Friday 24 November 2017

Garreth Murphy: Why I’ll be supporting England tonight

England manager Roy Hodgson during a training session at the Estadio do Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
England manager Roy Hodgson during a training session at the Estadio do Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
England's team against Italy
Garreth Murphy

Garreth Murphy

I hope England beat Uruguay this evening and get out of their group. There, I’ve said it.

For years, I was resolutely against seeing England progress in major football tournaments. I delighted in watching them talking themselves up as potential World Cup/European champions before being ignominiously dumped out of the competition at the quarter-finals stage, usually on penalties.

It was the sheer bloody arrogance of them.

That they - and the English media - actually believed they had a divine right to win any competition they were in, despite not troubling the business end of things since 1996.

So what’s changed?

Well, the absence of John Terry and Ashley Cole in the squad certainly helps.

England boss Roy Hodgson is another big reason.

While his track record as Liverpool manager left a lot to be desired, he seems very well suited to the rigours of international football.

About as far removed from the stern Fabio Capello and that chancer Sven Goran Eriksson as possible, Hodgson appears to -whisper it - have a plan for his England team.

Hodgson knows his side are unlikely to win the World Cup and has resisted talking them up. If pushed, he’d probably argue that his best opportunity of international success may come in two years time at the Euros. But he’ll still give the World Cup a decent shot.

He's been adventurous with his squad and taken some young talents – Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, even Jordan Henderson. And he's letting them prove themselves. 

Unlike Goran Eriksson who appeared to include youth at the behest of the media, Hodgson actually wants to include them in his team.

With the honourable exception of a couple of squad members, this is a likeable group of players who want to do well but won’t spend their press conferences talking themselves up. At least to the watching public, there’s been no drama, no tantrums and no broken metatarsals to dominate before games.

I was in a pub on Saturday night to watch the game. At 11pm, I expected something of a charged atmosphere. But after the initial hostility towards England, the vast majority of the pub actually got behind them.

This was probably down to the fact that they played an adventurous blend (for them anyway) of attacking football – even if they defended with all the smarts of an under sevens side being introduced to the concept of offside for the first time.

Still, let’s not get carried away. If they get out of their group and make it as far as the quarter finals, I’ll be getting nervous. Then, I won’t be cheering too loudly.

God forbid, they actually win the bloody thing.

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