The current crop of England stars is as good as it gets in many respects. Not only has Gareth Southgate got the best players at his disposal, but he has a group that feed off that togetherness feeling; that feeling every team should have where egos are put to one side to fight for one cause. If you cast your minds back to England’s golden generation of the past, it’s fair to say you wouldn’t see them spending their past times riding inflatable unicorns together. Yet here we are, whether it’s England’s best player or a third choice goalkeeper, everyone is pushing for the same goal.
For the first time, club rivalries have been put aside within the England camp, we’ve got Harry Kane hugging Bukayo Saka and Luke Shaw providing the goals for Raheem Sterling. And that’s the difference. Back in the Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes days, you couldn’t shake the feeling of bitter rivalry between the two, even at the international stage. That’s why they failed; why that gold soon turned to dust. This current group, however, are unlikely to make the same mistake.
Gareth Southgate deserves credit for that. He has found the perfect balance in his starting 11 despite storms of criticism. Unlike previous managers, he has not been caught in that storm. Instead, he just seems to shrug his shoulders, remember who he is and get on with it.
The Key Difference in England’s Golden Generation at Euro 2020
Time to Respect Gareth Southgate
‘He isn’t good enough for the job,’ they said. ‘He is too boring and he can’t do it in big games,’ they said. A win over Germany and a smashing of Ukraine later and Gareth Southgate and England are in the Semi-Finals having proved any remaining doubters wrong. So stop criticising him, you’ll only look a fool. Instead, if a supporter, well, it’s in the job title, simply support.
Southgate has managed every game to perfection, changing his system when necessary, adapting for victory, almost flexing his tactical muscles. Against Germany, it was a back five to counter their threat. Then against Ukraine it was once again a back four with a license to score goal after goal. In an attacking system, when even Jordan Henderson is getting in on the act, you know it’s come good.
Against Denmark, it could be a totally different system altogether. It may even be Kieran Tripper at left-back, can you imagine that? No matter what it is, however, Southgate has done more than enough to earn our trust.
Harry Maguire is Quickly Becoming England’s Most Important Player Amongst a Golden Generation
England’s latest golden generation is full of world class stars, that’s undebatable, but it is Harry Maguire who is becoming the most irreplaceable. Whether that’s because of England’s lack of extensive talent in that position compared to others or the defender’s sheer ability, we are yet to find out. One thing we do know is that he is the most important, no matter which way you look at it.
Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw. They can all be replaced by other top players in the England camp. Even John Stones, Maguire’s partner, can be replaced. The qualities he has are not too dissimilar to Ben White. The Brighton man isn’t quite at Stones’ level, but it wouldn’t spark disaster if he was forced to come in.
Without Maguire in the big games, England would struggle. They would miss his aerial threat in both boxes, his leadership to combine with his unmatched passing range from the back amongst the England camp. Against low blocks, especially, they would miss the way he brings the ball out from the back, taking the opposition’s press out of the game.
Some will argue that Tyron Mings is a similar enough player, but he lacks everything but an aerial presence compared to Maguire. The Manchester United man is the final piece of the silverware puzzle.
Unity is England’s Greatest Strength
Whether playing water polo or riding inflatable unicorns, at times, the England camp looks like one big lads holiday in the best way possible. They know how to sit back; how to take their foot off the pedal; there is a feeling that they genuinely love being around each other, they care for one another. For the first time, club badges have been handed in at the door.
The phrase ‘unity is strength’ has never been so true as we look on as the Three Lions conquer what was previously impossible and as we, the fans, continue to belt out those three magic words. It’s coming home.
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