English na­tional’s prob­lems run deeper than Rooney

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Steve Dou­glas AP Sports Writer

So, it turns out drop­ping Wayne Rooney isn’t the sim­ple cure to Eng­land’s prob­lems.

They run much deeper than that.

“We have taken over a mess, re­ally,” in­terim man­ager Gareth South­gate said after see­ing his team stut­ter to a scarcely de­served 0-0 draw at Slove­nia in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing on Tues­day.

South­gate has been in charge for two weeks after com­ing in as an emer­gency re­place­ment for Sam Al­lardyce and clearly un­der­stands the chal­lenge fac­ing him and the na­tional team, which pos­si­bly reached an all-time low in los­ing to Ice­land in the last 16 of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in June.

Given four matches in a care­taker role be­fore the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion de­cides on a per­ma­nent suc­ces­sor to Al­lardyce, South­gate has presided over a te­dious 2-0 home win over Malta and then the draw in Ljubl­jana.

The mid-term re­port on South­gate? That pretty much noth­ing has changed.

In fair­ness to South­gate, he has had lit­tle time to im­ple­ment his own ideas and he was brave enough to make a call many Eng­land man­agers wouldn’t have taken — drop­ping the out-of-form Rooney.

But the two games high­lighted many of the fail­ings that have blighted Eng­land’s play­ers for years.

Poor tech­nique un­der pres­sure. No con­fi­dence. No iden­tity. No plan.

Some of that might be un­der­stand­able at this point in time, given that the team has had three coaches — and there­fore three dif­fer­ent man­age­rial ap­proaches to take in — in the past five months.

Eng­land has a young side, es­pe­cially in at­tack, and it showed in a fran­tic, er­ror-strewn dis­play against Slove­nia.

“We’re very much a work in progress, as far as I can see,” South­gate said. “It is dif­fi­cult to judge how hard to go in when you’ve only had them for such a short pe­riod of time and a lot of them are as in­ex­pe­ri­enced as they are. I’ve got to bal­ance set­ting the chal­lenge right for them as a team, de­mand­ing as much as pos­si­ble, but also be­ing re­al­is­tic about how quickly we can adapt to a style of play.”

Eng­land has been crit­i­cized in re­cent years for the pon­der­ous na­ture of its build-up play and South­gate is clearly urg­ing his play­ers to get the ball for­ward quicker and sharper. Hence, the de­ci­sion to drop Rooney.


Eng­land’s Jesse Lin­gard re­acts after miss­ing a chance dur­ing the World Cup Group F qual­i­fy­ing soc­cer match between Slove­nia and Eng­land at Stoz­ice sta­dium in Ljubl­jana, Slove­nia, on Tues­day.

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