Shock, Horror: England’s Victory Underplayed By Media

Norway’s Brede Hangeland thinks England are running on empty after a long season. Gary Lineker had a moan about the tactics on twitter. But an Ashley Young goal nine minutes into the game gave England a 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo on Saturday night. Lost in all the comments about how the second half was dull was the fact that Norway haven’t lost at home since June 2010 and have beaten both France and Portugal in Oslo since then. Isn’t winning while not playing particularly well something that we’ve always respected other countries for?

The other issue is that the outbreak of pessimism seems to be hiding another agenda: if England over perform this summer then all the pundits can slap each other on the back and spout nonsense about how they secretly felt that ‘the lads’ would do well all along. I’m sure a few people are convinced that England can repeat the unexpected triumph of the Danes in 1992, but the last time I looked there weren’t any civil wars in Europe we could exploit.

From my point of view, it was hardly an ideal start for Roy Hodgson. I was visiting my sister in law in a ‘nearby country’ and although we watched the first half live, we couldn’t watch the second half until we’d watched the Eurovision Song Contest, which featured a musical recreation of the England team from the mid 1970s by Englebert Humperdinck: on paper it probably seemed as if it was a good idea, but it was off key, not as good as many European rivals and ultimately a bit embarrassing. By the time we watched the recording of the second half of the game I’d had three pints of cider and knew what the final score was.

Moving on and the details of the final squad were handed in earlier today with two alterations from the original list. Jack Butland replaces John Ruddy who is getting married broke his finger and Phil Jagielka replaces Gareth Barry who picked up a groin injury in Oslo on Saturday night. While he was playing football, I hasten to add – I know he’s a Man Citteh player but I don’t think he’s visited any strip clubs recently.

Incidentally, Jagielka’s biography on Wikipedia is as interesting as it is confusing: his father was born in Zagreb, but later on it says that he has Polish and Scottish ancestry. In a parallel universe he’d be playing for the Republic of Ireland.

Last week we received a copy of the Foreign Office guidelines for travel to the Ukraine and without putting too finer point on it, the message was basically don’t travel if you’re black, Asian or obviously gay. I haven’t seen last night’s ‘Panorama’ about the racism in Poland and the Ukraine, but having some experience of watching football in Eastern Europe I can see how the issue could easily be sensationalised.  However, to claim that ‘Nazi symbols…can be seen at any any game in England’ as Ukrainian foreign minister Oleh Voloshyn has is a load of ****ocks and sounds like a statement from a man who clearly has been rattled.

On a lighter note, I also have some experience of watching football in the middle of a group of Polish fans – at a beach football tournament in Spain a few years ago. About ten minutes before Poland’s games were due to kick off, a group of about fifty or more Poles appeared from nowhere: decked out in replica shirts, waving flags and singing songs they kept going throughout the entire game before disappearing immediately afterwards – although some of them must have been on holiday, I think others must’ve been working in bars and hotels. That leads me on to a story about ordering drinks in Spanish only to find out that the barman was Bulgarian…but that’s got nothing to do with football.

I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of the game against the Belgians. Enjoy the weather while you can, in a couple of weeks many of us will be parked in front of the telly all day.

England To Play Against Another Team

by on May 25, 2012
in Euro 2012, Friendlies

At last. A game of football.

Over the past few months – well, most of this year and probably a bit beyond as well – the stories have all been about Capello leaving, ‘Arry being the people’s choice, whether John Terry will continue to be John Terry and all the other unbelievably tiresome speculation about nearly every single aspect of the England team.

Apart from what’s actually happening on the field. In a bizarre turn of events, it seems that England are going to be playing several games of football over the next month or so, an exciting development for fans and pundits alike. The trouble is that the first game is against a team that we’ve had some problems with over the years: we’ve not beaten Norway at Wembley since 1980 but even more worrying is the last time we beat them in Norway was in a friendly before the 1966 World Cup.

