The Roker Ramble: England Needs To Drop The Act And Become Modest Again

This weeks Roker Ramble has landed!

England play tonight against the Netherlands in a friendly. Whilst it's obviosuly great that our own Fraizer Campbell is there, there's still something lacking from the England team - or so everyone would have you believe. Myself included.

We've talked at length about the supposed Golden Generation of English football, but now we seem to be in Golden Generation 2.0, and players who've been on top of their game such as Danny Graham or Grant Holt are overlooked. It's about time we embraced such players rather than ignored them I say...

One of the ball-aches (I really should have found a better synonym) of modern football is that the build-up to a game can really take on a life of its own. There is no place better for that than Twitter. On Thursday, as Stuart Pearce announced his first England squad, the online world seemed to stop as everyone assessed the credentials of those chosen.

Then followed something equally as mundane; a number of the selected party withdrawing from the squad, enabling the Twitter bandwagon to hitch up and get the wheels in motion on who should replace those fallen to the mighty throat infection.

As a result of the success of Norwich City and Swansea City this season, their respective centre-forwards, Grant Holt and Danny Graham, had been suggested. The thing with Holt is that he fits the profile of what English football actually is - not what it wants to appear as. For the most part, domestic football in this country is blood-and-thunder, its in-your-face, and it is winning flick-ons and being first to the knock-downs. The only ones trying to deny that are England. Why not embrace it?

All of England's top clubs have come unstuck at the Britannia Stadium since Stoke City was promoted to the Premier League. Gritty displays from Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland have produced unlikely wins against the elite this season, indicating that the default setting for English teams proves fruitful - even the various models of Manchester United built by Sir Alex Ferguson have been at its best when ferociously high-tempo.

Instead of this dreary continuation of ‘build him up, knock him down' it is high time England put faith in a system and not a poster boy. What better system than the one that frustrates the top sides? The world's best, Spain, has found trouble when faced with similar stifling tactics - United States ending a 35-match unbeaten streak in 2009 and a gutsy, albeit fortuitous, Swiss side overcoming the Spaniards in the 2010 World Cup.

The squad of Euro '96 had a far wider demographic than seen in more recent squads. Just under half (9) of the squad came from clubs that finished in mid-table: two from Blackburn Rovers (7th), four from Tottenham (8th), two from Nottingham Forest (9th) and Nick Barmby of 12th-placed Middlesbrough. Terry Venables had a system and found that players from clubs not competing for the title were worth their salt. Judging by Norwich's performances this season it is hard to see where the recent snobbery when it comes to the international selection of more modest, and arguably hungrier, players comes from - particularly when factoring in England's record in international competition.

So stop thumping the chest, let the pride evaporate and let's look to build something at least representative of England. Relationships within FIFA were strained even before the 2018 World Cup bid turned sour, indicating that England's air does not sit well off the field either. Grant Holt, realistically, may not be the answer but he is the rugged, mud-covered alternative to the Golden Generation (TM). After what they have achieved, can it really be any worse?

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