Former Republic of Ireland international Matt Holland believes England fans should be optimistic
Dire, woeful, awful – just some of the words used to describe England’s performance v Ukraine last night.
Whilst it’s fair to say it wasn’t a vintage display and I certainly don’t concur with the verdict of Roy Hodgson who said it was a “very good quality game”, a draw in Kiev is not a bad result.
It leaves the Three Lions with destiny in their own hands and two home matches next month to secure a place in Brazil next year.
As a former Ireland international I would swap that position for the one we find ourselves in with no chance of qualification for the World Cup after defeats to Sweden and Austria.
The game wasn’t without positives either. One of England’s recent problems has been keeping clean sheets.
"Cahill was immense. A performance full of bravery and most importantly assumed the role of a leader"
Admittedly the back four has changed personnel an awful lot but last night they answered a lot of questions.
Joe Hart had a few early nervy moments but came through that to have a decent game.
Ashley Cole has come under pressure from Leighton Baines for the left-back slot but performed superbly to confirm his status as first choice.
Jagielka was a steadying influence as well but his central defensive partner Gary Cahill was immense. On his 18th cap he came of age in a performance full of bravery. He made block after block, won his aerial battles and most importantly assumed the role of a leader constantly talking, organising and cajoling his team-mates into position.
The one worry defensively was Kyle Walker who had an uncomfortable evening to say the least, albeit against Ukraine’s best player. Glen Johnson will surely come in for him as soon as he’s fit.
Steven Gerrard also had a good game protecting his back four. His role has changed dramatically in the last couple of years going from a marauding box-to-box midfielder to a more conservative role picking and choosing his moments to get forward. But he is still an integral part of this England team.
Keeping the ball and creating chances was more of a problem but it is easy to forget how many players were not at the manager’s disposal due to injury and suspension.
"Wayne Rooney when fully fit is a top class player and still England’s best for me"
There is a saying that you are a better player when not in the team and that came to mind last night with seven players missing from the original squad.
There is no doubt that Danny Welbeck would have started on the left if available and would have added more pace and thrust down that side.
Wayne Rooney when fully fit is a top class player and still England’s best for me, so would have improved the team.
And let’s not forget the wonderful start to the season Daniel Sturridge has had.
Having said that it would be disrespectful to ignore the job that Rickie Lambert did. I thought he worked extremely hard and was very effective, particularly in the first half, in the lone striker role holding the ball up and providing an outlet for the team.
At times I felt he was let down by England’s lack of willingness to get runners beyond him which worked so well against Moldova. Lambert has shown more than enough in his fledgling international career though to suggest he deserves further opportunities.
Frank Lampard will probably be the first to admit that this wasn’t one of his best nights in an England shirt but deserves all the recognition he got for reaching 100 caps.
He was a youngster at West Ham when I was there and he is a great example to any young player wanting to make a career in the game.
He would spend hour after hour on the training field, long after his team-mates had gone home, working on his game. Extra shooting, sprinting, dribbling etc, day after day to make himself a better player, and he merits all the accolades he has received.
It wasn’t Jack Wilshire’s best night either. He has suffered a number of long term injuries and doesn’t look fully fit but he is a truly wonderful player and at just 21, he is only going to get better and better.
"England team need to be more positive. It's rare the shackles are loosened"
I actually think there is a good crop of youngsters bubbling under the surface that will have a big impact on the full squad in the coming years.
Ross Barkley (aged 19), Wilfried Zaha (20), Phil Jones (21), Jack Rodwell (22), Daniel Sturridge (24), Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain (20) are a few example so, perhaps, the immediate future isn’t that bleak.
Greg Dyke has set the target of winning the World Cup in 2022 and after watching last night’s game that seems a distant dream.
However, I just feel that the England team need to be more positive.
There appears to be a fear of losing at times and it is rare that the shackles are loosened.
With the players they have I believe that they can play more attacking fluent football – the players need to believe that too.
Things aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I would rather be at the World Cup than not and England have that opportunity next month. It’s not all bad!
Top four, Golden Boot, relegation, player to watch and first manager to get the sack - I give my predictions for the 2013-14 season
This is one of the most evenly balanced and eagerly anticipated title races for years, largely because of the big managerial changes at the top end of the Premier League. Plus, with over two weeks left until the transfer window closes and plenty of activity still expected it is very difficult to pick a winner.
As things stand I think Manchester City are in the best position. They have done their business very early which has given them the benefit of integrating their new players into the squad during pre-season and more time to work on shape and formations. I also think that Manuel Pellegrini will make a conscious effort to restore harmony to what seemed an unhappy camp under Roberto Mancini.
