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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Well done, Steve McClaren

A week ago, I really doubted that England would get the results they needed in the Euro qualifiers. But six points, six goals and most importantly of all, we dominated both games. Israel were made to look very ordinary, but a very good Russian team were taught a lesson in football.

And I have to say, a lot of the credit has to go to Steve McClaren for making some inspired decisions in his team selection. Arguably those decisions were forced onto him with injuries and suspensions, but I would never have chosen Heskey upfront - I'd have probably given Darren Bent a go. And I would never have dreamt of putting Gareth Barry in central midfield. But he was arguably England's best player over the two games.

And he stuck with Paul Robinson, when I would probably have dropped him and Robinson had two very solid games.

This was probably the best performance from an England team since the 5-1 thrashing of the Germans in Munich. The two Coles on the left linked up well. Micah Richards and Subbuteo Shawn played well too, although SWP does need to learn how to cross the ball. Heskey won everything in the air and Owen looked white hot again. Those that wrote him off - your author included - are eating their words. Barry & Gerrard bossed the midfield and JT and Rio looked pretty solid at the back.

It will be interesting what will happen once the injured and suspended get back. Surely Heskey won't keep Rooney out of the team, but they'll miss Heskey's aerial threat, not least because both Rooney and Owen are shortarses. England do play best with 4-4-2 and the big man / little man combo. But when they've played with Crouchigol, they've often taken the easy route and hit it up too long, too quickly.

There's no way that invisible Frank Lampard should take Barry out of the team, nor should Hargreaves. I think that perhaps Beckham may replace Subbuteo Shawn, depending on Beckham's form.

But it would be a brave manager that changes this team. I bet McClaren wishes that the Estonia game was next week.

I have to say, Steve McClaren has taken an absolute beating from the Press and fans alike, me included. Maybe he has finally stepped out of the shadow of the Sven era and will now be able to prove his worth as a manager in his own right. I really hope so. A lot will depend on his team selection when all his regular players are available. Let us hope that this is the start of a new era in English football and not just a happy blip.

And on a final note: the Jocks beat the French in Paris! All in all, a top night.

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