Friday, 9 October 2015

England 2 v Estonia 0 - Euro 2016 Qualifying Group E

Friday 9th October 2015
Euro 2016 Qualifying Group E
at Wembley Stadium
England (1) 2
Theo Walcott 45
Raheem Sterling 85
Estonia (0) 0
Attendance 75,427
Prior to kick off, Sir Bobby Charlton CBE presented Wayne Rooney with a golden boot to mark his achievement of scoring 50 goals for his country and becoming the top goalscorer of all time in an England shirt, a record that Charlton used to hold himself.
Love him or loathe him, surely some people need to remove their blinkers now and give the guy some respect where it's due.
One pathetic point of view I overheard tonight was: "I didn't want Rooney to beat Bobby Charlton's record because he's a Man U player!"
Oh right, so who did Bobby Charlton play for then stupid?
Rooney, England's captain, still has time on his side to rack up even more international goals.
I sincerely hope he does.
People have, of course, tried to undermine Rooney's goals total, with cheap shots like pointing out that penalties and goals "against the likes of San Marino" are included.
Of course they ****ing are!
Comparisons between the two players are pointless, but inevitable.
However, if everybody else is doing it, here goes:
Rooney has scored 14 of his 50 goals for his country in friendlies, whereas Sir Bobby scored 22 in friendlies and a further 16 in the now defunct Home International series of games that used to take part annually between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Charlton played for his country 106 times (the same amount of times as Frank Lampard).
Rooney has represented England in 107 international games to date.
When he next turns out for England, Rooney will move up to joint 4th in the table of most capped England players, equalling the record of Sir Bobby Moore.
He currently shares the joint 5th berth with Ashley Cole.
And when Rooney collects his next cap, only three England players will have played for their country more times than him, namely: Peter Shilton, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.
1 Hart, 2 Clyne, 5 Cahill, 6 Smalling, 3 Bertrand, 4 Milner,
8 Barkley (20 Alli 88 mins), 7 Walcott (19 Vardy 83 mins),
11 Lallana (15 Oxlade-Chamberlain 73 mins), 9 Sterling, 10 Kane
Unused subs - 12 Walker, 13 Butland, 14 Jones, 16 Jagielka, 17 Townsend, 18 Shelvey, 21 Gibbs
1 Aksalu, 23 Teniste, 17 Jääger, 15 Klavan, 3 Pikk, 18 Mets, 
6 Dmitrijev (2 Lindpere 70 mins ), 19 Kallaste (13 Luts 70 mins), 14 Vassiljev, 10 Zenjov, 9 Purje (7 Puri 70mins)
Unused subs - 4 Bärengrub, 5 Jürgenson, 8 Gussev, 11 Teever, 12 Meerits, 16 Antonov, 20 Kams, 21 Baranov, 22 Londak
A sub plot was hatched in the 83rd minute at Wembley Stadium tonight, that not many (if any) of the 75,427 crowd would've been aware of, when Jamie Vardy entered the fray, coming on as a late substitute for Theo Walcott.
Vardy had been waiting for this moment, since the 2010/11 season, when he was still a FC Halifax Town player, who, in one particular game, was substituted against Mansfield Town because he was having no joy whatsoever against the Stags on loan keeper Mihkel Aksalu.
Tonight he faced Aksalu again and wasted no time whatsoever in redressing the balance, by creating the chance that Manchester City's £49 million striker Raheem Sterling t the aforementioned goalie to seal a comfortable win for England, on a night when the host nation's 100% win record in Group E never looked to be under any real threat from Magnus Pehrsson's team.
Was being substituted against Nottinghamshire's finest in a FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie back in October 2010, the catalyst that inspired Vardy to get his head down and work harder to become the Premier League player and international footballer he now is?
I guess we'll never know.
But since that fateful day his career path trajectory has skyrocketed and whatever the critics of the Leicester City star have to say about him, Vardy is quality and he gives Roy Hodgson plenty of options to consider as he tweaks his squad in readiness for next summer's Euro 2016 tournament.
