Did Roy Hodgson get enough credit for Friday's win? I certainly don't think so. A comprehensive victory, admittedly against a low ranking Lithuania.
Mr Hodgson recalled the inform Michael Carrick who offers a stability to any midfield. Alongside the hardworking Delph and Henderson who have strong qualities off the ball as well as on it. One thing they all have in common is that they are comfortable in possession and more importantly in tight spaces. Seems quite a ridiculous statement to appreciate a footballer who is comfortable in possession of a ball, but in the English game, they are a rare breed. There is an emerging group of young players who own this skill-set, the likes of Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and the ever improving Harry Kane.
England set up to control the tempo of the game and keep possession. Again, not always a common feature of those in an England shirt. In doing this, it allowed the front three of Rooney, Sterling and Welbeck to find creative space and make timed darting runs. Rather than the old fashioned approach of hitting 'good areas.'
Hodgson and his team got England playing as a unit, something that needs to continue if we have any chance of a sniff of success in future tournaments. Our hopes and dreams can't rely on the shoulders of one man… looking back in time, we relied heavily on the likes of Gazza, Beckham, Rooney.
There needs to be a belief within the squad and almost as importantly out of it, that the collective unit can achieve success. The British bulldog approach of bullying your way through games just doesn't cut it anymore. Don't get me wrong, controlled aggression has its place in the game. You want your players to be combative and to have a desire to win. There needs to be more though, a knowledge and understanding of shape, space and responsibility. A confidence in your passing ability. A decisiveness to know when to keep the ball and when to risk it. Football has an incredible amount of variables, it is the ultimate aim to control as many of them as possible.
Can these attributes be learned? Abso-blimin'-lutely.
It's quite simple really, children learn best when they are having fun. Engage them and they will naturally respond, especially with a little guidance. Obviously, hidden beneath the fountains of fun there must be a reason, an objective… a goal. There is a method to our madness, whether it's moving away from a naughty pirate but in reality working on turning with the ball, or avoiding the crocodiles when we're really focussing on awareness of space. Giving children a positive introduction to football (and more widely, sport) will indisputably have a positive effect on the national game. A greater pool of players to chose from, whose seeds have been nurtured through grassroots football to fall in love with the game. There are opportunities to play football at any level, and with that, the benefits of sport are plentiful, even from a viewpoint of personality and character building.
Roy Hodgson is finally getting his hands on players who are showing signs of developing into a great side. England's teams are evolving in the way that we approach games, but bigger than that, the way we coach young children. Debatably this comes from a bias opinion, however I say with the greatest confidence that here, at Little Kickers, we do things right. We teach the fundamentals of football, but we make sure we concentrate on the first syllable… fun. Build a platform from where children can enjoy, relax and learn a game with no added pressure of expectancy. Understand the framework of a match and its concept. Not only that, but to also gain an understanding of the ball and the way it works. The future will be bright for this countries football, undoubtably… on one condition. That we continue to progress and concentrate on developing the importance of fun in Football (sport) at a young age.
We wish England the best of luck for tonight's game against Italy! It'll be a tough test but a great opportunity for some of the young players. A further best wishes goes to the Dads of our Little Kickers playing in the game, we are sure you've picked up some tips from our trusty coaches!
Enjoy the game.