The Norwegians haven’t qualified for any of the major tournaments for over a decade, but they were unlucky not to reach the playoffs for Euro 2012, having an inferior goal difference to Portugal – who they beat in Oslo during the qualifiers thanks to a goal from Portsmouth’s Erik Huseklepp. Their current FIFA ranking is higher than both of the hosts in the upcoming tournament as well as the Czech Republic so they aren’t a bad choice for a friendly game – with five English based players in the squad they’ll be familiar with our team and if there’s such a thing as a Scandinavian ‘style’ then I suppose this game is good practice in playing against it.

One thing that could be an advantage for the Norwegians is that the majority of their players are based at home and play in the top tier of the domestic competition, which kicked off in March: the reigning champions are Molde FK, who are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer. He was strongly linked with the Aston Villa job last week but saw sense and turned it down 😉

The danger men for the Norwegians are familiar names to England fans: Jon-Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pederson and the aforementioned Erik Huseklepp but keep an eye out for Moa Abdellaoue (Hannover 96), the latest of a number of Norwegian players who have chosen to move to the Bundesliga. He’s got a decent strike rate in Germany (26 goals in 68 appearances) for a team that’s not exactly a powerhouse over there and could cause the back four some problems.

Apart from Robert Green and Andy Carroll, it’s not clear who will be in Roy Hodgson’s first England team, but with call ups for Martin Kelly (who won’t be travelling on to Eastern Europe) and Jack Butland (who will – John Ruddy’s broken finger will keep him out of the tournament) we might be seeing an experimental side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a friendly but hardly ideal a few weeks before a major tournament – so this is a classic wait and see game: a victory would be a bonus, but not losing would be just as good.

The Home of Betting is also the home of online betting: William Hill. Check out UEFA Euro 2012 Bets and Odds. Place your Bets now!

Hodgson Backed To Succeed By Baggies Assistant

Regular contributor Thomas Rooney shares a few thoughts about Roy Hodgson…

Much has been discussed about new England manager Roy Hodgson. Some disagree with the decision to appoint him, others believe he is the perfect man for the job.

One thing that cannot be underestimated as far as the Euro 2012 Odds are concerned is how well West Brom have handled the situation though. They have worked well with the FA and ensured a smooth transition for their manager to move on now that the domestic season is over.

Even Hodgson’Â’s West Brom assistant – Keith Downing – has praised the Baggies boss for his career move, saying that he can be a better candidate for England than the previous favourite for the job, Harry Redknapp.

The Baggies assistant said: “

‘There was a mass public demand for Harry and rightly so. Roy’s work has been really intense. He’s been very focused. His job has been equally impressive.”

“’He’s kept this club up and established it as a Premier League side. And he did that at Fulham. His CV is excellent and he should be considered”

‘“I just hope people will give him the opportunity, though I know it’s the toughest job in the world. Let’s see how he does. The low expectancy might help him.”

‘Roy is his own man and he’ll make the players realise what he wants to do, and they will adhere to it.

“He’s got a wealth of stories: Inter Milan, Switzerland, Malmo. We do sometimes had a chuckle. He’s dealt with some big players and his CV is fantastic.”

‘“There’s a warmth about him, and it’s not just football, football. He has an interest in your family life and how things are going. He’s a fascinating man and a lot of the players enjoy his company. He’s interested in people.”’

England will certainly hope that they have made the right choice, but it is clear that Hodgson gets huge respect from the people he works with. If this continues with England, he has a good chance of a decent Euro 2012 tournament and people might start looking at the England Euro 2012 Odds and wondering if the current price is a bit too big.

The likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have leant their support to Hodgson too and this is important for the England boss. He needs the support of the senior players, much like Roberto Di Matteo has done at Chelsea – and we saw how well that worked on Saturday evening!