For the record, 2010/11 was Mansfield Town's third season as a Conference side and FC Halifax Town were plying their trade in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League; the Stags won the game 1-0 courtesy of a 6th minute goal from Louis Briscoe.
And that'll help you out of a tight corner if the subject ever comes up in a pub quiz.
Estonia didn't quite grasp the concept of a team huddle
Man of the match, Ross Barkley, universally acclaimed as the right (and only) choice for such an accolade by all present tonight, is also banging very loudly on Hodgson's door nowadays... and at this rate he will become one of the first names on the England team sheet for many years to come.
His probing ball to set up Theo Walcott's opening goal on the stroke of half time, was just one of an array of flicks, tricks and attributes he brought into tonight's game, as he stepped up to the mark and put in a calm, accomplished and polished performance in the midfield, alongside the 'ever steady' but always reliable James Milner. The latter seldom gets any plaudits, but I liken him to one of those unsung heroes that every team and club needs, who is willing to roll up his sleeves and do all of the unglamorous and crap jobs, that hold it all together. Once upon a time, I saw him make his debut for the England U17 side, which makes me feel quite old now when I think about it.
Chris Kamara, doing a cameo for the big screens at Wembley Stadium, grinned for the cameras and said "Only in England could you get 75,000 fans turning out for a meaningless midweek game". Possibly not quite what the FA suits would've wanted to hear, given they need to sell tickets for the forthcoming friendly game against France.
But, although I will always stand by my firmly held belief that there is no such thing as a meaningless England fixture... sticking several of the reserves in to see how they fare, once you've already qualified for a forthcoming tournament, in the knowledge that none of them will probably not begin a game in France (when the starting eleven will revert to wheeling out the tried and tested big guns for the main event), possibly veers very, very closely towards the mandatory specifications that are required to just about fulfil such a rhetorical representation of tonight's events.
Either way, I've already purchased my match and travel tickets for next month's friendly game against the French next month and booked two days off work.
And quite a few people I know have already packed their luggage and are flying out to Lithuania overnight in readiness for England's last qualifying group game on Monday night.
Not everybody 'gets' international football, nor the scene surrounding it. But me personally; well, I have nothing but the utmost respect for those travelling out to the LFF Stadium, in Vilnius and I'm actually quite envious that I am not gainfully employed in the kind of job that affords me enough spare income to undertake such trips on a regular basis and allows me to have such a generous quantity of annual leave days.I guess I should have listened more at school, but que sera.
Each and everyone of those jet setters who are bound for the last group game knows well in advance, that if tonight's England line up was something of a reserve side, by comparison, Monday night's selection will virtually be a third team game.
A fine save by the ex-Mansfield Town goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu
You may well chortle at the lengths some people go to, to follow the England international football team, but with the attendance figures for weekday night games holding up around the 75,000 mark, it would suggest that the current manager must be doing something right... and that a nation of success starved fans, appreciate the job that he is doing.
For what it is worth, I happen to think that Raheem Sterling is one of the most overrated players I have ever seen in an England shirt, those ironic "Two-nil, even Sterling scored!" songs being sung on Wembley Way, while we were queueing for the underground after the game, speak volumes about the general consensus on this topic, but hey ho!
Roy Hodgson has seen enough worth in the player to keep faith in him and I have no hesitation whatsoever about backing his judgement.
Mr Hodgson obviously knows infinitely more about football than I ever will. When all's said and done, knowledge that is gained from recognition of any set of circumstances, is never anywhere near as perceptive as wisdom gained from actual comprehension and understanding of the same given situation, underpinned by many years of experience.
I am meandering slightly off course at this juncture, so without further ado:
Wembley Stadium, Friday 9th October 2015.
