Enjoy it now Gareth Southgate because it's all downhill from hereby Andy Dillon / 09 October 2017, 11:33Tweet
GARETH SOUTHGATE should enjoy the moment because believe it or not this is the high point of England’s World Cup campaign.
Qualification as unbeaten group winners is about as good it is going to get between now and next June for our beleaguered England coach.
A drab 1-0 win from the penalty spot over a Lithuania team that would do well to stay in League One marking the end of yet another dreary campaign which suggests nothing has really changed under our bright, young coach.
With a place in the finals next summer assured, Sunday’s dead rubber in the Baltics was the perfect opportunity to put on a show for the hard-pressed fans who made the long trip purely to pick up loyalty points.
The 1,800 who followed the team to rain-soaked Vilnius deserved better.
With nothing at stake it was finally the opportunity to throw off the shackles and experiment - just as Germany did in their 5-1 destruction of Azerbaijan yesterday.
Yet what was served up merely reflected the weather on the fringes of the Arctic Circle. Damp, dark and thoroughly joyless.
The same tactics, the same perpendicular passing across the middle and back to Jack Butland in goal.
The same lack of creative spark, the same lifeless, dispiriting brand of football now firmly attached to any England match, sucking the life out of the viewers at home through the TV screen,
The same old, same old.
It’s never been fun to watch England though, let’s be honest. It’s why people still refer to the 4-1 thrashing of Holland at Euro ‘96 - 21 years ago now.
The seismic 5-1 destruction of Germany in their back yard - in 2001!! And boy have the Germans got their own back since.
Next month the current world champions visit Wembley for a World Cup warm up match, or a friendly in other words.
That will be a chance to see a team which believes in itself, it not afraid of its own shadow, is eager to try new things and make the crowd at Wembley enjoy a night out - England will there too of course.
Four days later it’s Brazil. Whatever form they are in, watching Brazil is a big enough magnet. It’s kind of sad though that should Wembley be full to its 90,000 capacity on those occasions, it will down to the opposition, not the home team.
Watching Germany last week in Northern Ireland was a pure joy. Covering their penultimate World Cup qualifier was interesting and insightful.
Defender Matts Hummels and manager Joachim Low spoke to the press eloquently for an hour without flinching any question. Any topic was up fro grabs.
Hummels was funny and forthright. Low masterful and confident.
Compare that to Southgate who whined that England won’t become Spain over the eight months before the World Cup starts - a sobering warning already to the supporters and viewers at home to expect more of the same rancid old football for the forseeable future.
England’s players might gripe that there is so much pressure on them from the media. Well, no country has more pressure on it to win international trophies than Germany.
Yet even with players at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St.Germain, there is a definite sense that playing for The Fatherland means much more.
Nobody expects England to win anything. We all know that the Premier League is the root cause of the problems facing Southgate.
Yet the players put pressure on themselves. Let’s face it nobody outside of The FA is remotely excited about next summer’s World Cup and once it’s over everybody will turn to the Premier League fixture lists for the coming season without batting an eyelid.
The sooner Southgate, his bosses at Wembley and the players realise they are only making it worse for themselves by worrying about the reaction of everybody else the sooner we can get round to enjoy watching England play.