Hypothetical XI #27: England’s one-cap Wonders

Ahead of England’s Euro 2016 Qualifier against Slovenia and Wayne Rooney’s 100th cap, Dave Hughes brings us a hypothetical XI of England’s one-cap wonders…

Ah, the one-cap wonder. It comes in many forms.

There is the in-form man, who deceives the nation with a clutch of eye-catching club displays before having their shortcomings mercilessly exposed on the international stage. The stop-gap, summoned to national duty during a desperate injury crisis. There are those who display genuine promise before tragedy curtails their careers or, in some tragic cases, their lives.

And, of course, there is Seth Johnson.

In the spirit of optimism (or kindness in the case of David Nugent), players who have currently won one cap but may, with a fair wind, regain their place been omitted. Hence the absence of the likes of Jack Butland, Jake Livermore and Steve Caulker. The inclusion of Kevin Davies is based on the premise that the three goals he has scored in 46 appearances for Preston North End are unlikely to earn the 37-year-old an 11th-hour recall. Although you never know. Continue reading

England and Argentina: Life at the end of the food chain

Former Buenos Aires resident Rob Brown looks at the differences and similarities between football in England and Argentina…

Although the subject is hotly debated, it’s generally accepted that the English Premier League is now the best division in the world. Its unmatched wealth, rich history and aggressive marketing make it hard for any other division to keep up. Crucially, the league is well-organised and located in a country with no possibility of political or social upheaval that could lay waste to its schedule. It’s a well-oiled machine and now generates nearly £2bn in TV money per year.

The Premier League is fast becoming the world’s first and only global league – football’s version of basketball’s NBA. Of course, most of the money and the media attention go to a small minority of teams and those are the giants that players all over the world now dream of representing, but the Premier League’s rapid growth means that even the smallest clubs have entered something of a golden age, pulling off expensive transfers that take the breath away.

Eduardo Vargas’ reward for scoring a World Cup winner against holders Spain was a loan move to newly promoted QPR. Jefferson Montero, one of the most exciting prospects in South American football, chose Swansea as the place to take his career to the next level. Esteban Cambiasso, a bona fide legend, is winding down his career with Leicester. Continue reading

No Love Lost for Jack Wilshere

TFN’s Simon Smith returns with an in-depth look at where Jack Wilshere is right now…

In September 2013, Jack Wilshere gave an interview looking forward to the season ahead, what he hoped to achieve, what Arsenal might accomplish and in particular how he might go about amending his “joke” of a goalscoring record.  Somewhere along the line, everything went terribly wrong: he became “terrible”, he couldn’t match the performances of the now meteorically rising Aaron Ramsey and he was a worse player than his rose tinted breakthrough season.  The criticism that Jack needed to improve was everywhere, least of all from the man himself, and yet a year later the very season he looked forward to was being used as a stick to beat him with.

In the shadow of club teammates, incapable of stepping up for the retiring Gerard and Lampard for Country, humiliated in the now infamous Paul Scholes interview and seemingly more interested in his off field smoking habits: it was hard to envisage a way back for Jack Wilshere.  Somehow Autumn has set in with a perceived upturn in Jack’s fortunes.  Four Four Two recently ran an article asking titled “Is Jack Back”, his England performances have been much praised despite the unfamiliar role at the base of the diamond, and at times he has looked more dependable for Arsenal than recent years.  In a year of extremes for the player, are we seeing a reinvigorated Jack Wilshere? Continue reading

This Blessed Plot (or: Meanwhile, in England)

TFN’s resident academic John Guillem dissects Roy Hodgson’s England. Set your brows to high! 

The accelerated qualities of the contemporary mediascape make international football something of an oddity. The cliché runs that international football, in spite of the best efforts of FIFA to reduce it to the same robotic fare as club football, remains something of a bastion for the core values of the game: passion, unpredictability, honour; a certain sense of pride connecting to the sport’s working class roots.

FIFA are obviously reprehensible types of the most reptilian of bents, but in spite of the unsavoury commerciality of the World Cup and other tournaments1 some of the above rings true, if only incidentally. The relative lack of cohesion and preparation compared to club football lends the scrappier proceedings a romantic aura, whilst the lower quantity of games (particularly when you factor in the fact that there are many fans who only show an interest in tournament, playoff and crunch qualifying games) means that upsets appear to possess greater magnitude and resonance than a domestic cup upset. Continue reading

What is the international break?

Alex Stewart ponders the true meaning of the international break…

Break, n. among other things:
6. An interruption or a disruption in continuity or regularity: television programming without commercial breaks.
7. A pause or interval, as from work: a coffee break.
8. A sudden or marked change: a break in the weather.
(From the free dictionary on the internet)

The international break, as a thing, provokes a variety of responses. A quick and in no way scientific survey conducted on social media earlier by yours truly revealed an array of responses which ran from the wholly positive to the suicidally inclined (injuries, etc etc). A quick trawl of internet-based relevant content shows a predisposition for mordant articles on the impact of said break, the opportunities it creates for club/country schism, luxated joints, and general fatigue (With football itself, even? Is there too much of a good thing?).

Actual fans, not thrallish hacks, seem to run contra-narrative and quite enjoy the change, though some express a genuine and understandable lack of interest based on: aforementioned ‘too much of a good thing’; partisan loyalty to club outweighing country; England not being as good to watch as [insert team of your choice here]. Without doubt, though, the ‘international break’ provokes a myriad of responses and a range of conflicting emotions/thoughts (is emotion too strong a word for this? Not if you’re Brendan Rodgers).

The origins of the phrase ‘international break’ are themselves murky. Wikipedia merely states that it is a “period of time set aside by FIFA for scheduled international matches per their International Match Calendar. Continue reading

Dirk Kuyt and 4 of the best Utility Men

TFN’s Alistair Nasmyth remembers four of his favourite utility men…

While watching the World Cup this summer I experienced a whiplash-inducing double take. The Dutch squad was being displayed on the screen in a flashy CGI formation and there, clear as day, was the former Feyenoord striker Dirk Kuyt taking up the left back position. In this day and age of specialized training and coaching, not to mention fragile egoed players who throw tantrums when played out of position, it’s surprising to see players of the utility man sort at the highest level. So here I’m going to share with you some of my favourite all-rounders… Continue reading

Podcast: Episode 10 – Elko comes to London

The False Nine podcast is back, with new regular guest Elko Born joining Greg Johnson, James Dutton and Francis to talk England, Wayne Rooney, Netherlands after van Gaal and the transfer window.

As you may be able to tell from the “atmosphere” during the recording, the pod took place at The Candid Cafe in Angel. Be sure to swing by for some cake and a coffee next time you’re in the area.

Listen on iTunes.