Thursday, 12 August 2010

England versus Hungary

A match report from your Anglo-Hungarian correspondent, the man at the pitch side.

It turned out to be pretty good-humoured as affairs go. We were 18 rows up on the East side (enclosure B if you want to know) about half way between the half-way line and the goal, with the main body of Hungarian supporters just to our right. We made the bad mistake of being hungry before the match at about 6.30 or so and bought two hot dogs plus a cup of tea inside the stadium which set us back about £10.50. Service was friendly (almost everyone on the stadium staff seemed to be Asian) but the hot dog was a sausage in a piece of dry roll that I would normally have paid someone to take away. The tea was overfilled and as we were getting to our seats a couple of people were wondering if we had taken their seats - we hadn't, they couldn't read the numbers on their own tickets - the paper cup simply crumpled in my hands and I had a scalded left hand that threatened to swell into nasty blisters. I found my way back to the food stall and they gave me a cup full of ice that I nursed for an hour or so.

To boo or not to boo

That might have been the most heroic act of the night, but then - somewhat later - along came Gerrard to score two goals that snatched the glory from me. The Hungarians were far more vocal than the home crowd throughout. Our row was half Hungarian as was the one in front of us, and they kept up a steady intermittent chanting. The English girl and her partner on the other side of C were of the subdued, occasionally-booing persuasion.

When the teams were announced there was a mixture of cheers and boos for each individual player. Ranking them in order of disapproval, Ashley Cole undoubtedly topped the boo-list in terms of unanimity and decibel count, followed closely by John Terry, then a little further behind, Frank Lampard, with Stephen Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry vying for the wooden spoon. Indeterminate little boos for them, as though no-one really wanted to boo them but felt they ought to, the boos, however, roughly equalled by the cheers. Cole was the only player to receive the distinction of being booed every time he touched the ball in the first half an hour.

Half-time was generally greeted with boos, though England were bright in the first twenty-five minutes or so. Changes in the second half brought cheers and some confusion. No Cole, no Terry, no Lampard? What was the point of coming to the match if you couldn't boo them? Were there other players on the pitch? Why couldn't they get off and let the guilty simply stand there in the centre circle a while or do a few laps of the pitch so you could concentrate on the boos? What is football coming to?

When Rooney left the pitch he received a few more half-hearted boos but some cheers too. The fact is people rather like him. When Gerrard finally left he was given a standing ovation - but he had scored two great goals by then.

The couple next to C were dutiful booers but their hearts weren't in it. The girl was in ecstasies when Gerrard scored his first. She was generally smily throughout whenever I looked her way, so the whole thing was a kind of pantomime that had to be got through. She - like most of the crowd including the main, more determined booers - really wanted to like the team, though it is obvious they find Cole and Terry particularly hard to like.

Lots of girls and children at the game. Over 72,000 people.


The papers seem to be saying 4-3-3 but the truth is Rooney was up front pretty well on his own in the first half. He didn't look particularly happy there, or at any time. He wasn't particularly mobile either, though that improved as the first half wore on. We thought he'd scored after three minutes but it turned out to be offside so his mood didn't lift. I am not at all convinced he is a spearhead centre forward - he is much better moving onto a defence rather than with his back to it, and that became clear once Zamora was introduced in the second half. Rooney was moving freely and was almost enjoying himself. He wants to be active and involved and is a marvellous passer of the ball. I would always play him just behind a big, strong, fast, or alternatively small, nimble, fast centre forward. Rooney and Zamora looked a good combination. My impression was that Rooney wasn't looking forward to this game but it had to be done and over. Life will go on from here for him

Zamora did extremely well when he came on. He had control, was fast and threatening, could hold the ball up, and drew the defence whichever way he went, clearing space for Gerrard when Gerrard's own position changed in the second half. Zamora was a definite plus. Persevere with.

Gerrard was decent in the first half though stuck out on the left (!) to leave Lampard and Barry holding the middle. Once moved into a more central advanced position in the second half he looked far better. The first goal was a long range curler into the top right, the second was hard to see from where we were but looked damned clever. But he was buzzing in the area about ten yards from the box, picking up loose balls and passes. I hardly dare say it but he looked better once Lampard was off and he no longer had to stick to the left-sided plan.

It was hard to tell about Adam Johnson as he was generally on the far side of the pitch. Missed a good chance early on and that might have affected him. He took all the dead balls and was not wonderfully impressive, but grew into the game as it went on and looked ever more confident and dangerous. Another one to keep and persevere with. I think he has terrific potential.

Kieron Gibbs took the place of Cole and was remarkably impressive. He won his tackles, made good runs, was fast, beat people and linked very well with both Young and, later, Milner. I wouldn't worry about the left back position for a while. He is slighter than Cole but looks just as gifted. Definitely to persevere with.