England Squad For Euro 2012 Announced

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Robert Green (West Ham United), John Ruddy (Norwich City)

Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton)

Midfielders: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Scott Parker (Spurs), Ashley Young (Manchester United), James Milner (Manchester City)

Forwards: Jermain Defoe (Spurs), Wayne Rooney & Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (Liverpool)

There is also a standby list, but I’m not going to bother listing them.

A few random thoughts:

a.) All but two of the players come from teams that finished in the top eight in the Premier League in 2011/12 – although there are no players from Newcastle United. At least John Ruddy plays for a team in the Premier League: Robert Green is still mistake prone.

b.) None of the squad plays outside England. No surprise there.

c.) The only omission that might cause a few raised eyebrows is that of Rio Ferdinand, but there were signs this weekend that he wouldn’t have made the team. I think it may be time for him to hang it up.

On the whole, the squad is not a huge surprise. Only Ruddy and Oxlade-Chamberlain are uncapped and I would imagine that the decision to include the Arsenal midfielder is similar to the one Sven-Goran Eriksson made to take Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006. There also seems to be a discrete changing of the guard: I’d be surprised if the trio of Chelsea pensioners (Cole, Terry and Lampard) will be preparing to travel to Brazil in a couple of years time: Phil Jones for John Terry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Frank Lampard looks like the way forward to me. I’d also not be surprised if this is the last time we see Steven Gerrard playing in a tournament for England.

One potential drawback is the lack of alternatives to Wayne Rooney up front. My guess is that Hodgson will be trying out variations of 4-5-1 in the upcoming friendlies with Messers Defoe, Wellbeck and Carroll being given opportunities to audition for the role, but I’d expect Defoe to be in the starting eleven for the games against France and the Ukraine with attacking support being given by the midfield. However, this looks as if it could cause the usual argument about Lampard and Gerrard being the ‘same player’, but if only one of them occupies central midfield then there’s some flexibility on the flanks.

So there you have it. The squad has been announced, the usual nonsense has started on twitter, I don’t like the new kit at all and although I don’t think England will win Euro 2012 I’ve got a feeling that this summer won’t be as much of an anti climax as the last World Cup was. All we have to do now is find the cheapest off licence, the biggest wallchart and we’re off.

I’ll be back next week with a look at the friendly with Norway.

Hodgson Faces Key Decisions On Captain, Strikers.

Roy Hodgson will be naming the England squad for Euro 2012 on Wednesday – and so Thomas Rooney takes a look at some of the candidates for the crucial positions: team captain and goal scoring options another than the Spud Faced Nipper.

With the European Championships just round the corner, there lots of talk as ever about who should be given the captain’s armband for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Scott Parker is amongst favourites amongst punters looking to trade using this back to lay calculator to lead the side out for the Championships. Parker has been one of the best English players in the Premier League this season and his knack of avoiding controversy means he may be the ideal candidate.

The Tottenham midfielder has only made eleven caps for his country but with his form this campaign will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Parker has made 28 appearances for Spurs this season, despite not getting himself on the score-sheet he has been instrumental for his team when he has played and really seems to make them tick.

The ex-West Ham United man is vital to making sure the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon can get forward as much as possible, filling in the gaps they leave when attacking.

This would be the role he would play for the England side who will want to use the pace of the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Lennon and Adam Johnson a lot throughout the tournament.

Parker will be the player to hold the midfield together and make England play in the same way he does for his club.

Other candidates as far as those over at best betting sites are concerned include Joe Hart. The Manchester City man would also be a decent choice as he looks certain to be England’Â’s number one for the foreseeable future: he’s also a very vocal player and being a goalkeeper, can see the whole game.

England require a leader on the pitch, someone to set an example to the rest of the players and drive the team on. Parker is the perfect man for this role in the team, with Hart as vice captain.

Moving onto attacking options, it’ll be interesting to see if Aston Villa striker Darren Bent is fit for the European Championships this summer after an injury that has kept him out of action since February. If Bent is fit, should Roy Hodgson include him in his squad?