Chelsea have got Mourinho back, which is brilliant for them but also for the league as he’ll give us all something to talk about. They are desperate to bring Wayne Rooney to Stamford Bridge but even if they don’t get him, Romelu Lukaku has returned after an excellent season at West Brom, so they will be right up there.
And what of the Champions? Much has been made of the lack of signings at Old Trafford but they were 11 points clear of everybody else last year with this very same squad, plus Wilfried Zaha has arrived. They have tried and failed to get some big names and that will continue right up until the deadline but just as important as bringing players in will be keeping Rooney at the club.
My feeling is that Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool haven’t quite got enough at present to challenge for the title. Doubts persist as to the futures of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez and Arsenal haven’t brought anybody in of note that will elevate them to the next level. This is a big season for Jack Wilshire though, particularly with a World Cup at the end of it.
Prediction: Man City 2. Man Utd 3. Chelsea 4. Arsenal
Not since the 1997-98 season have all three promoted teams been relegated but predictably, Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace are favourites to go straight back down. I don’t think that will be the case but I do fancy two of them to go.
Cardiff have spent big this summer and I know that doesn’t guarantee anything but they have brought in some good players. I was surprised they were able to prise Steven Caulker away from Spurs and Gary Medel who they have spent big on should be well suited to the Premier League.
I fear for Hull and Palace though. They have both understandably been busy in the transfer market bulking their squads but I’m not sure they will quite have the quality required to keep them up.
As for the team to join them going down, I’m going to go for Stoke. Sometimes supporters need to be careful what they wish for. Tony Pulis had been excellent for them but at the first sign of struggle many wanted him out. They have got their wish and although I like Mark Hughes as a manager, they haven’t massively strengthened their squad so I think they will go down.
Prediction: 18. Stoke 19. Hull 20. Crystal Palace
As long as he stays fit, which he has done for the last two years, then Robin Van Persie is the man to beat. Having got off to the perfect start with two goals against Wigan in the Community Shield, there is no sign that the goals will be drying up for him. His post-match interview in which he questioned why United were only third favourites for the title showed he has lost none of his hunger either. He is guaranteed to start and has the ability to score from nothing so I’m going to go for him to win the Golden Boot for the third year running.
Of the competition, I expect Sergio Aguero to run him close. He was hampered by injury last campaign but is a quality player. If Suarez stays in the Premier League then he won’t be far away either, although he does miss the first six games of the season through suspension. It will be interesting to see how Roberto Soldado fits in at Spurs, who have been crying out for a new striker and Christian Benteke will be hoping to back up last year’s impressive season.
Prediction: Robin Van Persie
Player to watch
Plenty of money has changed hands this summer and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact players such as Soldado, Álvaro Negredo, André Schurrle, Wilfried Bony and Jesús Navas will have in the Premier League.
However, the most expensive import and the one I am most looking forward to watching is Fernandinho. He really caught my eye in Shakhtar Donetsk’s run to winning the UEFA Cup in 2009. Being Brazilian, he has the expected flair, is technically gifted and weighs-in with his fair share of goals. But he also has the engine to run all day box-to-box and is strong and committed in the tackle. He is very much an all-round midfielder who will improve City massively.
First manager sacked
I think the most vulnerable at the start of the season is my former manager Alan Pardew. He has seen Joe Kinnear come in as director of football and take charge of transfer business, which I don’t think he will be too pleased about.
So far there has been a distinct lack of new players and after last year’s disappointing campaign, the pressure will be on from the very off. I personally think he is an excellent manager but it will be interesting to see how the dynamic works at the club. If they do get off to a bad start I fear he could be the first to go.
Prediction: Alan Pardew
After the disappointing Wembley draw with Ireland, Matt Holland expects a better England performance in the Maracana this weekend
It wasn’t a great game. It certainly wasn’t a spectacle. But I think there were contributing factors to England’s performance at Wembley.
For England, last night’s game was a friendly at the end of a long season. England’s players have had a long year. Ashley Cole has been to America and back since Chelsea’s mammoth season ended.
There’s no doubt Roy Hodgson’s men were very much in ‘end of season’ mode.
For Ireland, the match was preparation for a World Cup qualifier on Friday against the Faroe Islands with places to play for.
Having said that, I still think England were the better side. They had more possession and looked the side most likely to find a winner towards the end of the game.
"Sunday’s game in Brazil will be different. I think England are better against opposition that play in a more adventurous way."
In terms of individual performances, Hodgson can take some positives away from the game. I thought Michael Carrick played quite well. He was excellent on the ball and showed off his full range of passing.
