shadow of the lad we saw at Palace. Redmond deserves a pat on the back for stepping up a level and showing some spirit and Wisdom gave a display worthy of the captain’s armband he wore when he started against Israel.
Now all the players seem to want ‘Psycho’ to stay in charge, but they haven’t given him any reason to. The coaching and ideas from him either haven’t been good enough or the players have not listened. Those outside seem to be very sure that it’s because some eligible players were playing in meaningless senior friendlies rather than playing in this completion. Some point to the fact that teams like Norway include ‘senior’ players who can step up or down as required, for them the U21’s is not a punishment and it’s not slowing development, it’s gaining experience.
Pearce may well believe he has unfinished business with this squad, he may not want to leave the job on such a low but on the other hand he may just think the time is right to look at other offers and leave the titanic for someone else to steer.
Connor Wickham was in the newspaper this morning saying that he was aware the team had let the country down, on the contrary, I think no-one was really bothered and they wouldn’t have been until we had achieved a place in the knock out stages. I think people will think that the mathematics of we can win added to first team eliminated equals a sum the English football public have heard many times before. Danny Rose hit the nail on the head with his comments, “I don’t know why people automatically expect England to be contending for these competitions and winning them.” Yes people, it has taken years of phoning in the tournament performances and years of early departures and still we haven’t got the message? Still we expect better? How dare we! Gawwwwd!
Unrealistic expectations is perhaps what England does at senior level but at U21 level it was not unrealistic to expect qualification for the next stage, just because we haven’t won an important trophy since Noah built the ark it doesn’t mean the football fans of this country will stop expecting from our teams.
The players let themselves down, they know it, they have a manager who knows it, well, for now they do anyway.