Southgate You’re The One
In what are increasingly divisive times, England's softly-spoken sweetheart is a shining beacon of pride and joy. The waistcoat-wearing wizard has been lauded no end for his reluctance to stray from his well-trodden, strongly principled pathway.
In all departments, from tactical philosophy of playing out from the back to the strict policy of prioritising youth wherever possible, Southgate really is “the one” in the eyes of England's followers. But after such an enthralling adventure at Russia 2018, the praise that came radiating from us beer-bellied brethren was inevitable. Keeping his legion of players happy is a far tougher task.
There is now an expectation that the FA bring only ‘good global citizens’ through to represent the nation at the senior level. While it all sounds a bit fluffy, the Three Lions have become a model for how to develop a generation of hard-working, highly-motivated athletes. In practice, it means if you’re not on best behaviour when travelling to tournaments, acting respectfully as an ambassador, then you’re not getting the call-up.
You can’t underestimate the feel-good factor Gareth's unerring positivity gives the squad. An England team hasn’t shown this much promise since Gazza managed six weeks of the sauce in 1999.
But these Churchillian attributes Southgate possesses could be his undoing. With the absolute shit-storm going on in Westminster, it’s only a matter of time until a higher office than the fandangle Football Association comes calling.
Ox Back in the Box
For most of us, it doesn’t get much better than memories of watching the 2018 World Cup outside on a big screen somewhere with beer flying all over the gaff. Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It’s safe to say he was pretty choked up to see his team tearing it up in Russia and having England’s joint second-best World Cup ever. He should have been there but was left at home because of the horrific knee injury he'd suffered just before. Now 18 months since his last appearance in an England shirt, the Ox is again in contention for a starting spot.
He’s impressed for Liverpool so far this season and Southgate will be keen to reward his long-standing commitment to the national side, having scored four under the head-honcho whist in the under 21 set-up. The likeable lad has universal appeal, certainly in parts of North London and Liverpool. His six senior England goal have surely helped his case in that regard, as has the fact he and his father, Mark, are the only father-son combination to score for England.
That is the face of somebody who enjoys playing for England more than life itself.
Sancho’s Coming Home
To describe the development this young whiz-kid has enjoyed since swapping Manchester for Dortmund as ‘phenomenal’ would be undercooking it. Last season he netted 12 goals and set up 14 for BVB and was rightly rewarded with a £180,000/week contract. This term has so far gone to plan too, having a hand in five goals in the five games he’s played.
And so what can we expect from this weekend’s homecoming? Sancho must relish these Euro 2020 qualifiers, a huge window of opportunity to showcase his unbelievable teckers on his own patch to his own people. It’s surely only a matter of time before he pops his international cherry and scores in an England shirt.
Despite finally getting shot of his August duck, all is apparently not well in the world of Harry Kane, or so the mainstream media would have you believe. Considering England’s skipper already has three goals in his first four games for Spurs this season, this humdrum negative spiel is what is known in the media world as ‘complete and utter hogwash’.
That said, there has been a noticeable change in Kane’s style of play and this has likely been the catalyst for recent criticisms. The amount of tackles England’s boy wonder is making per 90 minutes has dropped off a cliff. He is currently sticking a foot in just once every three matches, which isn’t ideal for the high pressing, high-intensity tactics that Uncle Gareth is so fond of.
The rush to depict Kane as undercooked and overworked doesn’t take account of the simple fact that he was forced to miss the whole month of May last season after charging into an utterly pointless tackle against Man City. The try-hard has no doubt been instructed to reign it in a bit this year.
Kane's agonisingly unneccessary undoing.
England Can’t Lose
Some things in life are inherently questionable. England’s record against Bulgaria is not one of them. In ten matches since 1962, England have never lost a match to the Eastern Europeans, drawing four times.
An awful lot has changed since Jermaine Defoe banged in that hat trick the last time these nations met at Wembley as England won 4-0. The other goal scorer that night was one Adam Johnson but we feel almost adulterous to utter his name in the same sentence as diminutive Defoe.
If you listen to Tyrone Mings speak and have anything less than utmost admiration for him then you are frankly a bad person. There is lots to like about this mop-haired maestro, from his love of public transport to his humble beginnings playing non-league football.
Mings was picked up by Southampton’s academy as a schoolboy but was unceremoniously dropped at the age of 16 for being too scrawny. Now the hulking 6ft5in centre half could make his England debut against Kosovo on Tuesday at St Mary’s of all places.
Despite insisting he hold no grudge against those bedevilling Saints, it would be quite a redemption song for dear old Mingsy. If that means he has to sit out the Bulgaria game for the meantime, so be it.