Low Expectation a Welcome Atmosphere for England Ahead of the Euro’s

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As utterly ridiculous, unprofessional and unserious letting go of your manager months before a major tournament is, and giving the successor less than a month to prepare for it is, the consequence has been a rather alien and unfamiliar sense that this England side really aren’t expected to perform particularly well in Poland and Ukraine.

As we are repeatedly told, the pressure on English players is too high, with Rooney’s outburst at TV cameras in South Africa in the World Cup two years ago symbolising the hostility and frustration between fans and players, as England struggled through the group stage unimpressively against USA, Algeria and Slovenia, with travelling fans booing them off the pitch against Algeria. Gary Neville recently stated the pressure players are under is the most inhibiting factor, and Capello long stated that the pressure on his players was too high.

While it is a fan’s right having paid huge amounts of money for tickets, travel and accommodation for a major tournament to voice discontent, booing players is unsurprisingly ineffective at motivating performances from players, especially given England’s problems stem less from lack of effort, arguably a very boo-able offence, but from a lack of planning, tactical awareness and professionalism in the entire structure of English football, to which no amount of heckling and jeering from the stands can alter. The culmination of this pressure and hostility from England fans is that the likes of Michael Carrick opt not to be considered at all for England as a squad player, while Micah Richards passes up the opportunity to be on standby, which sees Martin Kelly brought into the squad in place of the injured Gary Cahill. Alas, these media and fan backlashes are a consequence of big expectations that naturally came about from a squad that comprised a golden generation at the peak of their powers, with a centre back pairing of Ferdinand and Terry and the often proclaimed best left back in the world (which has been apparent much more infrequently of late) in Ashley Cole. With Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney in midfield and attack the side had the basis of a theoretically exceptional team, one that should never have ambled its way unconvincingly through the group stage the way it did.

Yet with many of those players past that world class status, Wayne Rooney is the only player who can be said not to be on a general decline now, who will coincidentally miss all of England’s guaranteed fixtures through suspension. Elsewhere in the current crop Joe Hart is the only other player who can be said to be of world class standard, with the side elsewhere consisting of up and coming talent such as Phil Jones, Smalling and Oxlade-Chamberlain, good but not remarkable performers such as Ashley Young, Lescott, Walcott and Barry, as well as players who have clearly struggled and performed poorly this season such as Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. Hardly a squad of world beaters, the management choice of Hodgson is apt. A capable and knowledgeable coach whose career has been something of a mixed bag in terms of results, his well drilled and rigid tactics make him ideally suited for getting an average team to overachieve through structure, discipline and shape, which perhaps makes him a suitable choice for the current crop.

The consequence of all this is that England fans are frankly expecting very little from this team, toning down our English sense of entitlement to being the best in the world substantially. And whilst we remain perennially a three goal victory away from flipping the press upside down and seeing the side declared as favourites, the pressure on this current side is quite understated and tranquil ahead of the tournament. This less intimidating and pressurised atmosphere could translate to the players’ performances, and as everyone in the country expects so little it is the perfect setting to meet expectations for once, which for a change aren’t over inflated and desperate. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself…

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