Sorry, but this is another football blog (albeit my first in a while).
I had the joy of watching 70 minutes of England vs France yesterday and to all those who have doubted the appointment of Hodgson as England manager I put to you this performance proves he is the right man for the job.
Before the tournament people have written England off, and with good reason. A change of manager with only two friendly matches to prepare, Rooney missing for two matches, a host of injuries including Lampard and Barry, two players with a more than reasonable claim to be in the centre of Midfield and let us not forget the existence of John Terry. Oh, how I try to forget the existence of John Terry, the ultimate embarrassment to being English.
Yet watching against the French the England team displayed something they have rarely displayed for most of the last 20 year. Heart. England have always been known as a passionate, committed team and this has made up for our technical weakness against countries which have a more cultured or tactically aware football mentality. Yet since Venables in 1996, other than a brief period under Keegan where he displayed that heart wasn't everything, we have been trying to emulate other European nations in our mentality. Keeping the ball, trying to defend one goal leads, being timid when the game is crying out for courage.
Against the French we showed an awful lot of heart and defensive discipline and organisation. Yes, we fell back into the bad habit of defending deeper and deeper when we had a lead to protect, but other than that 10 minute patch at the end of the first half we looked like a team that could defend all day. The organisation is astounding when you consider that for most of the previous 12 years we had managers who had received their footballing educations in Italy, home of defensive organisation, and we had never looked capable of defending a lead during that time. But it was the return of English heart that was the most wonderful to behold.
Let us not forget that France have now not lost for 22 games, a phenomenal run in international football, and are on form one of the best teams in world football, yet for 90 minutes we matched them and deserved our point. More than that we had several chances to take all 3 points. OK, there were a few scares, but that is something we have to expect from a team with the attacking options of France.
Nobody is yet saying that England are among the favourites for this tournament, but if England can keep showing the never-say-die trenches spirit and add just a little bit more quality going forward then we can at least look forward to leaving the tournament with our heads held high rather than leaving in ignominy and shame.
And looking forward, when Hodgson has the chance to shape his own team, things have a slightly more positive taste than they have for many years.
Goodbye Golden Generation, hello hope.