Send your thoughts to…


If not Southgate, then who?
There are two ways of looking at Southgate:

1) He’s the most successful England manager for over 50 years. He’s led England to the semi-finals and final of a major tournament, losing narrowly: once in extra time and once on penalties. He’s loved by the squad and has created a sense of unity in the team not seen in decades. He’s created a bond between players and fans and created genuine love for the England team again.

2) He’s played defensive, negative football. In both tournaments he’s only beaten teams you’d expect England to beat (including a poor germany) and have failed to beat anyone considered amongst the favorites. They only just scraped through ties against non-elite sides such as Denmark and Colombia.

Two perspectives and there is an element of truth in both. Southgate is a decent manager, he’s not an elite manager. He is a great man manager, but perhaps not the greatest tactically. Someone compared him to Solskjaer in the mailbox, which is pretty accurate. Didn’t get the job on merit, not the best tactically but has exceeded expectations and has a great bond with players and fans.

My question for those that want Southgate out would be, if not him, then who? Who could replace him? Let’s assume the FA will not go down the foreign manager route again. The only English managers in the top flight are Dean Smith, Graham Potter, Sean Dyche and Steve Bruce. If you’re wanting the ability to play good football, we’re left with Dean Smith and Graham Potter. Both have done well, and someone like Graham Potter certainly plays the game in a positive way. But they are also two managers that have been in relegation fights and both would be an enormous gamble. Would they even want the job, leaving behind the weekly thrill of club football?

So genuine question, if not Southgate, then who?
Mike, LFC, London


Why is Kane always anonymous when it really matters?
Afternoon all

Been reading the mailbox with interest this week and have seen a lot of opinions I agree with, despite them being wildly divergent.

I haven’t really seen anything relating to Kane’s relative lack of scoring when it really matters.

World Cup Semi – should have squared or scored
Champions League Final – Anonymous
Euro Final – Anonymous

I recall him scoring against Chelsea in a losing FA Cup semi final but that’s about it.

For a supposedly elite striker (and I do think he’s very good, would gladly have him at Chelsea) he doesn’t really make the difference when you really need him to step up.

Of course he might not be getting the service but I recall him a few years back at Spurs just tearing it up any time he got anywhere near the goal. Maybe those ankle injuries have robbed him of pace so he’s having to drop back a lot more now to try and feed the faster players.
Lee, (still utterly appalled by our moronic ‘fans’ behaviour after the game) Hornsey


Oh England…
Full disclosure first – I am a naturalised Brit who happens to live in England, as such I have no natural affinity or love for the English national team (world #105 for me baby!!). However I have lived my entire adult life in the UK having moved here for University in 2005 – so English football is a bit difficult to avoid.

Here’s some facts guys:

  • The English team did very well at the Euros. Yes they lost the final on penalties but it literally was 3-2 on penalties. Two penalties having a different result would have meant victory. Celebrate this, the kids did well and Southgate has shown true progress since the last World Cup.
  • You can hope the team builds even further, and does better at the World Cup. Hoping for England bringing the cup back from Qatar isn’t a silly dream anymore. England have proven that European teams are not miles ahead of them, and in 18 months Messi will be older and who knows what dysfunction will ail Brazil.
  • Equally, this time it doesn’t feel that the team have over-achieved or under-achieved. But they have been very humble about it. Contrast with the past claims of the golden generation – as if having Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard entitled you to win everything.
  • So the fans and the media – give up the entitled “it’s coming home” nonsense. It grates, especially when combined with other English fan behaviour – drunkenness and general abusiveness passed off as banter.
  • A little history lesson, there are probably a few hundred million people alive today who have lived under British colonisation. That dislike takes a couple of generations to fully go away. But it certainly doesn’t help when the symbol of colonisation (the Monarchy) is still around, and when the current Prime Minister has in the past claimed that the problem with colonialism is that the British left. This isn’t to say that everyone is like Boris, but enough people have voted for him knowing fully well these views. So yeah a little general humility and letting time pass will help.
  • To the racist dumbasses, stop doing racism ok. But the current discourse that it’s just a few bad eggs, distracts from the real issue at hand. We all know racism is bad, just like we all know that domestic violence is bad. So why is the reaction to racism limited just to condemning and occasionally disavowing the racists?
  • And finally, it’s a f*cking game of football. We have seen in the last 15 months – none of it matters. Enjoy it – be happy, be sad, whatever. But why use it as an excuse to justify abhorrent behaviour?