In Bent, England have one of the best finishers the Premier League has seen in recent years. His goals seem to go under the radar sometimes and apart from a slight dip at Tottenham, he has scored regularly wherever he has played.

However at Spurs, he did manage 18 goals in sixty appearances, which is not too bad for the worst goal scoring form of his career. So it should be interesting to see what price Bent is for the Golden Boot in the 2012 euro betting odds.

The Englishman had scored nine times in the Premier League this campaign until he was injured in a game against Wigan, it’s quite safe to say Aston Villa would not find themselves as low down the table as they are if they had a fit Darren Bent at the disposal for the whole season.

The former Sunderland striker is an old fashioned goal poacher, he may only touch the ball a few times in the game but ends up scoring two goals and winning his team the game.

The England side does not have a great deal of players similar to Bent, someone whose sole purpose is to find the back of the net. The other option could be Jermaine Defoe, although he has spent the majority of the season coming off the bench so may be suited to that role during the summer.

If the 28-year-old is fully fit he could be the ideal partner for Wayne Rooney in the later stages of the tournament, he also capable of playing up front on his own during Rooney’s suspension in the first two matches.

Bent and Rooney should go to Euros as the Three Lions two main strikers, with Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Daniel Sturridge all waiting in the wings. This front line includes height, pace, strength, skill and finishing – a winning formula.

Update: Hodgson has made one interesting decision today – Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville joins the coaching staff with immediate effect.

Hodgson Already Under Scrutiny

So far so good: Roy Hodgson’s been in charge of England for a week and he’s not lost a game yet.

Rather than trying to jump onto the various bandwagons that were being dragged around in the wake of last weekend’s appointment, I thought it might be better to wait a week before giving a more considered opinion about the decision. One thing to clarify immediately: I won’t be making fun of the way the new manager talks.

Despite being at the cynical end of England fandom (I grew up in the Home Counties in the 1970s and my Dad was Welsh), I don’t have  any problems with Roy Hodgson at all.  In fact, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the latest of a long line of England coaches that goes all the way back to Walter Winterbottom (if you’re not sure who he was, try Wikipedia), through Sir Alf Ramsey (if you’re not sure who he was, you have the wrong site) and – more recently – Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson.

Hodgson’s appointment is something of a return to form for the FA. The key difference is that the new manager combines the old school values with knowledge and experience of managing outside the UK at both national and international level. That’s rare in English football: one of the drawbacks of having such an overinflated and overhyped competition such as the Premier League is that none of our top players go abroad any longer. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any players or coaches in France, Germany, Spain or Italy. Ironically enough – especially as Hodgson’s managerial career began in Sweden – I can think of a couple of reasonably successful British coaches in Scandinavia.

The appointment also seems to be a deliberate reaction against some of the novelty appointments that have been made over the past couple of decades. Capello, Eriksson, Hoddle and McClaren all shared a cosmopolitan profile with Hodgson, although the first two suffered from the apparently fatal malady of not being English, Hoddle was ‘a bit of a nutter’ and McClaren might have made a better England manager in ten years time.

Which brings me round to the last time the FA appointed a ‘fan favourite’. Kevin Keegan was an absolute disaster and there’s absolutely no evidence to show that Harry Redknapp wouldn’t have been the same. Strangely enough, Redknapp’s reliance on his bumpkin image to clear his  name in court earlier this year might have affected the perception of him by any prospective employers: his apparent inability to perform simple tasks might have helped Redknapp clear his name and endeared him to aficionados of ‘Carry On’ films or the works of Norman Wisdom (‘Strike a light, lads, we’ve only gorn an’ missed the coach to the stadium!’) , but won’t have given any of the blazers at the FA any confidence in his ability to manage the England team.

In fact, the only manager to have combined fan approval with the type of profile the FA seems to think is important was Terry Venables, who oversaw the most successful tournament campaign in the last two decades  – yes, sixteen years ago. As for some of the arguments that compared Redknapp to Brian Clough in so far as they were both who the ‘fans’ wanted for the job, it needs to be stressed repeatedly that Clough won the old League Championship as a manager when he was 38. If you want to compare Clough with anyone, try Jose Mourinho. Brash, outspoken, successful.

