1. It's All About The Timing
1-0 down in Croatia. Against a team who have never lost a competitive game at home. With 21 minutes to go.
You can't say that there was anything wrong with the timing of Gary Neville's first international goal.
2. Formation Blues
I didn't really have any problem with Steve McClaren trying a 3-5-2 formation tonight. Not that I can think of a team, domestic or international, who have ever had any success using that line up, but then I can't recall an England team of recent vintage who have had success using any line up at all.
Might I suggest that England's problems lie not with the formation but the players.
England are guileless.
If Wayne Rooney is injured, suspended or distracted by Colleen's latest shopping spree, then it is impossible to see where a goal will come from. Francis Lampard is hamstrung by not having Claude Makelele to do all his defending and Steven Gerrard is hamstrung by having Francis Lampard meandering around next to him.
3. The Stats
Has anybody else been mystified by the ridiculously euphoric media reaction to the reign of Steve McClaren prior to this weekend? Here's an interesting little experiment. I have listed England's last 10 opponents below, with the result in parentheses and their current FIFA world ranking on the right.
Croatia (L) 24
Macedonia (D) 51
Andorra (W) 160
Greece (W) 22
Portugal (D) 9
Ecuador (W) 30
Sweden (D) 18
Trinidad & Tobago (W) 56
Paraguay (W) 21
Jamaica (W) 77
If we then take those rankings and apply them to the current English League you get the following run:
St Benedicts U12 (W)
Sheffield United (D)
Now if West Ham went on that particular run I'd be pleased enough I guess, but I don't think I'd be touting them to win the Premiership. Yet prior to the defeat in Zagreb, England were favourites to win Euro 2008. The phrase you're looking for is "mind-boggling".
In case you're interested, the only victory England have managed in recent memory over a team currently ranked in the top 20 is a streaky 2-1 win over Uruguay in March.
3. He Does Dance Like A Robot I Suppose
Applying the method above to Peter Crouch's goal record makes for interesting reading. The highest ranking team he has scored against is also Uruguay. Of his 11 goals, 8 have come against teams ranked lower than 50 in the world. You can't see me, but I am wearing a t-shirt saying "Unimpressed".
On the back it says "John Terry is NOT international class" but that is another column all together.
4. When Irish Eyes Are Weeping
As a Shark with Gaelic heritage I was fairly apopletic at the Republic of Ireland's performance in Cyprus this weekend. Would it be remiss of me to point out the following to Steve Staunton?
Goals conceded against a team of waiters with Paddy Kenny in goal : 5.
Goals conceded against a team of world class footballers with some bloke I've never heard of in goal : 1.
There is, perhaps, a lesson in there somewhere.
5. It's Hard To Find A Genuine Left Winger In England - Ask A Labour Voter
Does anyone else wonder if he had been born right footed, or indeed anywhere on mainland Europe, that Stewart Downing would not be a professional footballer?
I don't actually blame Downing for his continued appalling displays for England. It is the managers job to put players in the position best suited to their range of skills. For Steven Gerrard this is a free role, for Wayne Rooney it is in the hole between the midfield and striker. For Stewart Downing it is behind the confectionery counter at his local Odeon cinema.
6. And On To Your Questions
Many thanks to those of you have posted comments on the site. I welcome all feedback, except negative stuff or anything posted by the family of Michael Dawson.
You can leave messages by clicking on the link that says "o comments" and leave your questions or abuse there. I'll endeavour to answer anything I can.
First thanks then to "Overseas Iron" who posted the following:
a) Is the Argentinian/takeover situation more trouble than it's worth?
In short, no. I do not see how the addition of two world class players can be considered a negative. The real test here is for Pardew and his staff to alter our style of play sufficiently to incorporate Tevez and Mascherano successfully. Remember they have come from an Argentinian set up geared to keeping the ball for extended periods of time. Conversely, Premiership teams cough up possession incessantly, and at great pace, and that will presumably be something of a culture shock.
In respect of the takeover I concede it is unsettling for the fans, and probably the administrative staff, but given that our players are all employed on a contract basis and will be paid their wages irrespective of who owns the club I simply do not accept that it should have any detrimental affect on the teams performance. Sending out a back 4 who can best be described as "imaginary" will do, however.
b) With our new arrivals, what's the best midfield option/personnel?
Few Hammers fans would disagree that the best midfield foursome we could put out right now would be Face, Murdoch, Hannibal and BA Baracus.
On the off chance they're all injured I would settle for Etherington, Mascherano, Reo-Coker and Benayoun, although NRC has been well below par this year. In truth, Bowyer and Mullins have been far from our worst performers so far but I would always have Benayoun in my team, and I have faith that Mascherano will begin to impose himself on games shortly.
c) Is there a danger that loyal and effective servants to date will become disheartened at recent goings on at the Boleyn? (Mullins in particular)
This is a prescient question. The issue of morale has always seemed crucial to our continued success, something that is constantly proved by our ability to rescue seemingly lost causes. Of course I would argue that if we had better players we would not find ourselves behind so often and therefore might not need to rely on team spirit to such an extent.
However, were we to marginalise the previously central figures of Harewood, Mullins and Zamora before selling off Tevez and Mascherano it would be tough to imagine that wouldn't negatively impact the squad.
In short, as much as I love Hayden Mullins, I place my own happiness above his.......