I tell you what, football is making it hard for me this week. I dare any one of you three reading this to cast your eye back over the weekend in football and come up with anything remotely interesting that can be tenuously linked to the Premier League.
See? There’s not a lot out there. Not a lot at all. If I am getting to the point where I am considering mentioning that Aaron Ramsey thought he had a contract lined up with Arsenal and now it turns out he doesn’t, I am struggling.
I suppose we should mention England vs Croatia which took place on Friday night. Not that there is a great deal to report on, very little in fact.
One of the few benefits of a match involving England being played behind closed doors is that we get a night off from that massively annoying brass band. It was vaguely amusing as we made that transition from England matches being nailed on violence to being something more family friendly. Now it’s just annoying. Considering the amount of things you are not allowed to take into a football stadium nowadays, is it too much of an ask to add brass instruments to the list?
The more observant of you will notice that if I am banging on about something that wasn’t even at the match on Friday night that the actual match probably didn’t have anything worth commenting on.
You’d be right.
Someone could have reminded the Croatian media department that nobody was going to be at the game as they still printed a full complement of matchday programmes which will no doubt end up being quite valuable in years to come. I’d also like to give credit to the 20 or so England fans high up on the hillside trying to catch a glimpse of the action. Sure, the view was probably quite similar to being in the top tier at the new Wembley, but still. That’s proper fan dedication or stupidity. I shall let you decide.
One thing we did learn from there being no fans in the ground was what Jordan Henderson thinks of the Croatian manager. Fortunately for England, Hendo picked up a yellow card and misses the Spain game which dramatically increases the chance of England not losing that one.
Another thing we learned from the match itself was that England are still pretty decent at set-pieces as they hit the woodwork twice from such situations. Firstly, Eric Dier hit the post and then Harry Kane managed to hit the bar later in the game. That’s six matches for England without a goal for the skipper now – anyone would think it is August or something.
Yet, the fact that England left Split goalless was not down to Harry Kane. Oh, no. The blame for England being unable to score a goal on Friday night can only come down to one man. Sit down, Jose. I know you probably think I am about to blame you, but I am not. This one is actually on the player himself.
We can knock Jose Mourinho as much as we like, and I certainly do, but what if he is actually right on a few things? I know, shocking concept. Maybe there is a reason Marcus Rashford doesn’t start every week for Man United. Maybe it is because he isn’t actually that good? I am not saying he will never be that good, far from it. But, right now is Marcus Rashford actually in the category labelled ‘best young players in Europe?’
The two attempted finishes against the Croats, one after another, would suggest maybe not.
Before everyone jumps back on the ‘well it would help if Jose picked him because he needs time to develop’ bandwagon – Jose does pick him. He does give him chances. And Jose isn’t that stupid that if Rashford bagged a hat-trick in one of these games that he would continue to drop him. Rashford plays for both United and England regularly and he gets chances to score regularly. He just doesn’t score regularly.
On a slightly more positive note, what about Jadon Sancho? If you are going to judge the rest of a player’s career based on 12 minutes of action in a meaningless UEFA Nations League match then I think we might have just found the next Messi. Of course, I am joking – but the kid does have potential and he does seem to have a very level head on his shoulders when you listen to some of the interviews he has given.
But, please, oh please, can we get away from the narrative of ‘well, it’s a shame he had to go to Germany to get a chance to play!’ What if, and this is the second shocking concept of the day, what if it is actually going to be even better for a young Englishman to move abroad at a young age and learn his trade in an entirely different, potentially more challenging environment?
The last two England teams that actually did anything of note before we got a free pass to the World Cup last four this summer were in 1990 and 1996. In the 1990 side, you had players who had played abroad (albeit only two or three of them) and it can only be assumed that they might have learned something that helped them. Come 1996, even more players had played abroad plus the manager and again we did alright, no?
Some lovely news for Liverpool fans. Mo Salah went off injured having scored directly from a corner for Egypt. Don’t panic though, he’s been rubbish for Liverpool this season so far, hasn’t he?