England On The Brink Of Greatness
The nation is gripped as the national team are on the brink of reaching their second ever World Cup Final after seeing off Sweden in the quarter finals.
Little was expected of England in Russia this summer. The build up to the World Cup was slow and laboured as if another disappointment was on the cards but this group of players have something about them.
That has everything to do with Gareth Southgate. A manager whose appointment was a quick fix following the short tenure of Sam Allardyce. Perhaps that short term fix and the way it came about was a blessing in disguise.
Born in Watford, Southgate began his career in South London and made his first team debut for Palace in 1988. He went on to play for Aston Villa and Middsbrough as well as earning a number of international caps with England.
Southgate’s first and only experience as a club manager was at Boro before taking on the England under 21 side in 2013. It is with that group of players that has clearly stood him in good stead, and something he has made a real connection with since taking on managing the full England side.
Guiding the side through what was a seemless qualification for the finals, Southgate has stuck by his ethics and ideals. There is a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in build up to games, players know exactly what they are coming up against, and what their opponents had for breakfast most likely!
More than that though, along the way there have been difficult decisions to be made and Southgate has chosen to hit them head on. The disposal of Wayne Rooney from the squad swiftly followed by the decisions not to select Joe Hart and Jack Wilshire for the tournament have been vindicated. The reaction of the latter on social media said an awful lot, this squad was rid of any ego and club rivalry which was something Southgate had eluded to being a problem when he was playing for his country.
This squad of players clearly enjoy each others company which is a vital part of being away from home for any stretch of time. They enjoy playing football and without fear which is paying dividends. The belief is there even for such an inexperienced group of players at this level.
So many things have contributed to England being World Cup semi finalists – by the way, that has a fantastic ring to it, right?
It is fully deserved for each and every person involved in this England set up. Questions were ready to be asked after playing a weakened team in the final group game against Belgium, but England now find themselves just one game away from the World Cup Final.
A few will recall 1966, some of us will remember 1990, plenty more would have been too young or not even born for that last semi final appearance. It has been 28 years since that night in Turin which ended in penalties and tears. The class of 2018 have a huge chance of bannishing that memory and to make their own mark on football history in this country.
The bandwagon that was rolling through the country, slowly at first, is now well up to top speed with World Cup fever gripping the nation more with every game that passes.
Could it be really be coming home? It really could be …