Is Southgate, Parker in disguise?

This post may be of little interest to those who don’t follow sport in general or football, (‘soccer’ to The Cousins), in particular. But then again, perhaps not…

Scott Parker
Gareth Southgate

Paul Merson – the ex-Arsenal footballer, now pundit – said, before the start of the tournament, that England will get found out at the Euros ‘if they play the Fulham way‘.

He carried on:

“What I have found in the last couple of games, is we kick-off, and then play the Fulham way! We roll the ball back to the centre-half, he takes one, two, three touches, he rolls it across to the next centre-half, he rolls it back to the goalkeeper, and we are playing the Fulham way. If we do that, we have not got a chance, not a chance.” (See the full article here.)

Many Fulham supporters will have nodded in agreement with Merson. After Friday night’s dismal performance against Scotland, the rest of the country will be catching up with his opinion.

Prior to penning this piece I checked with a couple of football-following Ericle readers as to whether they agreed with this assessment and was favoured with these printable responses

Southgate-Football and Parkerball have an uncanny resemblance ! [Lee]

Well, they both cut a dash in their stylish outfits, appear to know what they are doing, talk a good talk, and yet neither of them can produce a football team with any joi d’esprit or goal-scoring ability. [Nick]

England’s run-up to the Euros and Fulham’s most recent foray in the Premier League evidence characteristics of parallel universes. Parker & Southgate are both young managers who have enjoyed above average, but not stellar, footballing careers in the English leagues and as England players. Both ascended to their respective positions on the basis of their reputations as players, rather than their achievements in management. FWIW, they also share a phenomenon, whereby their dress style has been sartorially lauded by the media.

Comparisons, it is said, are odious but the following general statements seem fair:

  • At the start of their most recent respective campaigns, neither England or Fulham were tipped for success
  • Both Southgate & Parker prioritise a pragmatism based on conceding little and maintaining possession, even if this means passing the ball backwards or square and boring fans to distraction
  • More-often-than-not, victories are gained by dint of a single goal, despite having a highly acclaimed goal-scoring central striker.
  • Against all expectations both teams began to produce results that suggested that they could possibly succeed after all but when it comes to the crunch it all goes Pete Tong.

Ultimately, Fuham’s campaign floundered when victories were needed and none were forthcoming. England are still in the game. They can progress via a draw against the Czechs but after that it’s only victories that count.

Football is a team game. Last night an ITV commentator remarked that: “Scotland’s performance was of a team that was more than the sum of their parts; England’s was the reverse”. I would suggest that in the annals of football’s history there are more teams made up of great players that underachieve, than those that succeed. This is because success in football is not just down to the 22 legs and a pair of hands that are out on the field, it’s down to the manager to make the most of the assets at their disposal. That’s why, from the English club perspective, Ferguson & Shankley are rightly lauded for producing dynastic results from great squads. At the international level, however, it can be argued that Englands singular success in 1966 was achieved from a squad that didn’t compare to the combined talents of some of the other teams. Ultimately that was Sir Alf Ramsey’s great achievement and his legacy. England’s so-called Golden Generation, (2001-7: see here), could not ultimately rise to the task and, if this 2021 squad of wannabes really want to bring home the bacon, Southgate will need to select a team that can be inspired to play together with an energy and positivity that is way beyond that which they brought onto the Wembley turf on Friday.

In 1966, contrary to footballing logic, England were also among the favourites by dint largely of enjoying home advantages. I had the privilege of being at Wembley to see every England game in the 1966 World Cup and I can remember, leaving the stadium after the opening game against Uruguay, thinking: “Who are they kidding, this bunch can’t win a tea-cup let alone the World Cup”. I felt much the same 3 days later for the first 37 minutes of the England v Mexico game. And then Bobby Charlton scored. (Enjoy it again here). The Scotland game need not be England’s defining game of Euro 2021, any more than the Uruguay game was in 1966. We have players in this England squad that can produce like Charlton & Hurst and – given inspired selection, formation and motivation – have the potential to play together with the energy and positivity of their 1966 forbearers. For this to happen Southgate needs ‘to channel his Sir Alf’, and he needs to do this darn fast. Inshallah.

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7 Responses to Is Southgate, Parker in disguise?

  1. Martin Bostock says:

    Good piece. Much to agree with. Thank you.

  2. Ericle says:

    [From: David]
    I don’t feel qualified to comment as I’ve only seen Fulham (on tv) a couple of times, although I thought they played in an open, flowing style. Maybe I was lucky and picked a couple of good performances. I’m also an admirer of Southgate. Better to be a bit cautious in these qualifying games and above all avoid defeat, and then develop a more expansive style when a win is essential. Also, he’s got talent on the bench to make an impact when the opposition begins to tire.

  3. Stephen Kon says:

    The big difference is that Southgate has a group of many outstanding players who don’t have to play the Fulham way . The problem is that he is too cautious to allow them to do so .

  4. Ericle says:

    [From: John]
    Your basic point is made by the fact that 1966 ‘team’ had Roger Hunt as opposed to Jimmy Greaves even though as I recall the latter was fit by later stages of tournament.

    • Ericle says:

      Yes, dropping Greaves was a brave decision. However, the team also played with a passion & positivity that was part of Ramsey’s management template. Southgate has to be braver not only in his team selection but also with his tactics, so as enable us to bring the ball forward quicker in order to capitalise on our attacking qualities.

  5. Jonah says:

    As an Aussie onlooker, I feel as if I am qualified to comment, as I am far away enough to see the bigger picture 😉 . There are clearly both tactical and psychological problems that the team need to overcome. With regards to the former – do both Phillips and Declan rice both need to start against lesser teams that are likely to sit back? One also needs to question the omission of Sancho, one of the most exciting young players in Europe. You’re 100% right about Southgate – he’s far too conservative for the players he has at his disposal. The psychological problem seems much harder to figure out- is this team plagued with the same barriers to success as the team with Rooney, Lampard, Terry, Cole, Gerrard Scholes – again England have world-cup-winning calibre talent, yet they fail to live up to the extremely high expectations placed on them, exacerbated by the toxic media pressure.

  6. Ericle says:

    [From: Barrie]
    Well spotted. He [S’gate] seems to have lost his confidence [& direction]. Mercifully, I was out to dinner during the ‘Scotland fiasco. Who’s next year’s Fulham manager tipped to be – plenty of ‘Spurs cast-offs available…

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