I thought Wayne Rooney had good moments too. He looked to get on the ball and get involved as a creative force in the game, something his team-mates had failed to do.
But overall England looked laboured in midfield. They lacked energy and a bit of a spark.
When England did get in down the right hand side a few times, the final ball was definitely lacking.
Theo Walcott used his pace, which is always a threat, to get into some good areas but he left you wanting a more at the end of those runs whether it be picking the right option, choosing the right pass or deciding to shoot.
I was looking for a bit more from Daniel Sturridge last night.
He deserved his opportunity after an excellent second half of the season at Liverpool, scoring goals and playing the lone striker role in the absence of Luis Suarez.
It was disappointing injury forced him off but, until that point, up front had been a problem for England.
When players get an opportunity in an England shirt, you want them to take it with both hands.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Roy Hodgson’s system. Ireland are a difficult team to play against. They are organized, tough to beat and they work hard. Don’t forget they got a draw against Sweden last time out, a team that beat England 4-2.
I fancied them to get a result last night primarily because they are so hard to play through.
Sunday’s game in Brazil will be different. I think England are better against opposition that play in a more adventurous way. If Ireland had come out in gung-ho fashion last night, I think England would have won the game.
I still think England will qualify for the World Cup. There’s a big difference between playing a friendly at the end of a long season and a qualifier. When everyone is fit, they have enough quality to see them safely through.
More on MSN Sport:
- Lampard salvages draw for England
- Hodgson: Sturridge injury a major blow
- Cahill hopeful of victory in Brazil
"Many managers have done well in League One and League Two without being offered this kind of opportunity."
"Paolo has certainly talked the talk by saying he would bet everything he has on Sunderland beating the drop. Now he needs to walk the walk."
"I don’t know anywhere near enough about his political values to judge him on them, so I will judge him on the job he does as a football manager."
I was very fortunate that my career lasted 17 years as a pro but having retired at the age of 35, I had to think about what was next for me and have been privileged to have worked in the media since.
But for thousands of youngsters it will not be the same as they are not offered professional contracts and dismissed at the age of 18.
This week I hosted an event at the new FA training facility at St. Georges Park and felt inspired to write about the day.
It was organised by the League Football Education (LFE) which is a partnership between the Football League and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), with the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust.
Originally it was an event to support footballers completing their apprenticeship - the stats show that 60% of them won't be offered a professional contract upon finishing the programme.
It has since grown to include other sports and is based on supporting athletes coming out of their performance sports.
Rugby, athletics and particularly football were well represented and indeed 68 of the 72 Football League clubs were in attendance and around 1200 athletes in total throughout the day.
60% of footballers completing their apprenticeships don't make it
From the football side it is scary to think that so many players will fall by the wayside and leave their respective clubs in the summer at the age of 18 and not know what their next step is.
The lucky ones who are rewarded with a deal may well be in the same position next year.
Incredibly, the average length of a footballer's career is just seven years. Whether that be because of injury or being released it isn't a long time, so provisions have to be made for life after playing.
The message is that whether at 18, 19, 25 or 35-years-old it is important to have a contingency plan and think about your future.
At St George’s around 65 different exhibitors such as universities at home and abroad, the construction industry, fitness training, and the army, were on hand to give advice to these youngsters.
They spoke to them about their next steps and maybe if their sporting career doesn't go in the direction they would like and offered them an alternative path in a field that interests them.
Tom Reece sadly has recently had to retire from the game at the age of 28 and is now studying to become a doctor which will take six years!
We were very lucky that the keynote speaking panel consisted of some top athletes with a huge variety of sporting paths.
Dame Kelly Holmes (double Olympic gold winner), Dougie Freedman (Bolton manager), Tom Rees (ex-Wasps and England rugby international) and Sarah Hunter (England Women's Rugby international) were all able to share their own personal stories to hopefully inspire some of these youngsters to respond to some of the setbacks they will have and come back stronger from them.
For instance, Tom sadly has recently had to retire from the game at the age of 28 and is now studying to become a doctor which will take six years!
The LFE do a brilliant job in managing the apprenticeship scheme. It is a two-year programme which offers either an NVQ or BTEC qualification and a coaching qualification by the end of it. This should help an individual if they aren't successful in securing a pro contract.
An event like this wasn't available when I was 18 and shows that development has been made in helping to educate young sportsmen/women about life after sport and I hope that the many individuals that attended went away having taken something from it.
It was a pleasure to meet so many committed and positive athletes and pass on any advice I possibly could. My only wish being that every single one of them could become a professional sportsperson.
I realise that is impossible but hope that today has been a help if indeed they are not fortunate enough to pursue a career in sport.