Nitin (Indian in Cheshire)


The Double Pivot works
Well, it was fun while it lasted and we had a squad that managed to be likeable.  The camaraderie of the team was great to see, and I enjoyed the tournament as a whole.  However, we now get to play Monday Morning Quarterback – on a Tuesday I’ll grant you – and debate what could have been.  While many pundits and mail-boxers determine that the combination of Rice and Phillips will only get you so far, I disagree.

The main issue, as it was throughout the England games, was the creativity.  We relied on Shaw, Trippier, Saka, Sterling, and Kane to create and finish the opportunities.  The one name that’s missing from that list is Mason Mount.  Nice lad, seems to press, and has high energy but he’s not the creative force that you need if you do play Rice and Phillips together. Per UEFA’s website, Mount, in 5 games, contributed 0 goals, 1 assist, 2 tackles and 11 ball recoveries.  Let’s compare that to Rice – 0 goals, 0 assists, 10 tackles and 28 ball recoveries – and Phillips – 0 goals, 1 assist, 13 tackles and 32 ball recoveries.  Essentially Mount’s job, from the creative #10 position, was the same as a blanket on top of a duvet on a warm night – not needed.  I’d argue that this role, not him personally, was Southgate’s biggest tactical failing.  Rather than making the defenders defend, Mount simply tried to make them not initiate attacks.  Play a true, attacking #10, let Rice and Phillips provide the protection, and that game could, not would, have been won.

Unfortunately living in Northern New Jersey I now have to smile and nod along with my Italian neighbours, yet this team does give me hope and, dare I say it, a certain amount of pride.



What’s that noise?

It’s the collective sigh of all Leeds United fans as we see more “Would England have won if Kalvin Phillips didn’t play”. It is, quite frankly, total nonsense.

The absolutely insane stats Kalvin Phillips put up this tournament deserve praise, not questions of his place. One stat that stood out was his pressure stats. Okay he’s the most athletic player in the squad in terms of KMs run. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows anything about Bielsa’s Leeds United, but the fact he was outperforming attackers on some statistics as well as defenders, show what an unbelievable asset and engine England have.

The big question. The actual question here. Is should we keep shoehorning Declan Rice into a position that Kalvin Phillips is quite clearly better at.

England sacrificed Kalvin Phillips Quarterback style passing by playing him higher. Why does it matter I hear you ask? Well 1-0 up vs Italy as they searched for an equaliser, England were absolutely hopeless at any form of counter-attacking. The game should’ve looked like it would finish 1-1 or 2/3-0 England. In the end it looked like it might finish 2-1 Italy. Having Kalvin being able to play the Pivot would’ve helped England counter much much better and probably win the game by a margin rather than hanging on.

We’ll see many takes saying we can only play one of Rice and Phillips. They’re right on that. Most will tell you it should be Rice. They’re wrong on that.
Josh (He really is the Yorkshire Pirlo, you know)


It is interesting to hear possible solutions to England’s midfield conundrum and god bless you all for trying.

But, and this will sound incredibly pessimistic and defeatist, until we have a central midfield that play for ‘elite’ clubs our chances of making that final, final step will remain tantalisingly out of reach.

TAA doesn’t play that role for Liverpool – if he was seen as good enough they could have done it by now, instead Klopp went out and bought Thiago.

James Ward Prowse, with the best will in the world, is not currently coveted by Real Madrid or even any of the big 6. He may prove expensive to prise from Southampton but if they wanted him then, by jove, they would have nabbed him by now.

Bellingham could play a role in the centre for sure, but that regista role, so eloquently described by Martin in the morning mailbox is where we are sorely lacking.

Foden could find himself there when he is in his late 20s as he matures into his more senior role at City as Guardiola chases title number 16 and his elusive first CL but there is very little chance of that in the immediate future whilst he still has the legs and enthusiasm to gambol forward unrestrained.

We just don’t have that player that other nations do.

Take the 2018 Croatia vintage. Their squad was good, but not exceptional (Lovren was a key figure for pity’s sake), but at the very beating heart they had Rakitic (Barca), Brozovic (Inter) and, mercy, Modric in his Real prime. This relative minnow of the international scene reached the World Cup final with that midfield. An extraordinary achievement but easier to understand when you realise the control they had in the centre of the park.

