England Women’s Geordie Spirit Shows Where Men Are Going Wrong

As England U21s crashed pathetically out of yet another tournament much like the full squad in Brazil last summer without as much as a whimper, the question in Newcastle is, again, why aren’t any Geordies selected at international level?

By contrast, watching Lucy Bronze score a second-half Alan Shearer-esque screamer to add to Steph Houghton’s headed equalizer to send England through victorious against Norway in the Canada Women’s World Cup was a proud moment for the North-East of England with both ladies hailing from the region.

If Bronze is the sensational relative newcomer to the world stage then Houghton is the established big name, the England and Manchester City ladies superstar who is one of the household names of the tournament and a poster girl for women’s football.

Commanding” is how the England captain describes herself, and she is certainly that on and off the pitch and it was no surprise to see her head in the vital equalizer that dragged England back into the game against Norway.

The Lionesses face Canada on Saturday next in the Quarter Final, a stage England’s men’s teams can only dream about having been knocked out in the group stages in 2014, saved the fate of an ignominious and humiliating knock-out in the manner of their Round of 16 defeat against Germany in 2010 in South Africa.

Yet the importance of  the fighting spirit of Bronze and Houghton to England Women who, intriguingly, face a Geordie coach John Herdman in charge of Canada on Saturday begs the question: why aren’t Geordies being selected for England and England U21 men’s teams?

Whenever the England national team of any gender has done anything in football there has been a strong Geordie current running through the team.

Think 1966 and the Three Lions side that actually won England the World Cup – the Charlton brothers Jack and Bobby from Ashington were key men, one the tough stopper at the back and the other the free-scoring play-maker in attack.

Fast forward to 1986 and 1990 when Sir Bobby Robson, a Geordie Manager from County Durham led England to successive Quarter Finals and Semi-Finals at Mexico ’86 and Italy ’90 – to lose via a cheated handball goal then penalties respectively – with Geordies Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and later the flamboyant Paul Gascoigne in the team.

Or 1996 when Gazza and Alan Shearer’s goals blasted England to the Semi-Finals of Euro ’96 and the brink of glory before repeating his goalscoring at every major tournament he appeared at scoring winners against Germany and the rest.

Where are the current Geordies in the England set-up?

Michael Carrick when fit is the only one who gets near a senior team that includes Liverpool’s influential Sunderland-born Jordan Henderson as the only northerner despite the likes of Andy Carroll striking fear and goals into the opposition as he did at Euro 2012.

Both at full international level and U21 level, there is an alarming lack of Northern presence especially physical and its to the great detriment of the national teams.

Geordies bring a power, tenacity, backbone and will to win that is simply lacking at the moment in England football’s DNA.

Jack Colback has these qualities in spades and was one of the outstanding midfielders in The Premier League last season in a struggling Newcastle team yet after getting injured on an early England squad call-up, was never called on again despite dominating the midfield standings.

Players like Fabian Delph do a job against Slovenia and co yet when the big teams like Italy come calling are hopelessly out of their depth and barely get a kick.

It was the same at the World Cup in Brazil when England were bullied out of the tournament against Uruguay, masters of the dark arts and a team of tough, experienced, wily South Americans who saw England coming.

Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge in particular were anonymous and were pushed off the ball and the latter has barely been seen since in a meaningful capacity on a football pitch since.

Wayne Rooney actually remarked after the tournament that England need “to be a bit more streetwise” in their approach.

This naivety and anonymity at the highest level rather than standing up and being counted when it really counts is a recurring trait.

The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel compared Danny Welbeck’s great qualifying scoring record for England to cleaning up against League Two standard opposition while struggling in The Champions League and against England’s top sides.

In contrast, Jack Colback was at his competitive best alongside Cheick Tiote against the likes of Chelsea when the Magpies ended the run of Jose’s prematurely-hailed ‘Invincibles’ at St James’ Park and helping Newcastle to their first win at The Etihad in 12 attempts.

Paul Dummett was superb and Steven Taylor a magnificent rock at the back until his red card in a side that contained five Geordies at one point who managed to beat the eventual Champions including sub keeper Jak Alnwick.

There were four Geordies when Newcastle beat Manchester City away 2-0 in The League Cup as well – Dummett, Colback, Adam Armstrong and substitute Sammy Ameobi – to secure a famous victory against the holders.

18 year-old Armstrong is the next great Geordie hope having guided England U17s to a successful European Championship campaign in 2014 and currently has 9 in 9 for the U18s yet will he fall off England’s radar like Shola Ameobi did despite still being England U21s 8th top all-time top scorer and scoring everywhere from Newcastle to The Nou Camp?

Sammy Ameobi at 23 years old and a 6ft 4in left-footed winger was eligible to play for England U21s yet the man who set up the first goal in that Chelsea win and scored an equaliser at White Hart Lane to set up a win over Spurs wasn’t even considered and is considering Nigeria.

England will miss a real trick with both Dummett and Ameobi if they don’t realize they have the character and class England need and select players with 40 and 50 Premier League games under their belts before they play competitive matches for Wales and Nigeria respectively.

There are few more unforgiving places than Newcastle to grow up and try and become a professional footballer – the few who make it all the way are a hardy bunch both physically and mentally and have to be to perform week in week out in front of a demanding 50,000+ crowd.

Geordies have rightly got a reputation for being tough and knowing the score on and off the pitch and sadly, England’s current naive schoolboy approach copying off other recently successful nations is failing miserably.

SKY reported England U21’s dominance of stats against Italy last night yet there is only one statistic that truly matters – goals – and England were well-beaten 3-1 with a late consolation.

Time to realise international football is not tiddleywinks on grass and rip up the current tippy-tappy model and play strong, effective teams with combative leaders with true Geordie spirit.

Stop spending millions trying to reinvent the game and start picking Geordies so headlines like Bronze striking Gold for England aren’t limited to the women’s game, which seems to possess the nous to know what it takes to win, and have English football recover its Northern Soul.