It’s been easy to feel fatigued following England in recent years. Whether it’s the slightly cheesy ‘car flags and bunting’ that surrounds a tournament or the predictably poor performances in big games, many fans have fallen out of the love with the national team a bit in recent years. Most prefer club to country.
So, it’ll be more of the same this time, right? I mean, if I gave you £20 and told you to name the finalist with williamhill.com then it’s unlikely that you’d put your cash on the Three Lions.
But, while winning the tournament might well be a long shot, there are in fact plenty of reasons to love this England team. Before you scoff, check out these five reasons to enjoy this current crop.
When Gareth Southgate stepped in to take over from Sam Allardyce, many fans were decidedly underwhelmed. The ex Middlesbrough boss seemed a safe backup choice for a poisoned chalice of a job that few serious people wanted. But he’s acquitted himself really well in the role, speaking impressively about everything from the expectations on the squad through to issues such as racism. He’s not ducked tough decisions – handling the omissions of Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere from the squad well – and has experimented tactically, landing on a fresh-feeling 3-5-2. Whatever happens next, he deserves credit for defying critics.
It isn’t just Southgate who has come across well in recent weeks, many of the players have come across as a likeable bunch and have spoken with maturity and honesty. Danny Rose spoke powerfully about his battle with depression – comments that ought to do a lot to break the taboo around mental health and young men and shatter the stereotype some attach to footballers. Southgate also invited Rose to talk to the rest of the squad about racism too.
While he might have been the subject of a little bit of mockery this season, the Spurs striker generally comes across as a down-to-earth guy who really loves football. If he can replicate his club form on the international stage, then he can be the goalscoring hero fans have been waiting for. He’s certainly got the ability to be a genuine matchwinner for England.
Kane is only 24 and England’s other two top attacking stars – Raheem Sterling (23) and Dele Alli (22) – are also young enough to have their best days ahead of them. This tournament could be the start of an exciting new team – with the likes of John Stones, Jordan Pickford and Jesse Lingard also exciting prospects and Marcus Rashford capable of a spark of youthful ingenuity in the attacking third.
The football is decent
Not only does Gareth Southgate have promising young talent to call upon in Russia, he’s also put together a side that has shown it is capable of playing attractive football. If they continue their current performance trajectory, this England side could actually be the most entertaining to take to the field in a tournament for a long time – with pace going forward and players who seem comfortable on the ball at the back.
Convinced? While it’s not time to get totally carried away, this England side has proved easy to warm to. Let’s just hope they can give us plenty to cheer about in Russia.