ASSET: The pace and trickery of Andros Townsend could have been of benefit at Euro 2016
IT HAS become a national pastime to be disappointed with England at international tournaments, so much so that being optimistic about the Three Lions’ chances feels pretty ironic.
Can England pull off a Leicester and negotiate potentially another six games in France to win their first trophy since 1966? No. And the comparison to Leicester is unfair - the Foxes won a marathon over 38 games; put England in a league with 19 of the best teams in the world and Roy’s boys would be mid-table at best. The Everton of international football - promising so much but delivering very little.
Why pick on Adam Lallana? A bit harsh, you might say. Well he’s a decent player, comfortable on the ball, has some tidy skills, can make a pass and score the odd goal. Yet it’s what he represents that is the problem: Roy Hodgson’s baffling favouritism.
Lallana shouldn’t be anywhere near this England squad. Since moving to Liverpool, he’s done very little to show he’s international calibre, and when playing for England he offers little pen- etration and becomes an expert in giving the ball away.
UP TO THE TASK?: Adam Lallana (left) with Daniel Sturridge
But Hodgson sticks with him. Perhaps he’s a great trainer, an inspiring influence in the dressing room and a beguiling conversationalist, with whom the manager can whittle away the wee hours.
You see it elsewhere in the team - the decision to pick semi fit Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson, while leaving out Danny Drinkwater, smacked of favouritism and is likely to harm the team’s chances of success. Furthermore, selecting only three established centre-backs, not including the versatile Eric Dier, appears naive at best.
It’s not fair to blame Lallana, he tried his best, and he could still have a great tournament. It’s just that someone like Andros Townsend really should have gone in his place.
The Newcastle winger possesses talents few others in the squad have, chiefly the ability to beat a man one-on-one and make his own goals, cutting in from the right. He was doing it for an abysmal Newcastle side destined for relegation, and the full-backs of Germany and France would much rather deal with Lallana than the trickery and pace of Townsend.
It’s Hodgson’s fault then, right? Not exactly, because the FA stuck with him despite the disastrous World Cup two years ago in Brazil when England failed to progress beyond the group stage.
He has his qualities, such as trusting in young talent like taking Marcus Rashford to France, but his inability to see past his favourites seriously hampers the maximum potential of this talented group of players being realised.
Lallana should not be at the Euros, Rooney should not be an automatic starter, and three semi fit players (including Daniel Sturridge) should not be included in the squad.
There is a fine line between success and failure in knock-out competitions, with luck having a huge part to play, and the Three Lions’ boss has managed to tip the odds against himself and his squad.
Hopefully he will have an epiphany after employing tactics to accommodate his favourites, but it seems unlikely. It’s better to prepare for more disappointment because the writing was on the wall when Lallana’s name appeared in the final