There's one way to avoid a repeat of the Israel debacle. Score goals.
I want to lay all the blame for England's problems, mainly the 1 goal in the last 5 outings, at the feet of Steve McClaren, who in any event hasn't helped himself. That'd be easiest, and despite the fact that there are very few English candidates in the pipeline, the manager is fairly easily replaceable (despite whatever payout the FA would be forced to fork over). But it's more than that. We were having all the same debates over England's woeful performances and the fact that their "world class" players can't replicate their club form for country while Sven Goran Eriksson was manager. Similar debates over positions (can we please solve the Gerrard v Lampard debate because they cannot play in the same midfield) have taken place as well.
Granted, McClaren was Sven's #2, and there are a lot of holdovers, in staff and style, from the previous regime. The only major change, dropping Beckham, was an easy decision with all the media already having sharpened their daggers for Golden Balls. Of course, now England's missing his set pieces enormously, but I agreed with dropping Beckham, because the line-up needs to be changed and younger players brought through. Maybe more should have been dropped. Maybe Beckham should have remained a squad player. Answers aren't easy to come by, but that's McClaren's brief in a nutshell. Make those tough decisions, Steve, do the job you were hired for.
But what it comes down to is England's lack of goals. Owen may be a long-term casualty along with Joe Cole, and there are goals in those 2, but failing to score against Croatia, Macedonia, and Israel is embarrassing, no matter who's missing. For a side that fancies themselves one of the best in the world (you're having a laugh…), it's completely unacceptable.
Tomorrow will be the game to remedy that. If England doesn't beat Andorra by a large margin, the knives will come out again, and deservedly so. England won 5-0 at home in September. Andorra lost 4-1 against Israel, 3-0 against Macedonia, and 7-0 against Croatia. Calling them a semi-pro side is rude to other semi-pro sides.
Every time I write something to post, I do my utmost to not be “knee-jerk,” which can be the hallmark of commentary on the internet. So let me be clear. I don’t believe it’s knee-jerk to knock the team for these sub par performances since last fall. And I don’t believe it’s knee-jerk to put a lot on McClaren’s head, especially if England screws the pooch against Andorra, despite the obvious failings of the players.
I apologize for not having a ton of confidence in the English national team right now. I wish this could be a more optimistic “preview.” But the team is sub-par, the manager’s done damn little to inspire any confidence, and I don’t see any better prospects for the future if England continues on the same path.
But that won’t stop me from rooting. Roll on England. Please.