Back to the tournament at hand now: Hodgson has to prepare for a couple of friendlies in the next few weeks before Euro 2012 starts and although he’s guaranteed a place for Wayne Rooney in the squad that’s going to Eastern Europe, it’s the centre of defence that’s the biggest problem. Regardless of the fact that the forthcoming tournament could be the last one that both Rio Ferdinand and John Terry play in, there’s also the issue of Terry’s apparent inability to behave like an adult who is also a professional sportsman. The character defects of the Chelsea captain are both a.) glaringly obvious and b.) have a tendency to get him into trouble both on and off the pitch: basically he thinks he can get away with doing whatever he likes. Hodgson’s first job may have to tell Terry that he won’t be able to do that for England any longer: or possibly ever again.

I’ll be posting some more thoughts as the tournament approaches, but I must admit that I’m really intrigued to see how Roy Hodgson is going to do this summer. Although the ‘defeated in the quarter finals by the eventual winners’ scenario usually happens regardless of who the manager is, the rampant jingoism, crass newspaper headlines and pubs filled with ‘casual’ fans who have to be told which team is which may not be as prevalent as they might have been if Harry Redknapp had got the job. However, the sense of anger and disappointment if England fail badly in Poland and the Ukraine might be greater with Hodgson in charge rather than Redknapp: we’ll see.

Roy Hodgson, England Manager

by on May 1, 2012
in Uncategorized

Roy Hodgson was confirmed as the new England manager on Tuesday afternoon. More to follow as soon as possible.

Roy Hodgson In The Frame For The Manager’s Job

Calm down, calm down…

Yesterday the news broke that Roy Hodgson had been approached by the FA regarding the England job: the overall reaction appears to be split, ranging from outrage from White Van Man to conditional support from various corners of the media. Hodgson’s interview is taking place this afternoon but it’ll be interesting to see how quickly a decision is made before the Euro 2012 betting begins: the situation may be closer to being resolved than it was last week but I still think there’s some mileage left in this story.

We’ve always tried to follow the ‘best man for the job’ line here: I’m on record as having said that Harry Redknapp is the right man for the England position, but it’s not my decision to make and if Roy Hodgson is appointed then I’m not going to complain as his CV is very impressive. I don’t know either man personally – and let’s face it, how many of us do – so if anyone’s expecting any pro-Redknapp or anti-Hodgson rants here, then you’re probably better off wading through the hilarious stuff posted on various message boards.

That’s not going to stop me from some speculation though. It’s interesting that in recent interviews on Radio 5 that both Graham Taylor and Henry Winter have mentioned the role that the manager would have at the National Football Centre in Burton: the perception seems to be that although Hodgson would relish this role, it might be a bit too far for Redknapp in terms of distance, desire and ability. One more thing that needs to be cleared up: Hodgson is five months older than Redknapp, not ten years.

Another issue is on field performance. Although Spurs beat Blackburn yesterday, Tottenham have had an incredibly disappointing end to their season and although that’s not a reason to write off Harry Redknapp’s ability as a manager per se Spurs’ collapse couldn’t have come at a worse time.

However, it’s important to remember that this time last season Roy Hodgson had been written off by Liverpool fans for pretty much the same reason: following the less than stellar second coming of Kenny Dalglish in the role of Anfield Messiah, it’s now accepted that Hodgson did a decent at a dysfunctional club that’s been relying on past glories as a guarantee for future successes for far too long. Oh wait a minute…that sounds like he’s exactly the right man for the England job.

If there’s a moral to this particular story, it’s probably that there’s no point in wasting your money at the bookies on anything to do with England. ‘Arry was available to back at 1/3 as late as yesterday lunchtime: he’s now out to 4/1 with the firms that haven’t suspended betting on that particular market.