Though the atmosphere was a little bit flat at times, the singing section were quite vocal in expressing their thoughts, pertaining to current events in the world of football, where, unless Chris Coleman's Wales side fall foul of an unfortunate juxtaposition of events over the weekend, three British nations will have qualified for Euro 2016.
Congratulations to Northern Ireland who already got through the group stages yesterday.
Of course, this means that Scotland are going it alone and now have some sort of independance from the rest of the UK, which will no doubt please 40 odd percent of the inhabitants of that Northern British outpost, plus they've managed to stay out of Europe without even having a referendum. Good for them!
No matter how despairing life might get at times, there is always someone worse off than yourself.
Unless of course, you are one of the Tartan Army, a nation of football fans who once again will have nothing better to do this forthcoming summer, than to gather in pubs to watch the tournament and cheer on whoever is playing England. It's a time honoured tradition, that has become so futile it isn't even funny any more.
Cheer up Gordon Strachan!
19 year old Dele Alli, Tottenham's recent signing from MK Dons, made a brief appearance towards the end of the game, signalling his arrival at first team level... and he will most likely feature on Monday night too.
Though the nucleus that his side is being built around is almost set in stone, Hodgson has certainly not been frightened to blood any number of promising youngsters and fringe players during this qualifying campaign.
On the way across from the Baker Street pubs on the Jubilee Line, I was reading Harry Redknapp's rather critical views of Hodgson and his selection process (no bitterness there at all, eh Harry?), where he suggested that Alli should've been picked for the first team ages ago while he was still a 17 year old at MK Dons. 
For the record, when the red top national newspaper that Redknapp wrote a regular column for, was championing him as the 'people's choice' to replace Fabio Capello as England manager, I was simultaneously delaying the renewal of my England fans membership just in case he actually got the the job. 
'Nuff said!
England didn't need to bust a gut tonight and, to be frank, they most certainly stuck to that script.
But they did get the job done in a patient, professional manner (a template for how they will doubtless be approaching games next summer) and brushed aside an Estonian side who didn't exactly pull up any trees over the course of ninety minutes, in an assured manner.
Estonia worked hard and were well drilled, but they lacked any real cutting edge, while England ran up another win at a trot, possibly even a canter, but never a gallop.
In the words of former Worksop Town player Chris Waddle: "England did enough. Estonia were well organised but never looked like scoring. Once England got one you knew it was over.
"There will be people who say it wasn't good enough, but you can only beat what's in front of you. When we get to France we'll see how good we are."
We still have a few days to wait to see if an understrength side can maintain the 100% qualification group record, with a tenth straight win in Lithuania, but though that in itself would be a great achievement, even given the fact that England have reached France via a group that doesn't exactly contain any of the big hitters in European football, the real hard work is only just about to begin and the real acid test as regards how far the England team has actually come since the World Cup still waits ominously over the horizon.
Can England win Euro 2016?
Err... hand on my heart and being 100% realistic, I would say no.
Unequivocally no, to be precise. I would go as far as to say, that is actually a daft question.
But, if you cast your mind back to 1992, when Denmark, who only entered the competition as a 'wild card' because Yugoslavia were disqualified after qualifying through the group stages, went on the win the competition, when they famously beat Germany in the final in Gothenburg.
There is always scope for a dark horse to progress in any knock out competition. Particularly one that plays together as a team, with collective responsibilities, manned with well drilled and interchangeable players who understand the manager's pattern of play.
People will (and do) complain that England don't play in a very cavalier way and don't have stand out individuals that the rest of the side can look too to turn games. But, is that a bad thing? Football, is a team game.
Together-Everybody-Achieves-More, to coin a phrase.
FT: England 2 v Estonia 0
In closing, a bit of a broadside at the FA.
On Tuesday the England Under 21 side play at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry.
I understand that national Football Associations are governed by both UEFA and those crooks who rule the roost at FIFA, but a 5.45pm kick off in midweek? 
Sort it out! 
Half of the people who would've travelled to 'Cov' won't be attending now because of the logistics.
I include myself among them.