Last Monday evening, prior to kick-off between England and Switzerland at St. Jacob Park in Basel, it was fair to say that expectations for the forthcoming Euro 2016 campaign – least yet the match about to be played – were bleak. So bleak that an England side once feared by most footballing nations were widely believed to be ever-likely to play for a draw. A draw, with few even considering that manager Roy Hodgson would field a bold, dangerous and attacking line-up.
Instead, we saw old ‘Woy’ field several young stars – most notably Fabian Delph and John Stones – in an attempt to dispel those pre-match predictions. He also placed Raheem Sterling in the intriguing central role that fans have been clamouring for and only resorted to bringing on the reliable yet uninspiring squad players of old – such as James Milner and Phil Jagielka – when his side had a lead to hold on to.
The result, as we all saw, was a 2-0 victory in the heart of Switzerland. But in truth it meant much more than that. At Wembley, just days prior, England had traipsed their way to a 1-0 win over Norway – watched by just 40,000 fans, which is an incredibly unenthusiastic attendance figure. The game left more questions about striker Wayne Rooney’s role as captain, the integration of youth players and the mood in the England camp than it did answer them, but they were answered in Basel – for now at least.
In Rooney’s post match comments, he essentially allured to the fact that the squad had prepared not so much for the Norway clash, but instead the Switzerland match. This was the correct thing to do. The recently appointed England skipper also revealed some days later that the team have begun to hold player meetings, where they review their own performances away from the coaches – in a bid to enhance the togetherness in the squad and to give everyone a chance to speak up. Again, another correct move.
For no matter how much the England squad – and management set-up – try to restore the fans’ faith that was lost following the disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign, it simply won’t happen any time soon.
What needs to happen in order for the fans to return their enthusiasm is for the England squad to go about their business, ensure early qualification to Euro 2016 and exhibit promise and progress, despite a relatively young pool of new stars taking to the squad.
When looking at the best odds – compiled and compared by Gambling Kingz – England are seventh-favourite to win the Euro 2016 competition in places (at a price of 14/1) but they certainly do not represent good value just yet. Their price of 2/7 to win qualification Group E looks a lot more likely circumstance and it is that initial target that England must focus on before anything else.
Much like with curbing the fans’ disappointment, it is a clear case of one step at a time for a new-look England side that has lost the fear it once instilled.