Five years in football
Why the England national football team has come a long way since a disastrous Euro 2016 campaign
International tournaments come thick and fast these days. Qualifying campaigns lead to a sense of national sides playing on a far more regular basis.
Just over five years ago, Roy Hodgson’s England were dumped out of Euro 2016 by Iceland. The tournament newbies came from behind to complete a relatively comfortable victory over a poor England side.
The last 16 defeat followed a group stage exit of the 2014 World Cup, a quarter final exit at Euro 2012 and a demolition at the hands of Germany in 2010. This 4–1 defeat came just two years after Steve McLaren’s England failed to even qualify for Euro 2008.
The period leading to the Iceland defeat was one of disappointment for the England national side. We were represented by players who didn’t look up to the task of playing at big tournaments and managed by men who were unable to get the best out of the players they picked.
Sam Allardyce replaced Hodgson and managed one game before being forced to resign due to ‘inappropriate conduct’ over offering advice on how to get around rules on transfers. Gareth Southgate temporarily took charge in September 2016 and, in the following March, was handed the role on a permanent deal.
He brought with him a quiet respect, a persona that few managers in England’s history have had. The 2018 World Cup felt different to those in the previous decade, as it felt as though England had a squad that was united. They seemed to come around to the Southgate philosophy, and this unity helped to get the Three Lions to the semi-final in Russia. It was heartbreak for the English, but it was the furthest England had got in a tournament in over 20 years.
Southgate remained as manager and preparation for Euro 2020 picked up pace. A third placed finish in the first ever UEFA Nations League helped to build up the big game experience for a young squad.
The delayed Euro 2020 saw England send a squad brimming with young talent and big game players. Despite the sluggish start to the group stages, this blend of youth and experience proved successful for England, reaching a first major tournament in 55 years. We may have fallen short, but there is plenty in this group of players to know that the future is bright for English football.
The fate of the English national team has arguably been influenced by a butterfly effect. If Sam Allardyce was never forced to resign, Gareth Southgate would never have been placed in charge and the next five years would never have panned out the same way.
It is unlikely that the major tournaments of 2018 and 2021 would have been as enjoyable to watch from an English perspective, and everyone across the land knows just how much fun the World Cup in Russia and the Europe wide Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate has helped to change how England fans view their national team. He has brought about a quiet dignity and brought together an enjoyable group of players.
With the World Cup countdown well and truly on, I for one cannot wait to see England back on the world stage in the form of an international tournament.