SWANNY'S WORLD OF SPORT: Sadly, Southgate is a man without a plan
I did think the English Football Association should ignore political advice and go to the World Cup in Russia later this year, but then England manager Gareth Southgate announced his latest international squad.
What a sorry bunch of ‘elite’ players we now have. If we’re picking Burnley and Bournemouth journeymen we may as well cut our losses now and withdraw before we suffer an humiliating early exit, possibly after failing to come through one of the easiest groups in World Cup history.
I doubt even Panama and Tunisia are worried about finding a way past James Tarkowski in the England defence, or getting the ball off Lewis Cook in midfield, or of being run ragged by an England attack led by diving Danny Welbeck.
It could all happen if John Stones has stiffened up sitting on Manchester City’s bench every week, or if Harry Kane picks up another injury.
Southgate, whose job is apparently safe even if England bomb out early, has now been embarrassed by previous comments.
He’s backed up his stated policy of picking players in good form who are also playing regularly by selecting the likes of Swansea’s Alfie Mawson, but in the same squad he’s also chosen players out of form (Jake Livermore) and out of favour at their clubs (Danny Rose, Adam Lallana, Welbeck).
Past-it goalkeeper Joe Hart is both out of form and usually out of West Ham’s dreadful side. Lord only knows why England need four goalkeepers for two friendly games anyway so do Hart a favour and tell him now he’s not going to the World Cup.
Southgate is no doubt a lovely man and always conducts himself with good grace. The FA must be proud to have such an erudite man as their public figurehead.
But his selections smack of a man without a plan just a few months before the biggest competition of them all. He’s English football’s equivalent of former rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster and look how well his tenure turned out at a World Cup.
Livermore is a regular in the worst Premier League side of 2017-18. Is he really a better bet to shine on the big stage than Jonjo Shelvey? No is the only answer.
If Southgate wanted to excite his fanbase why not give Fulham’s teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon a taste of senior international football?
Sadly flair is not Southgate’s way. England will be rigid, regimental and dull in Russia, while hoping Kane gets a chance in front of goal.
The manager’s press conferences will be full of intelligent soundbites, while he attempts to explain away poor results and insipid performances.
It’s not too late to get Southgate out and Jose Mourinho in. An organised 10-man defence, as well as good fortune and a strong following wind, might be the only way for England to get through to the quarter-finals.
We’re going to be boring anyway so why not get a proven boring winner in charge?