Swans' pace and quality will ultimately be decisive
From Bradford to ballboygate, there’s no doubt the Capital One Cup has delivered memorable matches this season.
Now it’s the turn of the FA Cup to provide the drama. Will this weekend’s fourth round games offer a repeat of the giant-killing exploits of round three, where non-league Macclesfield and Luton defeated league opposition?
I have picked out three matches with the potential for shocks.
Brighton v Arsenal
I am going to the Amex on Saturday for the first time and am really looking forward to my visit. I am a big fan of the way the Seagulls try and play and with fellow purists Arsenal coming to town, I expect a really good football match.
Brighton have lost only six times in the Championship this season (the joint lowest in the division) and of course knocked out Premier League opposition in the last round.
At times they have been guilty of not killing teams off though and as a consequence have drawn too many matches but if they are more clinical in front of goal then they are in with a real shout.
Having been drawn to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League, you would think that this would represent Arsenal's best chance of breaking their trophy drought.
They are capable of playing some scintillating stuff at times, demonstrated by that devastating spell against West Ham the other night, but have been far too inconsistent.
The Gunners are at their best when they play at a high tempo and press the opposition higher up the pitch and with Jack Wilshire playing in a more advanced midfield role, they have someone to trigger that side of their game.
Wilshere's performance will have a big bearing on this match, so if Brighton are able to keep him quiet, it will give them a far better chance of advancing.
Millwall v Aston Villa
Millwall have recently lost loanee Chris Wood to fellow Championship side Leicester and that has coincided with a slight dip in form.
However they remain ninth in the League and the New Den is without doubt an intimidating ground to visit. They have lost only two of their last 17 games in the FA Cup on home soil and with a vociferous home crowd backing them, it will surely test the nerve of a youthful Villa side lacking in confidence.
Paul Lambert’s men are under real pressure after being dumped out of the Capital One Cup and currently sit just a place outside the relegation zone in the Premier League.
I feel at the moment that they lack a bit of leadership on the pitch with key men such as Richard Dunne (injured) and Stan Petrov (illness) not available. They are also extremely vulnerable at set-pieces and from crosses into the box and that is something I expect Millwall to target.
QPR v MK Dons
These sides met in the third round of last year’s competition and it took a Danny Gabbidon goal in extra time of a replay to settle the outcome in QPR’s favour. I think it might be just as tight an affair this time around.
Harry Redknapp has done a really good job of steadying the ship at Loftus Road and they have become more difficult to beat – as yet they have not tasted defeat in 2013!
But the priority is to stay in the Premier League. With that in mind and a game at home to Man City in the league next Tuesday, I would expect Harry to make a number of changes which might just disrupt them.
Likewise the MK Dons have a fixture next Tuesday at Yeovil and are very much in contention for promotion from League One, but the players will see this as a chance to shine on a bigger stage.
They have some very good individuals who are capable of playing at a higher level and they will be keen to prove that is the case.
Karl Robinson is a much sought-after manager and the Dons recently turned down an approach from Blackpool to speak to them about their vacancy.
That sent out a good message to the players and fans alike and after beating Sheffield Wednesday in the last round to reach this stage for the first time they will be keen to go a step further yet.
It was clear handball. But the rules of football dictate that there is one person authorised to stop the game and award a free kick. And that person is not Luis Suarez.
I think he knew he’d done it, the way he smashed the ball into the net and then looked straight at the linesman. I also don’t think he did it on purpose, not like Maradona or Thierry Henry.
Cheating is one thing: I can’t stand diving and I’ve called on many occasions for retrospective punishments for those who try to dupe a referee. Trying to get the rub of the green is another and as a player you are always told to play to the whistle which is exactly what Suarez did.
I know that probably in every game I played I asked the referee to give a decision in my favour when consciously or unconsciously I knew I’d had the last touch before the ball rolled off the field.
You can’t blame players for that. What would I do in a situation like today’s? I don’t know, you never know until you are there but I do know that it’s irrelevant whether it’s an FA Cup third round or a World Cup final if you’re a professional player.
So do we have to allow players like Suarez to get away with it? Absolutely not, but the answer is not giving individuals morality lessons but giving officials the tools to tackle the problem.
Video technology, like that used in rugby, could have cleared up the ‘goal’ in no more than a minute.
That’s what we should be clamouring for, not some kind of modern day village stocks to vilify professionals who are put under intense pressure to deliver every Saturday.
PS Another question that needs tackling is a clarification of the handball law. The idea of intent is impossible for referees to judge. Maybe it’s time to say if the ball hits the arm or hand it’s a foul, at least you could be consistent that way.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits his squad has regrets after being knocked out of the Champions League
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