I genuinely think Croatia are now due a period of ‘mediocrity’ in the international game. They will reach tournaments most probably. Possibly making it out the group stage but then not much further than that. Why? They have a game squad who can push anyone on their day, but that midfield is only going look a thousand times poorer without the above mentioned trio (and Rakitic is already out the door).

If I was a central ball playing midfielder at a ‘big 6’ club academy in England with a very promising future then my first thought would be to aim for a move to a Dortmund, Leipzig or similar. Someone who can provide you with CL experience and trust you with that key role despite the tender years. Prove yourself there and the BIG move beckons and then we can see an Englishman dictating play whilst surrounded by an extraordinary array of talent elsewhere.

I still think we can do exciting and uplifting things with the squad we have (and will have next year) but that elusive final finishing touch is still missing for us no matter how we tweak formations or personnel.
Rob, Leicester


I’m Scottish but I think that playing Rice and Phillips together was a mistake. You don’t need 2 players with their style in the same team England has enough attacking midfielders that should win games.
Ian Jones


There is some strange confusion about the capabilities of some players. Maybe they are fooled by how a particular manager uses that player, or they don’t really watch them that closely.

Take Greenwood. He’s not a winger or an inside forward. Just because he’s played there for OGS doesn’t mean that’s the limit of his ability. He’s a phenomenal player and an excellent striker as hopefully this season will show.

Pogba isn’t a left midfielder either. That’s just a way to have him play without being a defensive liability.

Sterling isn’t a striker, or a left sided player, despite what Southgate seems to think. He demonstrated that well enough himself.

So let me just pick up this midfield issue, and Phillips in particular. He is completely capable enough of playing deeper. Just because he spent much of the tournament doing a specific job shouldn’t distract from his ball playing abilities. He dribbled past players numerous times, made many classy passes both long and short, as well as harried all game and ran more than anyone in a white shirt. If you are looking for someone to fill the Kante role, he’s your man. Sure, even better if paired with an attacking playmaker (or Kane if he’s undroppable for some reason and is permitted to keep coming deep, in which case we need a striker on the pitch). He showed over and over how composed he was in small spaces and under pressure, including the final.

As far as 433, that’s fine and dandy as long as you have people on who are suited to the roles or we have someone near the goal who can shoot. If Kane won’t do that and wants to be a 10, then you need two from Sancho, Rashford, Greenwood, Foden, Saka maybe after a good second season and a few more goals, and Sterling to at least be a running threat. Personally I’d think the players we have suit a 442/424 (two wingers and a striker to pick up Kane’s passes).

The issue isn’t our midfield or whether a wing back can be our answer (bonkers). We have Bellingham already who is the more creative version of Phillips, and those two together with Rice if needed for defence or Mount if not, is the way forwards.

It certainly isn’t TAA or Henderson, and while Ward Prowse could be a nice option he’s no where near a starting spot.

And then you remember we have Southgate as manager and have to laugh because we could have Jorginho and Verratti in the squad and it wouldn’t have changed a thing as they’d not have been on the field.

Kalvin Phillips Declan Rice England

Where’s the joy and togetherness gone?
The analysis that comes at the conclusion of every tournament seems particularly never ending this time.

It’s amazing how quickly joy and togetherness changes to misery and recriminations. People wanting Gareth Southgate out – despite getting us to two semi-finals and a final – is absolutely inexplicable to me. Who would do better than that? In 55 years no one else has even come close.

Unquestionably he’s had some luck, but not so much you’d worry about it. The penalty shouldn’t have been given for sure but there was a stonewall one that wasn’t earlier. And the free kick Denmark scored from shouldn’t have been given. It really does balance out.

The run wasn’t the hardest , just as it wasn’t in Russia. But Germany only turned out to be rubbish in the critics eyes once we’d beaten them. Rather less were saying so before hand.

Italy, the strongest team in the tournament, only just won on penalties. Mancini has done a terrific job but it was unbelievably fine margins.

Undoubtedly Gareth has too defensive a mindset. With a wealth of attacking options on the bench it’s a waste not to deploy them better. And he’ll have quite a while to ponder on that and regret it I suspect.

However he’s very obviously adapted and improved since 2018. He’s a bright man who’s not afraid of stark self-analysis. He’ll improve again by Qatar.

