Football wasn't coming home

Published: Monday, 16 July 2018

What a wonderful World Cup. Congratulations to everybody involved in both the organisation and delivery.

I was in Moscow in January. What an impressive City it is. I’m so pleased that so many more people have seen it now. It was described to me as ‘Europe’s hidden secret’. Not so ‘hidden’ now. If you ever get the chance - go.

This World Cup was always going to be a success, despite all the doom-mongers predicting otherwise and the demands of those ‘politicking’ hoping to get the tournament moved. Russia delivered - and now all roads lead to #Qatar2022. Trust me - this tournament will blow you away. I’m privileged to have seen the plans. I’ve been watching the county prepare these last five years. #Qatar2022 will deliver on its promise ‘Amazing’ and when it’s all over - just as we have Russia - people will have fallen in love with a country now very close to my heart. Why? How? Forget it. It’s all systems go for a World Cup, the likes of which we will never have  previously seen.

Anyway, as I said, Russia was a triumph of organisation. Do I agree that it was the ‘best ever’ on the pitch? No. I don’t.

I don’t think it ever reached the heights of previous competitions. Ask yourself - do you remember six really good games from the 64 we watched? You don’t do you? It was ok, but little more.

The view in England was probably excitedly different because Gareth Southgate’s team exceeded all expectations. It was great to see people enjoying watching their national team again. It’s good for football in England in general.

 I thought Southgate handled himself impeccably and just for a while he had people believing again. But was football ever really ‘coming home’? No it wasn’t. It wasn’t because football doesn’t belong to England anymore. As Russia proved, the game now belongs to the world. I’m with the group of opinion that finds it arrogant in the extreme that people in England think differently.

Make no mistake - we are not popular outside the borders of the U.K.  What is perceived as English arrogance was the single biggest reason we failed with our bid to host 2018.

I’ve heard all the arguments about ‘it’s coming home’ being a self deprecating piece of fun. It might very well be, but that’s not the perception aboard. For the rest of the world it smacks of arrogance. They see it as a piece of jingoistic xenophobic nonsense. It’s time to bury it forever.

In fairness to Martin ‘I’m not a football man’ Glenn, the English FA’s Chief Exec, and Chairman Greg Clarke, they’ve got part of the message. No longer do the travel the world introducing themselves as  from ‘the FA’ - but from ‘the English FA’. On the face of it, It’s a small change, but for those in their company, it’s makes a massive difference.

As for England’s football - well done Gareth. A semi-final means that this squad was the first to go overseas and exceed expectations. But please, let’s not fall into the trap of believing it means winning the Euro’s in two years  or indeed the World Cup in #Qatar2022.

England won games that they should’ve won - lost games that they shouldn’t have done. They won 4 - lost 3. Of the 12 goals scored - eight were from set-pieces. I wonder what the verdict on that stat would’ve been had Sam Allardyce been in charge? England would’ve been viewed as one-dimensional, with no plan B.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Southgate sticks with 3-at-the-back. What actually did it give us? Sterling didn’t score. Kane couldn’t score unless it was from set-pieces. Alli scored once and so did Lingard. We didn’t crest enough In open play. Nowhere near enough. When did a team at the highest level ever win anything playing 3-at-the-back? Just once - Chelsea the year before last, when they only had the league to concentrate on. Quite a thought isn’t it? Even Guardiola won’t play that system now.

It’s supposed to allow you to dominate possession. Why do that? France won the World Cup with just 39% possession. Everybody back on the bus!!

There’s a lot of work for Southgate to do in order to restore England to the world’s elite, but he’s made a start. As for ‘football coming home’. Enough. Stop it. Never again - please.

As an Englishman abroad I find it hugely embarrassing