Managerial Uncertainty Makes England’s Euro 2012 Odds Look Unappealing

With only a few weeks left to go in the domestic football season, it’s only a couple of months until the start of Euro 2012 and it’s officially time to start our coverage. Who better to kick it off that regular contributor Richard Smith: Richard takes a look at some of the prices on offer for an English success in the tournament…and rapidly comes to the same conclusion as any sane bettor would.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding who will be the manager of the Englandteam at Euro 2012,  bookmakers are getting into full swing by offering a host of betting markets on how theEnglandteam and players will fare at the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine.

In the betting to win Euro 2012 outright,England are rated as the fourth favourites with most major bookies offering just 9/1. This price is influenced by the weight of the “patriotic pound” that will either have already been wagered or in anticipation from the betting companies but when both France and Italy are priced at 14/1, it is difficult to rate England as “value” and 9/1 is unappealing but nonetheless, loyal fans of the Three Lions will invariably back the team to win the tournament with nothing more than blind faith as the reason.

If England qualify from Group D, a Quarter Final match against either Spain or Italy is likely to await them and if it is Spain, then prospects of progressing really do look bleak.

Spain are expected to win Group C, so to ensure a last eight tie against the runner up in Group C, which is most likely to be Italy, then England will need to win Group D. Should this be the case there is no guarantee that England could or even should defeat Italy, a game in which the Italians would likely be favourites to win but would be considered more “winnable” than if having to face Spain.

In all honesty, any punter thinking with their head would probably resist from backing the Three Lions in the Outright win market, especially with no permanent England manager yet appointed which must impact on preparations, potential squad selection, tactics and opponent analysis . However, if you’re betting with your heart, it’ll be a question of how much to put on England in the hope that Harry Redknapp is appointed at the end of the season and the moral boost from that would be enough to result in a fairytale ending!

Englandto be eliminated at the Quarter Final Stage at odds of 13/8 is proabbly the most likely outcome at this stage!

As far as Group D is concerned, most pundits are predicting an England and France one-two. England are the narrow 13/8 favourites to win the group with France a 7/4 chance, co-hosts Ukraine come next at 9/2 while underdogs Sweden are 11/2.

The key to the Group probably lies in the opening game between England and France on 11th June. France have been transformed under new Head Coach Laurent Blanc, losing only twice in the twenty matches he has been at the helm and one of those was his very first game in charge when he fielded a weakened team following the fallout and suspensions on the back of the 2010 World Cup debacle. They qualified comfortably from their Euro2012 Qualification Group losing just once in their ten qualification games and have since secured “friendly” wins over the USA and more impressively Germany. The French clearly will be no pushover!

England of course qualified unbeaten from their Group and have secured recent wins over Sweden and Spain. However, with Fabio Capello no longer in charge, it has left a number of doubts surrounding the team at a critical time and with no manager yet appointed and the France game fast approaching, the situation looks bleak.

Backing England to top Group D therefore now looks a little dangerous, France have the momentum and as such, could get the better of England in the Group D opener, which would leave England with two difficult remaining games against Ukraine and Sweden but ones where they should be good enough to get the results to qualify in second spot, whoever is selecting the team and tactics! Therefore, a France to finish top, England runners up straight forecast bet at 7/2 looks the best pick of the group markets involving England.

A lot can happen between now and England’s opening game in Donetsk but as it stands, without a permanent manager it is difficult to be optimistic. Stuart Pearce is more than capable of leading the troops but how far in to battle can he take them? It will certainly be an interesting few weeks in between the end of the domestic season and start of the Euros and an even more interesting couple of weeks in Poland and the Ukraine!

Add 11 Lions to your Mobile Device

by on April 8, 2012
in Miscellaneous

If you want to follow 11 Lions on your mobile device just type in our web address – http://www.11lions.co.uk  into your mobile Internet browser and you’ll be prompted to download it.

We’re working to get it added to various app stores but this may take some time.

Over and Out

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