The shortest managerial reign in England’s history came to it’s inevitable end this morning as Steve McLaren was unanimously fired by the FA.
Watching last night was a surreal mix between an extremely painful yet hilarious experience. All the time, while being gutted that we’d miss out next summer, I had that comforting feeling that at least McLaren hadn’t got away with it. This had been such a disaster from the start that we surely could not delude ourselves any longer.
Oh yes we could.
Steven Gerrard thinks we played well last night. David Beckham thinks we were unlucky, and most bizarrely, Frank Lampard was awarded man of the match when for the first half, I wasn’t sure whether he was even on the field.
It was the manner of the defeat that made the team a laughing stock, and provided a stark contrast with Croatia, who, although a decent side, are no world beaters. They passed effectively, kept possession, whereas half of the English side were struggling just to get the ball under control.
Bilic was animated, encouraging and instructing his players, while McLaren sat passively under an umbrella, watching cluelessly as his players imploded in front of him, playing a predictable and repeated game of ‘play a few simple passes on the halfway line, then lump it forward’.
England’s only hope now is that this will be looked back upon as a turning point, the moment at which the players realised they aren’t the world beaters they are made out to be, and the FA figured out that the game in this country is in turmoil. The Premiership is thriving, but at the lower levels, and the youth levels in particular, the wrong kind of teaching is taking place. In Spain, fifteen year olds have learnt to love the ball, wanting it and using it effectively. In England, those same players are taught to run around manically and get rid of the ball as soon as possible.
No doubt there will be an analysis of where it all went wrong, and after a couple of days of blaming McLaren and the players, the media will, as ever, convince themselves that the players are still awesomely talented and it is the fault of someone else. Probably the foreigners.
Until then, let’s hope that those Chelsea ‘superstars’ play as badly for their club as they did for their country last night. They weren’t alone, in fact only the much maligned Peter Crouch played respectably, but it is incredible to see them look so good most weeks and then so inept last night.
I’m just so glad none of those players are playing for Arsenal week in, week out. They simply aren’t good enough.