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Land of mope and glory

So Ireland’s Euro 2008 campaign has ended in failure. If it’s any consolation, England flopped badly as well. Blame poor organisation and silly tactics.

Tony Cascarino, 04 Dec 2007

After the misery Irish fans must have gone through for the last few months, I’m sure England’s week from hell put the smiles back on Irish faces. I can imagine the reaction in the Irish bars; I’m sure thousands of people hit the roof.

From England’s point of view, it was a complete shambles. Firstly, I’ve no idea why they played a friendly six days beforehand in Austria. That made no sense, coming just before such a crucial game. There’s always a risk that you’ll pick up injuries, and sure enough, they lost Michael Owen. This meant that having played two up front in the Austrian game, they took to the field against Croatia with only one striker, making you wonder what the whole point of the friendly had been. It was appallingly bad preparation.

They needed to stick with the same system, and when they lost Owen, it should have been a simple matter of replacing him with Defoe. Instead, Steve McClaren played for the 0-0 and it backfired horribly. England fell apart in every department. Everyone except Crouch and Beckham had a nightmare.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen England perform as badly. They only played with any urgency when they were 2-0 down and had to throw caution to the wind. Then as soon as they got back to 2-2, they stopped playing again, which was asking for trouble. It’s an established pattern with McClaren’s teams. His Middlesbrough side used to get good results in Europe when their backs were against the wall and they had to chase a game. But any time he approached it like a chess match, they got taken apart.

I must say, though, Croatia were magnificent. It was one of the best displays I’ve seen from any international side in a long time. They’re not naturally better players than the English lads, but they were properly organised. It makes all the difference at international level. If you pick the team and just throw them out there and let them get on with it, without giving them a clear gameplan, you’re going to get found out, as England and Ireland have proved. .

In our case, Steve Staunton couldn’t seem to stop himself playing people out of position, messing around for no apparent reason, undermining his own credibility every time he picked a team.

With Terry Venables now out of work, he’s become red-hot favourite for the Irish job. I think his relationship with McClaren was strained from a very early stage: he knew McClaren was making huge mistakes, but he didn’t want to be seen to undermine the manager, so he took a back seat. Middlesbrough hired him a few years ago as an emergency fire-fighter when they were in trouble, and Bryan Robson came out of it looking very humiliated – I think Terry was conscious of not doing the same to McClaren.

But I think he’d be a good choice for the Irish job, if he wants it. It’s the right time for both parties. He’s very knowledgeable and talented, he’s done great work with Barcelona, England and Tottenham. Tactically he’s very sharp, and I’m sure he could get more out of the players than Stan did.

As far as the England job, everyone seems to be ruling themselves out. One man who hasn’t is Fabio Capello, whose CV is absolutely first-class. He’s won Serie A with three different clubs, the Spanish title with Real Madrid, the Champions League with AC Milan. He has to be seen as a very strong contender. There’s never any guarantee of success, with any appointment, and one question mark is the fact he doesn’t speak English. But that could be a positive. He’s not afraid to fall out with people – he’s fallen out with Totti, Del Piero, Beckham, Cassano, Ronaldo. It’s fair to say he wouldn’t get too close to the players, the way Sven did.

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