Anyone else has to start from scratch. And unless Pep or Jurgen fancy a pop, Gareth literally can’t be improved on. He’s the right man, in the right place, at the right time. The team has a lot of years in it and certainly hasn’t peaked. Why can’t we be world champions? We’re absolutely one of the best 4 teams in the world. Semi finals will be our minimum expectation next time. The Golden Generation had better players. This is a better *team*.

If he wants another extracurricular thing to get stuck into though, he could try explaining to the rest of the world what Three Lions is *actually* about. It drives me completely mad people think it’s an entitled arrogant English song. It’s about dashed hopes and despite years of failure, always thinking and hoping this time could be different. The only way you misinterpret that is deliberately. It certainly can’t be by listening to the lyrics.

As a last thought, watching Boris and Priti Patel condemn racism really is something. Having borderline condoned booing the team for taking the knee, it’s spectacular hypocrisy to do a U-Turn now. And Boris is actually an old style colonial racist. Look it up, it’s all online in his own words. ‘ Watermelon smiles’ ‘ piccaninnies‘ and much more. Racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic serial cheats and liars probably shouldn’t be casting judgements on others. But this tournament made me wonder how good a PM Southgate would be.

And on the quiet, I think he’d be a bloody excellent one. But not quite yet eh, we need him for a good while longer.
James, Liverpool


On penalties…
Disregarding all the discussion about stuttering run ups and tricking the keeper and all of that, I’ve always found it absolutely maddening that anyone ever misses a penalty.

These are professional players, they literally have nothing else to do all day but practice football. A penalty is a perfectly repeatable action: same ball, same goal, same place, every time. Why do players not just practice penalties more? From 12 yards away every single player should be able to stick the ball in the top corner without hesitation. I appreciate the pressure changes the dynamics a bit, but that’s why you practice it until it’s just muscle memory. A penalty should essentially be a guaranteed goal when taken by any top level player.

Incidentally, I support bringing back indirect free kicks for anything other than denying a clear goal, just to rebalance things when players figure out that they don’t need to f*ck about so much. Harry Maguire’s obviously clocked it, so how complicated can it be?
Harry, THFC (Harry Winks should have been the regista everyone’s talking about. It’s all Mourinho’s fault)


Statistician Owen
Michael Owen lists the age of English players who have missed major-tournament penalties.
The average age of these disgusting pink-livered weaklings, nay, saboteurs is 27.9
Ergo: younger players should take them penalties.
But let also note that players whose last names start with B,C and S accounted for a larger-than-expected percentage of penalty misses. (Batty, Beckham, Carragher, Cole, Sancho, Saka and Southgate)

What? Not all alphabet letters are initial letters of penalty-bottlers’ last names?

But in the record we have no under 23 penalty takers either, do we?
Radu Tomescu, Quarantined in Taipei


Thanks racists…
Hi all,

We lost Sunday’s match by the smallest of margins, however some people are calling for Southgate to go. For him to go, you need a replacement, any ideas who this may be? Remember we had fricking Allardyce before Southgate – the England job doesn’t attract premium managers (no offence to Southgate, who has been excellent in my opinion).

Anyway, to my main point. I’d like to thank the following:

  1. The racists who have come out and abused Rashford, Sancho, Saka.
  2. The social media companies for doing tit all.
  3. Tyrone Mings for calling out Priti Patel – who as yet has failed to respond to his tweet.

Why do I thank them? Because it’s brought the whole issue of racism in football to everyone’s attention. The “Kick It Out” campaign started in 1993 – that’s almost 30 years ago, and yet little has changed.

As an Asian guy in Manchester, I’ve only suffered racist abuse once – and that was the 2002 England vs Greece game when Beckham scored. Coincidence? Maybe not.

We need the social media companies to name and shame these racists, so they can then be banned from football matches, fined etc. We need the government to enforce a law, not just tell everyone they should be “ashamed” of themselves. Is being ashamed enough of a deterrent to these racists – clearly not?

So, thanks racists, weak government, but mostly thanks to Tyrone Mings for ensuring this stays in the news. I sincerely hope this doesn’t get brushed under the carpet again.
SS, Manchester


It’s not people, it’s the alcoholism culture…
Another rant from John that misses the mark by a long way.

