As Roy Hodgson looked over the burning ashes of England’s Euro 2016 campaign; the Stade de Nice resembled King’s Landing’s Sept of Baelor. Its smouldering wreck will affect and horrify English generations to come. He and King Tommen were one in their course of action, it was time to jump before being pushed. Unlike the boy king, Roy Hodgson was fully to blame for his sides combustion under the pressure of the Icelandic wildfire. There was no naivety in passing off leadership responsibility to someone with a crazy plan, and no entrusting any maniacal preachers with team duties. Hodgson has failed in his management of the most promising and European side of the last decade. Roy fought valiantly, he fought nobly, he fought honourably, and despite this his team died. Suffering a very embarrassing and public Nordic execution.
Roy has a quiet and noble demeanour, which in itself is not a bad thing. But it is a personality type which has influenced England’s play in France. The Three Lions, in comparison with Iceland, were too nice. Antonio Conte and Italy, along with England’s heart-breakers Iceland, have shown in their performances and attitude that a cut-throat passionate fighting spirit can vanquish much more fancied foes. Organisation, sheer will power, and drive can overcome even the most talented sides. At no point during the Iceland game did England show the anger and the urge to remain in the competition. With an “if only” that many Brexit remain non-voters can understand, the England national team will wish they had punched, kicked and spat their way through their round of 16 game. Rather than looking back on an early exit with nothing more that a raised voice and an air of disappointed expectancy, the English public had demanded more, expected more, and ultimately the result had hurt more.
Public Enemy Number One
Many English fans will feel that a quiet press conference in Nice is not enough punishment for Roy Hodgson. In one ninety-minute match the former Fulham manager has caused more English torment than William Wallace, the Scottish Mel Gibson lookalike who was hung drawn and quartered in 1305 by King Edward I. The English football media in all their mercy may be looking for a similar punishment for Hodgson, whose tactics and team selection drew the ire of many a football pundit.
If you were looking to be more creative with your chosen punishment one could force Roy to watch the second half performance versus Iceland on an infinite loop until all his sanity is lost. Once was bad enough. After ten viewings most Englishmen would be scratching ‘Marcus Rashford after 87 minutes? ‘Jack Wilshere at half-time?’, into the padded walls of their new asylum home. Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson, fantasizing about cruel and unusual punishments for the former manager is not an unrealistic reaction. It was his fault, and England fans have the right to feel aggrieved with the performances in France.
What went wrong for England?
Gabrielle Marcotti insisted to the Scottish Herald over a week ago that England were playing a more European style of play, but that it’s lack of cutting edge was a worry. He was correct in his analysis. England, despite dominating many games in the same ilk as Spain and Germany with possession-based football, looked horribly short of ideas. Every team England faced was more Diego Simeone than Pep Guardiola in its tactical style. 10 men behind the ball and cut throat on the counter attack. England had little to no answers for such a dogged and aggressive style of play. Most efforts on goal were wayward, England as at the end of the Round of 16 had the least successful attempts on goal of all countries at the finals and the most blocked shots. Some have put forward the suggestion that Hodgson’s England would have performed more admirably against more open and expansive sides. This is a fallacy: the English National Team should be beating Wales, Slovakia, Russia, and Iceland. The failure to register victories in 3 of these 4 games comes down to a number of factors.
Firstly, England under Hodgson in 2016 have been bereft of an identity. No-one in the England camp knows the best team to play, the promise of not shoehorning players into the side, or selecting players who were fully fit, fell by the wayside as soon as Jack Wilshere stepped on the plane to Chantilly. Team selection has been clumsy, sporadic, and illogical. With so many players being unsure of their role and purpose in the side an air of confusion and flimsy team spirit were undoubted repercussions.
Secondly, you can break down the players put on the park by Roy Hodgson, but in the end the players are the ones who have to do a job. During the second half of the Iceland game there was clearly a lack of leadership from the players. There was no plan B or C. Players were ineffective in the roles they were given, but there was a lack of effort and invention from the team itself. Much like the Wildlings to Jon Snow in the Battle for Winterfell, looking at a leader lacking ideas, they were incapable of winning themselves. England did not have the Knights of the Vale to ride to their rescue when the Nordic forces had them in a chokehold.
Thirdly and finally, teams love to beat England. The success of the English Premier League worldwide means every English player is a household name. Teams like Slovakia and Iceland will watch players like Rooney and dream of beating them. This fulfillment of a dream always looks possible for limited teams against England at major tournaments. If you can give 110% and get a victory to tell your Grandchildren about with the right preparation and input why wouldn’t you? England don’t appear to have the psychological strength to face players who are in this kind of mood.
England have the potential to be world-beaters, but the world will try it’s best to beat England. They will now search for a new manager to take them forward towards the Auld Enemy in September. Will it be the U.S‘s Jurgen Klinsmann? Or the u21’s Gareth Southgate? The FA, who often resemble some form of Spectre style shadow organisation, will now initiate the much maligned process of selecting the new gaffer. Regardless of who they select to move forward with.
It may be a poisoned chalice, it may be a dream job. Whoever takes over from Roy Hodgson has a major task on their hand.