Euro 2020: Southgate has such a deep pool of talent we’d even fancy England B to bring football home
Gareth Southgate has got such a deep pool of English talent at his disposal that we’d even fancy our B-team’s chances of bringing football home, while the BBC’s punditry choices for Euro 2020 games hardly lent itself to restraint or neutrality
Close your eyes for a moment. It is Thursday morning. England have just reached a first major tournament final for 55 years.
The mood around the country is buoyant, if slightly confused.
Fans are dreaming of football coming home but don’t want to be there when it arrives: ‘Please Don’t Take Me Home,’ they chant.
Gareth Southgate heads back to St George’s Park to prepare his players for the biggest game of their lives.
Gareth Southgate has been blessed with a number of quality options all across the pitch
Being able to rotate without any drop-off in quality has been a crucial factor in run to semi-final
And then disaster strikes.
Just a few days after coronavirus swept through England’s cricket team, Southgate and his players are struck down too.
Now, a disclaimer: UEFA’s rules actually state that a team needs only 13 fit players to play. Failing that, the game can be postponed for up to 48 hours. If that is impossible, the other team is awarded a 3-0 victory. Could you imagine?
Instead, let’s pretend the FA, like the ECB, are forced to name an emergency team. What do we reckon to this?
England B (4-3-3): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Dier, Tomori, Godfrey; Ward-Prowse, Alli, Maddison; Greenwood, Lingard, Watkins.
It’s still coming home, isn’t it?
To show just how much talent England have right now, just look how good this B team would be
All a bit of fun, but also rather instructive. Because the strength in depth at Southgate’s disposal has been a crucial factor in their run to the semi-finals.
At full back and in attacking positions, the England boss has been able to rotate without any damaging drop-off in quality.
Jordan Henderson is hardly a major downgrade as an back-up midfielder either.
A brief flick through squads of old proves that hasn’t always been such a luxury.
What Southgate’s predecessors would have given for a pool of talent so deep that even this Omitted XI would fancy their chances of reaching the last 16.
No use in reality, of course. But good to know regardless.
For years, Auntie Beeb has been caught in a culture sandwich — squeezed by sliced white on one side and artisan sourdough on the other. Too left wing, too right wing.
Enveloped by both cancel culture and a suffocating pursuit of balance. Even critics can’t agree on all its faults. Which makes the TV coverage of these Euros all the more curious.
The BBC had separate broadcast teams for England, Wales and Scotland. That afforded each nation due attention but hardly lent itself to restraint or neutrality.
Take Wales. For their 4-0 battering by Denmark, the excellent Gabby Logan was joined by Hal Robson-Kanu, Ashley Williams and Mark Hughes, with Robbie Savage risking his dignity on co-commentary.
Ashley Williams and Mark Hughes were used as pundits by the BBC in an all-Welsh line-up alongside Hal-Robson Kanu for Wales’ Euro 2020 games
All perfectly suitable pundits in their own right. But where was the BBC’s answer to Roy Keane to deliver some two-footed truths: that they had won one match (against a Turkey team no doubt given the runaround during a kickabout with hotel staff).
ITV went down a similar road for their defeat by Italy, with Robson-Kanu, Joe Ledley and Robert Earnshaw in the studio. It all poses an interesting question: what do we want from our tournament coverage?
Do we want pundits to rise above the dreams engulfing a nation? Or do we want broadcasters to feed them?
Fear not: Keane is on duty to stick the boot in should England fall short on Wednesday.
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