At the final whistle on Monday evening, Roy Hodgson could hear the words of Frank Sinatra resonating in his head – “And now the end is near, as I face the final curtain.”
Resignation was all ‘Woy’ could offer. Drained, disbelieving, quizzical and dumbfounded looks were all the players could offer, but nothing will erase the embarrassment for our nation of losing to Iceland – the Leicester City of the EUROs.
It really is the season of the underdog.
There will be plenty of excuses doing the rounds after the latest England debacle and one of them will be tiredness.
After such a long season in the Premier League, Europe and the qualifying games, you could stand back and accept that fatigue played its part.
However, most of us would find it hard to accept such a thought, as we grind through our eight, 10, 12 hour days for five or six days a week and keep that going month after month.
If anyone could be acceptably tired, you might point to Harry Kane, who despite his protestations, is/was exhausted. Look at that free kick late on against Iceland that went nowhere near the goal and only troubled the 5th official as he scrambled out of the way. That was a tired, ‘I’m shot’ kind of effort. Kane played all last season after only two weeks off from the previous year and an U-21 tournament in between.
Others have had longer periods of recovery and we can trot out the old adage of how long they train for and how many times a week they play, but that is an old argument, though relevant.
England’s true demise was down to Roy Hodgson, his backroom staff and their dismal and ineffective strategies. Other players and other teams have had equally long and arduous seasons, but they have a game plan. Even Iceland stuck rigidly to their 4-4-2 formation at all times, as the out of shape, out of ideas, out of the inspiration England team showed a distinct lack of anything.
What hurt the nation was the inescapable lack of passion, commitment and hunger from very good individuals, but collectively a team of strangers.
Hodgson’s selection was always brave, and in some instances, correct. However, the defence was a concern and throughout the tournament it was never really properly tested. Who knows what would have happened had we played Italy or Germany. Perhaps the Icelandic team saved us from further humiliation – if that was at all possible.
Another old argument may also raise it’s head, as the Premier League employs more foreign managers and more foreign players. Are we now seeing the effect on the nations team once and for all?
The new manager, whomever that may be, will have to look not only at the tactics, but some of the playing staff. We can question all day long why Hodgson took certain individuals, when others were available and were clearly better options. Players that hadn’t played very much, others just back from injury and others out of form went to France out of loyalty from Hodgson, but loyalty, as we now know, does not win you tournaments. There were a decent selection that did play all season, did perform, had the best seasons of their careers, but sat at home and were grateful not to be a part of the humbling from so-called lesser teams.
Those players may now get their chances and under a new manager increased optimism may evolve.
Optimism is always tinged with realism as an England fan, as we may go on for years qualifying like a hurricane only to leave the finals like a puff of smoke.
However, after two European exits inside a week, now is the time to lay low and look forward to our domestic season.