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England’s Allardyce passes first test but questions still linger over his suitability

12 September 2016 by

Sam Allardyce’s tenure as England boss started off with a drab and uninspiring performance, but nevertheless got the result expected from the trip to Trnava. Adam Lallana’s first international goal came in the 95th minute of the 4 minutes of stoppage time put on the 4th official’s board, a sign of how close it was to a very different slant taken by the press. Had it not been for Lallana’s conversion from inside the box, certainly the doom and gloom feel around the England national team would have continued. Taking into account the fact that Slovakia were down to 10 men for a fair chunk of the game after their captain Martin Skrtel was shown red. Granted a 0-0 draw with that performance would have been an improvement beyond belief compared to the 2-1 loss to Iceland, but that wouldn’t be saying much.

Last time these teams met at Euro 2016, England failed to penetrate too much with a lot of the play in front of the Slovakian backline which really couldn’t be avoided. The best chance came when the 3 lions hit back on the counter with Vardy, a rare occurrence in the game since Slovakia were quite happy with a 0-0 draw from the get-go. Although, you’ll recall that on that night in Saint Etienne that Hodgson made six changes that night despite the fact the group wasn’t settled which ultimately cost England. What you would expect on that night was Jack Wilshere as the best solution to the lack of cutting edge in the English attack but it wasn’t to be. Jack was performing as anticipated though since he only had 140 minutes of Premier League football last season. It comes to no surprise that Jack was left out of the England squad based on his form.

England’s pedestrian and sluggish play was evident in Trnava yet again which desperately needs addressing, however, what I fail to see is how Sam is the man to change that. I’m not going to be someone calling for his head right now but I was sceptical about his appointment, and still are but he does need plenty of time to implement how he wants to see his England side play. It isn’t going to be the long ball style that he is constantly portrayed as being but I think he will be the first to admit that his style of football isn’t exactly easy on the eye. He would call his style of play effective, needing to go the long ball route if need be which is a rational thing to do. Alex Ferguson always actively encouraged United to hoof the ball forward if they needed a goal in the last few minutes famously known as Fergie time.

By taking a look at the England squad and further pool of players there to select from (whilst pretty limited) you can clearly see on paper the strength is out attack and midfield. Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Fabian Delph were all left out of the Euro squad and yet when they’re on top form they could easily slot into the diamond formation or whatever formation Sam decides to play. They can all be an asset, and I emphasise the word ‘can’, that would either net a wonder goal or play in a killer pass that assists one of the top English strikers. As mentioned earlier, the English attack is great on paper. Harry Kane was the Premier League’s top scorer last season with 25 goals and Jamie Vardy came in at a close second with 24 goals. As well as this, Daniel Sturridge despite his injury problems has a better goal to game ratio than the aforementioned pair thus he is widely believed to be the most talented striker for England.

Why can’t these players score at international level?

Sam must get to the bottom of the problem of this with Harry Kane in particular who was by far the worst player at the Euros. Although, at least he isn’t taking corners anymore. Kane is a striker that, without the necessary support, just can’t score so in that respect he is similar to Darren Bent albeit Kane is an upgrade on the former Sunderland and Villa man. Kane at Spurs last season was vitalised, whereas at the Euros was lethargic and his confidence rock bottom. Nothing changed on Sunday. A huge part of Kane’s first class goal scoring form is his almost telepathic relationship with Dele Alli who has burst onto the international scene himself. Therefore, it seems incontestable that replicating that key relationship between the pair is essential if Allardyce is keen to maintain Kane as the starting forward in his side.

However, since Alli was left out of the starting eleven so it is uncertain whether the Spurs man is part of Allardyce’s plans. Another man who was left out was Marcus Rashford but he wasn’t even in the squad and yet with Rashford on the pitch would have changed the attacking impetus. On top of this, his hat-trick in his under 21s debut must surely make Sam reconsider his initial position on the youngster’s place in his squad.

Allardyce’s concerns about the lack of the player’s first team starts for Manchester United are understandable, but thus far he hasn’t needed the starts under his belt to possess this maturity and confidence. This is without taking into consideration the fact that this season Rashford to gain a starting place, he would have to overtake Ibrahimovic and Martial in the pecking order which is a rather uphill task if I say so myself. One could look at it from the view of whether you could honestly envisage either Kane, Vardy or Sturridge keeping the Man United strikers out of the team. As a result, it isn’t really a good enough reason to keep him out of the squad in this instance. Combine this with the fact that certainly Kane looks like he is knackered from all the football  he has played in the last 2 years, then Rashford’s energy and confidence is surely a no brainer to have in the side.

Let us not forget that this time last year he was barely even known to the average Machester United fan yet alone someone who follows the Premier League, and that a couple of months before the Euros Gareth Southgate was reluctant to include Marcus in his squad due to the fear of giving him too much exposure too soon. Yet despite that he has grew into every role he has been placed in since his first team debut for United, and doesn’t look out of place. His England debut where he netted in 2 minutes against the Aussies was another remarkable achievement for such a young man.

Some might argue that he is too young to take on such huge responsibility as England’s number one forward. Whilst I fully understand the good willed intention behind that point of view, I don’t see how it can apply to Rashford where the evidence shows he won’t falter. This is a key part of why I question Allardyce as England boss.

Big Sam was eager to bring back John Terry into the England setup, which shows what he is all about. He seems to be looking too far back to the past where he should be focusing on the future of the squad by nurturing this team of which Rashford should be a big part. It could be a situation similar to where Rooney impressed at Euro 2004 on the big stage or Michael Owen with the famous goal against Argentina in 1998. In order to grow as a player you need to be given the chances on a big stage, and just going back relying on the old guard doesn’t help anything but the here and now. Rashford is older than Owen and Rooney were at those points in their career. Sam has nothing to lose and neither does Rashford. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of player that would crumble if he were to fail at the first hurdle of this new responsibility of being England’s number 9.

England have hit rock bottom and it is now time to start building from the ground up a new team with the gem of Rashford as a focal point. Sam, be bold. There is everything to gain.

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