Theo Walcott was wonderful much of the time. He clearly had the beating of his man, moved inside or outside with ease, was fast and dangerous. Potentially a great player. I suppose he had to be replaced with Ashley Young if Young was going to get a game, but Walcott is the more gifted. Young was good though not quite as good as Walcott had been. Lacks confidence.

Jagielka looked comfortable with or without Terry beside him. He got into a bit of a muddle with Dawson once or twice once Dawson had replaced Terry (who had been all right, but then he wasn't up against a particularly fast forward line). The Hungarians did threaten in the second half and the defence came under strain. Glen Johnson, who seems a rather mercurial player, now wonderful, now dangerously poor, did well enough. but once the Hungarian team started switching positions and running off each other, it wasn't out of the question that they'd score again - and almost did when Gera, the best of the Hungarians, got through one on one but Hart saved.

Hart looked fine though there wasn't much for him to do. He has to stay there now and be number one.

Who have I missed? Milner was busy when he came on, Wilshere had seven minutes. Barry was good enough as a defensive midfielder. For me, the most memorable performances were Walcott, Gibbs and (second half) Gerrard's. General conclusion? I would play as follows, first choice then alternatives in brackets:

G. Johnson (?)- Jagielka (Ferdinand)-Terry (Dawson /Ferdinand)-Gibbs (Cole)
Barry (Lampard /Wilshere)-A. Johnson ( Lampard /Young)

That is a revolutionary 4-2-2-1-1, in other words a form of Christmas tree based on 4-4-2, that becomes 4-3-3 when either Gerrard or Rooney move right up. Occasionally, on very confident days, even 4-2-4. Play Gerrard central high up the park, Rooney switching with him, just in front of him ideally, one wide player high, another wide player moving back. I think Adam Johnson is potentially better than Milner.

When they appoint me as the next England manager I will put the plan into action with alacrity and success (or vice versa). There is the basis for a very good young team there without the baggage.

The Hungarians could be proud of themselves. A little weak in the tackle, a little too easily pressurised. but some nice fast skill in attacking midfield, moving into advanced positions when necessary, a couple of fairly tricky wingers (they've always got those) and an excellent captain figure in Gera. What they need is a more solid defence and one or two more substantial, confident, intelligent and aggressive midfielders. They have great travelling support so things may be looking up.

This from London, from Tom's flat. Off to Picasso at the Gagosian later in the morning before heading for home.

No blisters on left hand and England formation solved for the immediate future. A good day on the whole, and much better than expected. Thank you Tom, Helen and Rich!

The booing? The whole thing was a lot milder and more amiable than I had anticipated. But that is the England crowd at Wembley. It's a family occasion, as they say, a day at the Panto. Nothing too vocal. Not in front of the children or the ladeez. Very much a twenty-first century crowd. The Hungarian support has an air of potential Seventies about it. A touch of the New Nationalism that I have yet to get a feel for in the football context.


Billy C said...

That was a damn fine account, George. A few media hacks could learn a lot from you.

I'm glad you enjoyed your day, but had The Mighty Magyars been playing, I think you would have enjoyed it better. :)

dearieme said...

That's just one Chelsea player and one from ManU in your starting XI. And I'm not certain that on recent England form either is worth his place.

George S said...

Thank you, Billy. I'm quite aware though that watching it from where we were there is a lot on the far side I don't see.

As to the team I proudly picked, dearieme, it is true there is only one firm Chelsea figure and one firm United representative, and I agree about current form, but I bear in mind the common observation regarding class and form and am in any case talking about a year or so from now, and a fresh start, with a bridging period that would include players like Barry and Gerrard and Terry.

I feel confident Rooney's form will improve. I'm not in fact sure that Terry's will but am in the dark a to who can take his place within the next year or so. The chief factor for me is that Rooney is only 24.

I am a Manchester United fan and have been for over fifty years now. It may be the case that someone like Cleverley or Welbeck or Chirs Smalling or Ben Amos or some others from a very successful youth team might become candidates, but there isn't enough to go on yet.

I have ruled out the thirty-somethings from the current generation. I think Lampard is very good but have come around to the view that much of the time he and Gerrard are trying to do the same job an that Gerrard is better at it.

From what I have seen I suspect that the backbone of a new England team should be Hart, Gibbs, Adam Johnson and Rooney.

Wilshere and Rodwell might become part of the furniture too, and the young Blackburn defender, Phil Jones looks promising.

There are others such as Danny Rose, Michale Mancienne, Daniel Sturridge but I have only some hearsay about them.

Stephen F said...

I enjoyed that account too & the view from the sofa pretty much concurs with most of it minus semi-scalded hands and rancid hot dogs.

If I could only Boo one I would def choose Cashley.

nb: Fabio's tinkerings will never replace Pulisball