The simple fact is that all these “twats” were shit faced from early morning. The problem here is the British culture of alcoholism. It’s all over the media, sponsors and adverts for the watered-down toxic piss they server in the pubs. Governments are all alcoholics and we just keep making excuses and blaming other things erroneously.

Britain (not just England) are a bunch of alcoholics. Alcoholism is promoted, encouraged and joked about everywhere when in fact, it ruins people’s lives.

Add to the fact that they just keep boshing coke so they can keep on drinking makes a very dangerous cocktail. Nothing is done about the violence on the streets every weekend due to alcohol and cocaine. Just brush it under the carpet “coz it’s aar culcha innit?”

Instead of castigating these people, why not have a look at yourself and see how much of an alcoholic society you are contributing to? Maybe see what you have in common with these people, help you to understand your differences and see where the root of the problem lies.

My solution, legalise weed. If they have a joint after drinking, they won’t be doing anything except chundering.
Fat Man (happy to help as always)


There has been lots of condemnation of the various acts committed by England fans over the weekend, lots of it right-sounding and morally agreeable. I obviously condemn the racism directed towards players (some of which was reported to be from abroad) and the videos showing the various levels of The Storming of Wembley will never be forgotten. Those who travelled to Wembley specifically to engage in these acts should be punished.

However, I want to provide some rationale for the Jonny Nic’s of this world (the perfect lefty footy fan who doesn’t “even like talking above a whisper on a train” – snore off!) as to the mind-set of these fans. There needs to be a line drawn between what was and was not acceptable. Frankly, some of the scenes we have witnessed over the course of this Euros campaign have been hilarious, starting with the Scottish fans descending on London. They danced all day through thunder storms, paraded themselves naked through various London landmarks and poured beer down their a**e cracks, into the mouth of a fan. The England fan with the flare up his a**e has provided lots of negative column inches but was it really that bad? I wouldn’t want to do it myself but found it quite funny.

The mob mentality that consumes the footy fan is a spell cast from above which devours the senses and compels one to engage in ever more debaucheries. There was an escalation of comedy & tragedy fuelled by alcohol & cocaine which spilled out into the streets. The normality of this gave the green light to those on the edges of their own sanity to commit even stupider and more dangerous acts.

Let’s not forget some facts – the UK has the highest prevalence of cocaine use amongst young adults in Europe, Scotland has more drug deaths per capita than any European country. The UK has a drug and alcohol problem which was exacerbated by 18 months of lockdown and then let loose upon Wembley over a couple of salacious weeks. These fans are not a section of society who feel free to act like this all of the time but rather you or I, with a drug or alcohol problem, looking for trouble.
Mike M (Cobbler, Gooner)


Your Mediawatch article
on penalties gave me a brainwave: hold penalty shootouts after every game that ends in a draw but only for an extra point. Winner of the shootout gets 2, loser still gets 1 point for drawing over 90 minutes.

I think it might work for every team: plucky Norwich holding mighty Reds to a 1-1 at Anfield are at the least assured of a single point. And the froth and foam on Klopp’s mouth regarding the wind and the grass might subside on Andy Robertson’s winning pen, giving him an extra point to make up on Pep’s runaway leaders.

I await the mailbox’s verdict.


The kids are alright
Mediawatch’s excellent suggestion of the Guardian article got me thinking with this sentence:

> Saka on penalties is entirely consistent with this. It is a Deep Southgate move, true to the team, true to the manager, a call made with only the collective in mind.

What it says to me is that Southgate trusted Saka. He wasn’t sat thinking ‘oh no think of the fallout if the poor lad misses’, he was thinking ‘you’re a bloody good player and you’re gonna score’. He trusts and believes in his players.

It’s not that Saka was hiding his fear and pretending he wanted to take the penalty. He wanted to take the penalty and fought the others in the team so that he could. He wants the glory and Gareth trusts him. Grealish is pissed off because he wanted to take one but wasn’t given the chance.

If you listen to Shearer, Alan goddamn Shearer talking about the fear. I don’t think that is there with Saka, he’s fearless and we should trust him. Next time he steps up to take a penalty he will score. Same with Rashford and Sancho they want to do it, they love doing it. Rashford made a good penalty but got unlucky by 6 inches, he will score next time.

Believe in them, because they believe in themselves. The kids are alright.
Ian in Belgium (Belgium are now cursed as England used to be) 

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