Editor’s Note: Guy Bailey will write columns for The Yanks Are Coming throughout the Barclay’s Premier League season where he discusses the happenings overseas in the world’s most popular sports league. Guy offers a unique perspective on the league as a Brit who lived for a long while in the United States before moving back to Teeside in the past year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter all EPL season at@guyrbailey.
So after the shouting, sturm and drang, the dust has settled and England have qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals. It wasn’t as cut and dried as it sounds however, a doughty Montenegro put up some resistance on Friday Evening before a flattering 4-1 win set them up for a win-and-qualify match against the Poles.
Poland are seen as something of a bogey team for England, despite having only beaten them once in 18 attempts at international level -mainly due to Jan Tomascezwski’s heroics in 1973. The match was a pretty good approximation of an EPL match with energy, spirit and pace to the fore ahead of cultured, measured, slow build up favoured by the continentals. There is something to be said about playing to your strengths as a team and a nation and as Robin Thicke would agree if he had an opinion, knocking it about between the back four and the holding midfielder 20 times waiting for an opening is just not in England’s nature.
The coveted Robert Lewandowski is always a dangerous wildcard in any game and so it proved as he put a breakaway chance wide in the first half at 0-0. The game was more entertaining than it had any right to be with chances being created and going begging with regularity from both sides. Next big thing Andros Townsend crashing a 25 yard drive against the bar until Rooney settled English nerves heading in just before half-time. The second half saw more of the same but as Poland tired, England weren’t fully in control until Gerrard slotted in four minutes before the end and England could finally relax and start making reservations at the Royal Tulip hotel in Rio. (Though don’t tell that to Ray Hodgson, who nearly pulled a muscle celebrating the Gerrard clincher…)
Townsend was a vindication of Hodgson’s more expansive attacking policy in these two games than his history or demeanour would suggest he would be, although frankly, it would be inexcusable to go into two must-win home games overloaded with defensive minded midfielders in the hope of snatching then sitting on a goal – again, it’s just not in our nature. Given the nature of our football, I’m surprised the NBA isn’t more popular here because it does seem to scratch a particularly English urge of swapping possession quite liberally. No, hoarding the ball and not giving it back is a selfish foreign trait and we are suspicious of it and downright hostile at the best of times. Like a dog that finally catches a car, most English players wouldn’t know what to do with it if you gave them the ball for 10 minutes at a time.
Townsend’s meteoric rise also focuses on another question facing Hodgson and the English footballing public as a whole – the balance between easing out the old guard of Gerrard, Lampard, Barry and Milner (you know him stateside as Steve Cherundolo’s girl) and bringing through the Nu Skool of Townsend, Wilshire, Smalling et al. Some accommodation between the two must be reached despite the likes of former England Manager Glenn Hoddle declaring that we should use 2014 merely as a warmup exercise for Euro 2016 and embed the kids from the start. Like all opinions of a man who was fired for declaring that disabled people were suffering for sins committed in a previous life, this should be treated with extreme caution although a return to the disastrous ‘Dad’s Army’ policy of South Africa 2010 where 23-year-old Joe Hart was the youngest in the squad is equally defeating for different reasons. Either way, England’s qualification ensures WAGS on the beaches of Brazil, which will be viewed positively in nearly all global circles.
So alls well that ends well and now the griping about group seedings begins with England falling out of the top seed bracket – although not many people will be complaining if we get drawn into a group with Switzerland, Colombia or Uruguay above us.
The EPL returns this week with Liverpool visiting Newcastle in the lunchtime kickoff. BT Sport, the new channel who are screening it are breathlessly exhorting all the previous goal fests this encounter has produced and the fact that the last goalless draw was in 1974 – thus guaranteeing another one. The other big guns have routine home fixtures with only Man City travelling away to West Ham and Spurs go to Villa on Sunday hoping to see if their coat of many colours squad can shine again or whether last weeks 3-0 home defeat against West Ham revealed some obvious cracks that large transfer fees had papered over.
As noted, Guy Bailey writes on the Barclay’s Premier League for The Yanks Are Coming. Want more Guy Bailey? We highly recommend his new book, Blessay From America, a collection of writings made while living in America, where he married a southern belle and saw his son born, which you can purchase here.