The time is right for an England reality check

Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
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Now the World Cup euphoria and hype has died down I suspect a large dose of reality is about to wash over the millions who lost their heads during England’s unlikely run to the semi-finals.

Anyone watching our games back would, if they managed to watch dispassionately in a non-partisan manner, would surely have to accept that actually England didn’t play as well as the national mood suggested, that the exciting football the team apparently produced was largely a myth and that there is no guarantee England are on the verge of winning major tournaments.

Gareth Southgate.

Gareth Southgate.

Indeed there’s as much chance the national team will go the other way, suffocated by the expectation of journalists and a fanbase seduced by a manager with a) English as a first language (unlike Eriksson, Capello and Allardyce) who was also a decent bloke (unlike Allardyce).

England will probably be catapulted to favouritism for the 2020 Euros, especially with the semi-finals and final scheduled for Wembley.

One can only admire Gareth Southgate’s performance as a coach, a manager of men and a public speaker.

The players also deserve credit for their off-field manner and behaviour. This re-connection with fans is undeniable and worthy of praise. There seemed a real absence of ego and of any superiority complex, but that alone won’t win a World Cup or even a Euros.

Fabian Delph.

Fabian Delph.

Roy Keane, who tussled with the great Gary Neville as my favourite World Cup pundit, had it right after the disappointing semi-final defeat at the hands of Croatia. This was more a huge opportunity missed by England rather than the start of a golden era.

Germany will be smarting when the next big tournament arrives and Spain will be more settled. The Dutch and Italians will surely have improved and the French are only going to get better. Croatia obviously have little to fear from England.

England under Southgate will also hold no surprises. If the manager had a plan B in the semi-final against Croatia he kept it well hidden, although he was hamstrung by a lack of depth to his squad, something he will need to address in the next two years.

And therein lies another problem. The Premier League still has far too many foreign players. It’s doubtful the likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola are going to give promising English players a chance just to improve England’s prospects, and nor should he.

Guardiola soon lost interest in John Stones last season after all.

Certainly Phil Foden, the star of England Under 17s recent World Cup win, needs to escape the Etihad.

Leaving a big club for a smaller one helped Ruben Loftus-Cheek make the England World Cup squad. Otherwise England will still be taking the likes of Fabian Delph and Danny Welbeck to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.